Genre: Short stories
Synopsis: In a string of short stories where the only static imagery are keys, Helen Oyeyemi has created a world a little left of plum. There’s locked gardens, secret libraries, and hotels you can never leave. There are ghosts, puppets, and superstars. There are heists, competitions, and bad apologies. Each short story is vastly different, yet they’re all connected.
Review: As I started this book, I decided that I’d read one short story per morning with a hot cup of coffee beside me. So, I had a sip and took the plunge. One short story later, and I knew that I’d found a new favorite author.
Oyeyemi’s master of the language immediately entranced me. Her storytelling abilities enchanted me. Her characters enraptured me. How could they not? My newfound love of short stories was behind a locked door, and this book was the key. There were so many things that I loved about this collection that I don’t know where to begin, but I will do so anyways.
Ghosts. I love ghosts. Ghosts are present in this book–and they’re just a normal part of life. No shock over the fact that they exist, or fear, or what have you. They just are, and they’re sometimes integral to the characters. Puppets. Schools based around puppetry. Once again, no explanation is needed as to why there’s such a highly regarded school on a (possibly outdated?) artform–it simply just is. And I love that. As much as I love worldbuilding, I also love it when authors treat their odd fictional versions of our world as completely normal to the characters and the audience.
The language is spellbinding. It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen someone use language so well. I mean that on a macro and a micro level. Each sentence felt careful and purposeful. Words and phrases haunted me hours after I’d read them. And, something that I thought was the most incredible thing ever: Oyeyemi writes a short story using second-person pronouns. I’ve only ever seen that in fanfiction, so to see a second-person point of view in a published book? I’m stunned.
Everything in this book is beautiful. The names, the cultures, the sonder.
I used to write in my books. Granted, I was an English student, so any quote that I liked, I underlined to use later in an essay. Once I graduated, I stopped doing that, for I no longer needed to write essays and reports. This book made me change my mind. I underlined so many things because they were so beautiful and made my heart swell. Everything that Helen Oyeyemi writes makes me want to continue writing, to continue reading. She has successfully inspired me, and I can only hope to write things as bewitching as she can.