Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Icarus Girl -- Book Review!

Helen Oyeyemi has done something I always wished I could and she did it at the age of 19. Helen wrote her first novel, amidst A-level examinations and is now a student at Cambridge University. This alone is an amazing accomplishment but to write a novel so compelling is an even greater one! Icarus is the Greek god who is famous for his attempt to flee Crete by flying...the result a fall to death. In this novel it is a young girl who experiences flight and fall!

The Icarus Girl is the story of eight year old Jessamy Harrison. Jessamy struggles to fit in, struggles with life and is prone to frightening fits of screaming which lead to illness. Jessamy is the daughter of an English father, a Nigerian mother, and she is intelligent beyond her years, reading Shakespeare and Haiku she certainly is different from other children she knows. Concerned Jessamy's parents make the decision to take their daughter to Nigeria in the hopes that this will provide a cure for her mood swings and fits. Jessamy is introduced to her African family and soon meets a secretive, ragged little girl named Titiola whom she calls Tilly, Tilly. It is this new friendship which becomes the catalyst for the rest of this novel. A novel which embarks on what seems a rather ordinary story becomes a haunting tale of enchantment and horror which constantly keeps the reader questioning. What is real, what is imaginary, and can the spiritual and imaginary also be "real"?

This first novel is a remarkable literary accomplishment which weaves the Nigerian mythological world view with classic literary themes. Jessamy lives a life between cultures; She discovers she was once a twin and lives between the worlds of the living, the dead, and the bush. Gripping and imaginative The Icarus Girl is beautifully written and original. A read you will never forget and which will lead to much contemplation well beyond its final page!
Published by Peguin Group {Canada} This book is available at all the leading book stores.

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