Here’s the thing – I very much want this blog to be positive, constructive, and helpful, but I can’t sacrifice honesty for positivity. That’s my little disclaimer prior to saying… what the fk did I just read?! I honestly am at a loss for words as to how I should process this novel.
Helen Oyeyemi’s writing is described as “imaginative” and “deeply intelligent” and I have no doubt it actually is all of that, but seriously, can I get the readers digest version because I don’t know what just happened. I find myself questioning my own intellect, like, am I that far removed from literature classes that I can’t interpret the deeper meaning behind these words?
Don’t get me wrong, there is A LOT of imagination, thought, and beautifully articulated phrases that went into writing this piece. Also, Oyeyemi is an award-winning author so who am I to judge? But once again, I read for pleasure, not to crack some secret code hidden in the language. I would say for the first 50 pages I would reread sentences two and three times and try to pick apart the meaning, but that got frustrating fast so eventually I just powered through. If I didn’t understand something I breezed on by telling myself that it would eventually make sense and all loose ends would come together beautifully. Nope.
I’m pretty sure I only comprehended about 65% of this book and even that might be a stretch. I enjoyed the characters and I think the majority were likeable though not relatable. I also enjoyed little tidbits of the plot like the four dolls made of leaves that could talk. But either there wasn’t a point or I’ve totally missed it. I THINK there were messages about friendship, perhaps that it is a two-way street that requires effort from both parties. There may also have been lessons about family – loving and understanding one another despite our differences. In any case, that’s what the story meant to me. And maybe that’s the point right there, spending time with a whimsical tale that you can interpret any way you like. Maybe we don’t always need content to be so obvious?
In any case, I would reserve this novel for a classroom, or a boho coffee shop book reading, or something colorful to jazz up your bookshelf. It is definitely not beach reading material or something to peruse on your morning commute. No offense to Helen Oyeyemi because again she’s got the CV to back her up and I’ve got this little blog. But coming from an average, every day reader who just wants to be entertained, I’d say maybe keep browsing before you land on this one.