Jessamy "Jess" Harrison is eight years old. Sensitive, whimsical, possessed of
an extraordinary and powerful imagination, she spends hours writing haiku,
reading Shakespeare, or simply hiding in the dark warmth of the airing cupboard.
As the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother, Jess just can't shake
off the feeling of being alone wherever she goes, and the other kids in her
class are wary of her tendency to succumb to terrified fits of screaming.
Believing that a change from her English environment might be the perfect
antidote to Jess's alarming mood swings, her parents whisk her off to Nigeria
for the first time where she meets her mother's familyincluding her formidable
Jess's adjustment to Nigeria is only beginning when she encounters Titiola, or
TillyTilly, a ragged little girl her own age. To Jess, it seems that, at last,
she has found someone who will understand her. But gradually, TillyTilly's
visits become more disturbing, making Jess start to realize that she doesn't
know who TillyTilly is at all.
Helen Oyeyemi draws on Nigerian mythology to present a strikingly original
variation on a classic literary theme: the existence of "doubles," both real and
spiritual, who play havoc with our perceptions and our lives. Lyrical, haunting,
and compelling, The Icarus Girl is a story of twins and ghosts, of a
little girl growing up between cultures and colors. It heralds the arrival of a
remarkable new talent.
The New York Times - Lesley Downer The Icarus Girl explores the melding of cultures and the dream time of childhood, as well as the power of ancient lore to tint the everyday experiences of a susceptible little girl's seemingly protected life. Deserving of all its praise, this is a masterly first novel -- and a nightmarish story that will haunt Oyeyemi's readers for months to come.
As sophisticated as she is, Jess's eight-year-old observations provide a limited lens, and at times, the novel's fantasy element veers into young adult suspense territory.
Narrated from Jess's point-of-view, this ambitious psychodrama becomes repetitive in structure andcan't always sustain the adult tone. A conclusion in Nigeria attempts to knit Jess's three worlds-the actual, the spiritual and the "Bush"-but doesn't wholly rescue or resolve a story rich in material yet technically imbalanced.
Booklist - Deborarh Donovan
Oyeyemi subtly weaves together Nigerian myth and a classic doppelganger tale to create a sensitive and precocious debut.
Oyeyemi, who wrote this book at the tender age of 19, intertwines folk tales from different cultures to spin this mesmerizing and haunting story.
The Financial Times
Oyeyemi looks set to claim her own place in a list of English-language Nigerian authors that includes Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe and, more recently, Ben Okri.
Sunday Telegraph The Icarus Girl is an astonishing achievement.
Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field and One Hundred Million Hearts
The Icarus Girl is a dark enchantment that leads readers into the recesses of a young girl's fevered psyche. A bewitching tale of childhood joy and wonder, pain, loss, and cultural estrangement."
Helen Oyeyemi was born in
Nigeria in 1984 and has lived in London from
the age of four.
Even though she says she doesn't do happiness - 'I don't trust it' - she had much to smile about
in 2004 when Bloomsbury UK (J.K. Rowling's publisher) signed her up for a two-book deal at the age of 19 years, on the basis of the manuscript of The Icarus Girl that she wrote while studying for her A-Levels (exams taken before leaving UK high schools). She says, 'I signed the contract on the day I got my exam results'. Although she refuses to reveal the size of the advance she says its enough to put her through university and help out her parents financially (her father teaches children with special needs and her mother works on the London Underground (the subway system).
She is now a student of social and political sciences at Cambridge University and is working on her second novel about Cuban mythology. She says that on leaving university she plans to get a...
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