White is for Witching- Helen Oyeyemi

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 “I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home, I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read–I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.”- The house in Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is For Witching”

Although I bought an Oyeyemi book a few years ago, this is actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. I really enjoyed it although reading the review from the Toronto Star that referred to Oyeyemi as a “kin of Morrison” really rubbed me the wrong way as very lazy and misleading because Oyeyemi’s writing is really not like Morrison’s at all and it’s clear to me that she’s carved her own niche and did so well.

This was a great story, one which I admittedly found it hard to follow at first. However, it’s a story I was rewarded for not giving up on. There is a very unusual stricture wherein a new character starts speaking IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE! I personally found this brilliant after I got over my initial confusion. Once I got used to that quirk and realized that more like it were coming, it was a fun read. It’s essentially a neo-gothic storyline featuring a demented house which is one of the characters in the book, a pair of strange twins, the spirit of a deceased mother, and a Nigerian housekeeper who watches Nollywood movies. It has some contemporary storylines that focus on refugees and immigration detention centres in England:

You come without papers because you have been unable to prove that you are useful to anyone, and then when you arrive they put you in prison, and if you are unable to prove that you have suffered, they send you home.

I’m really looking forward to reading more from Oyeyemi, i don’t think I’ve ever come across a writer like her, and as young as she is it will be great to see how her craft develops. Definitely recommended.

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19 thoughts on “White is for Witching- Helen Oyeyemi

  1. I loved how clear your review was. It’d probably take me time to get into the half sentence thing as well so I’ll flip through it at the store before checking it out. Great review.

  2. I really want to read Oyeyemi, I’ve heard such good things, especially about Boy, Snow, Bird. I totally agree about lazy comparisons – it drives me mad when journalists do this, usually based on some superficial similarity rather than anything significant about artistic style.

  3. Oyeyemi is one of my favourite young writers, she has such intelligence and such a playful style. I highly recommend both Mr. Fox (which is extraordinarily clever, and draws on British folklore) and Boy Snow Bird which riffs on the Snow White fairy tale. Lovely review.

      1. Happy New Year to you too Rowena. Thank you for your kind words. I, too, have enjoyed reading your blogs, especially following your reading of Morrison this year.

  4. Glad you like it. This was the first Oyeyemi book I heard about and I’d love to read it. I bought her Boy, Snow, Bird last year but haven’t read it yet.

  5. I think it was you who first recommended this book when I was yearning for some good neo-Gothic storytelling. Definitely one of the best recommendations I received this last year. She’s definitely one to watch 😃.

  6. I remember when I saw you reading this on Goodreads. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I just started rereading it last night and was a bit startled when I saw it pop up in my feed reader, haha. I agree with your comments about comparing her to Morrison. I actually came to Oyeyemi first and thought I would try Morrison based on that comment…needless to say, I was disappointed.

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