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Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria in 1984 and moved to London when she was four. She wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl while she was still at school studying for her A levels, and she is now a student of Social and Political Sciences at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Photograph © Mark Pringle
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Jess, the eight year old daughter of a Nigerian mother and an English father, feels ostracised but is blessed with a vivid imagination. On holiday in Nigeria she meets a girl of her own age, a kindred spirit, perhaps an imaginary friend or her dead twin. I’m not telling you, suffice to say the relationship takes some interesting twists in a challenging read.Comparison: Zadie Smith, Diana Evans, Donna Daley-Clarke.Similar this month: None but try John Bennett. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. To view a reading guide for this title click here
Peaces is the story of Otto and Xavier Shin, a couple who embark on a mysterious train journey that takes them far beyond any destination they could have anticipated. As the carriages roll along they discover each is more curious and fascinating than the last, becoming embroiled in this strange train and its intrigue. Who is Ava Kapoor, the sole full-time inhabitant of the train, and what is her relationship to a man named Prem? Are they passengers or prisoners? We discover who orchestrated the journey, hurtling them all into their past for clues. This is a brilliant, wise, strange and, above all, beautiful novel.
'A writer of sentences so elegant that they gleam' - Ali Smith, author of How to be Both Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children's stories - equal parts wholesome and uncanny - beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe. Perdita Lee and her mother Harriet may appear your average schoolgirl and working mother but they are anything but. For one thing, their home is a gold-painted seventh-floor flat with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there's the gingerbread. As we follow the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work and wealth, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that holds a constant value . . . Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi's inimitable style and imagination, Gingerbread is a true feast for the reader.
The stories collected in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are linked by more than the exquisitely winding prose of their creator: Helen Oyeyemi's ensemble cast of characters slip from the pages of their own stories only to surface in another. The reader is invited into a world of lost libraries and locked gardens, of marshlands where the drowned dead live and a city where all the clocks have stopped; students hone their skills at puppet school, the Homely Wench Society commits a guerrilla book-swap, and lovers exchange books and roses on St Jordi's Day. It is a collection of towering imagination, marked by baroque beauty and a deep sensuousness.
Los amores en los cuentos de hadas siempre acaban en boda; al menos en los cuentos que no quieren complicarse demasiado. Este no es el caso de la historia del senor Fox, un afamado escritor que no puede evitar matar a todas las protagonistas de sus novelas, incluida su esposa Daphne. Pero un dia Mary, su musa, se hace real y transforma al autor en un personaje literario, con lo que la vida del senor Fox da un giro sorprendente. Mary le desafia para que se una a ella en sus ficciones, y asi, a traves del tiempo y el espacio, se buscan y se persiguen. Sus aventuras vuelven del reves el cuento de hadas tradicional, rompiendo las convenciones sobre los generos literarios. El lector debera suspender su incredulidad y dejarse llevar por la voz narradora para descubrir una historia de amor inusual y magica que rezuma sentido del humor y encanto hasta el final.
Mr Fox, by award-winning author Helen Oyeyemi, is an beautiful and immersive exploration of the labyrinthine world of imagination, storytelling and love. It's a bright afternoon in 1938 and Mary Foxe is in a confrontational mood. St John Fox, celebrated novelist, hasn't seen her in six years. He's unprepared for her afternoon visit, not least because she doesn't exist. He's infatuated with her. But he also made her up. Will Mr Fox meet his muse's challenge, to stop murdering his heroines and explore something of love? What will his wife Daphne think of this sudden change in her husband? Can there be a happy ending - this time? 'Oyeyemi reveals a twinkling sense of humour . . . A delight' - Independent.
Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It is not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently. Mary challenges Mr. Fox to join her in stories of their own devising; and so, through different times and places, the two of them seek each other, find each other, thwart each other, and try to stay together, even when the roles they inhabit seem to forbid it. Their adventures twist the fairy tale into nine variations, exploding and teasing conventions of genre and romance, and each iteration explores the fears that come with accepting a lifelong bond. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox's game. And so Mr. Fox is offered a choice: Will it be a life with the girl of his dreams or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit? The extraordinarily gifted Helen Oyeyemi has written a love story like no other. Mr. Fox is a magical book, endlessly inventive, as witty and charming as it is profound in its truths about how we learn to be with one another.
Haunting in every sense, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi is a spine-tingling tribute to the power of magic, myth and memory. High on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the loss of Lily, mother of twins Eliot and Miranda, and beloved wife of Luc. Miranda misses her with particular intensity. Their mazy, capricious house belonged to her mother's ancestors, and to Miranda, newly attuned to spirits, newly hungry for chalk, it seems they have never left. Forcing apples to grow in winter, revealing and concealing secret floors, the house is fiercely possessive of young Miranda . . .
Maja was five years old when her black Cuban family emigrated from the Caribbean to London, leaving her with one complete memory: a woman singing - in a voice both eerie and enthralling - at their farewell party. Now, almost twenty years later, Maja herself is a singer, pregnant and haunted by what she calls 'her Cuba'.
Two plays exploring the pain of living and the difficulty of dying by a sensational new writer Juniper's Whitening Tell me this - is it true that if you make someone die, and they come out the other side, it doesn't matter? I'm sure something clung to Lazarus. Something must've shone through him. In Aleph, Beth and Juniper's nightmare house, kindness is entrapment, and resurrection is a weapon. Aleph love/hates Beth, Beth love/hates Aleph, and all Juniper knows is that Beth can't seem to stop being murdered. One thing above all: none of them must look out of the window.Victimese I was thinking, Eve, that you need to touch bottom - just so you know you can do it. So you know it's not that difficult; so you know that you don't have to tunnel far; so you know that you're not that actually as deep as you think you are. Eve is unable to leave her student room but unable to bear staying in it. In harming herself she hopes to demonstrate her courage and independence to both herself and her friends. But her sister's arrival and need for her friendship forces her to face painful truths and to examine whether it is possible to temper emotional courage with the humanity to give and ask for aid.