Welcome to the first part in a new fortnightly series called The Report Card.
Although I sometimes write book reviews for this blog, they aren’t always the easiest posts to write or the most popular with readers. Despite this, I still want to share my thoughts on the novels I read so I came up with The Report Card: a bite-size brief of a novel’s key points and whether it’s worth reading.
I’ll still be writing regular reviews if I’m so moved, but I hope these shorter pieces will be engaging and interesting.
I’d love to know what you think!
To start things off, it’s the latest novel from a young British writer.
Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
After growing up with her abusive rat catcher father in 1950s New York, Boy Novak affects her escape by jumping on a bus out of the city and rolling up into small town Flax Hill, the last stop on the route. There she grows independent, before marrying widower Arturo Whitman, the father of the beguiling Snow.
It is only when Boy gives birth to a little girl she names Bird, that she discovers the Whitman’s secret past, which forces the family apart.
Helen Oyeyemi is something of a literary prodigy, having published her first novel, The Icarus Girl, at age 18. Since then she’s published another four novels (this is the fifth), written two plays and studied for a degree at Cambridge. She was one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013.
Her books explore a variety of cultural issues and often use fairytale tropes, magic realism and the uncanny to craft haunting and original stories.
Literary fiction with a fairytale twist.
Written in three sections, the story is told from both Boy and Bird’s perspectives. Boy’s transformation from abused teenager to wicked stepmother is incredibly subtle and always relatable.
Key themes and motifs
- The uncanny
What’s to love?
This is one of Oyeyemi’s more accessible novels: a beautifully written and unique story that captures life in the 1950s for those that live on the fringes of small town America.
Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.”
The Snow White allegory is so deftly done I actually missed it until after I’d finished the book, despite the obvious hint of having a character called Snow whose life changes after she gains a stepmother. Not very bright of me, sorry…!
Read it if you enjoyed
- Any of Oyeyemi’s earlier books
- On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
- To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Find out more:
Boy, Snow, Birdon Amazon (affiliate link)
Boy, Snow, Bird on Goodreads