Helen Oyeyemi Pages: 259 Published: 2019
The book: Perdita Lee appears to be a regular teenage schoolgirl. She lives on the seventh floor of a house in London, with her mother Harriet, where they bake gingerbread from an old family recipe.
Perdita’s life seems to be proceeding as normal. Or rather, as normal as can be expected when you’re originally from Druhástrana, a country most people don’t believe exists, and you have four opinionated plant dolls (part plant part doll) that talk to you.
Harriet yearns for her old childhood friend, Gretel. And Perdita? Well, we are not sure what Perdita is up to, but something bad is about to happen!
You might like it because: Oyeyemi has conjured up a wonderful story, where real life and fairytales collide. Nothing is quite what it seems, and what it seems is magical. Her marvelous plot is unpredictable right to the very end.
What did other people say?
“Exhilarating. . .Gingerbread is jarring, funny, surprising, unsettling, disorienting and rewarding. . .This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader. And that is just one of its many pleasures.” – New York Times Book Review
“Oyeyemi takes the familiar contours of a children’s tale and twists it into something completely new, unsettling, and uncanny. . .A strange, shape-shifting novel about the power of making your own family.” – Kirkus Reviews
How quickly will you get into the book? Two pages in I was unsure of where this was going and whether it was going to take me with it. As I read on, things got curiouser and curiouser! By page nineteen I had thrown caution to the wind and jumped into Oyeyemi’s world.
You might not like it because: If you like fiction with at least one foot planted firmly in reality, this might not be the book for you. If you like to know where the plot is taking you, move along.
What might you read next?
In an interview with the New York Times Oyeyemi was asked, “Which novels have had the most impact on you as a writer?” In response she mentioned many books. Two of these piqued my interest. You might like to try either or both. One was Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen. The other was Samedi the Deafness by Jesse Ball.
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