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The Icarus Girl

by Helen Oyeyemi

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi X
The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 352 pages

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Intertwines folk tales from different cultures in a mesmerizing and haunting story. 1st Novel

From the book jacket: 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 family—including her formidable grandfather.

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.

Comment: At their best, the media reviews for The Icarus Girl glow with praise - at their worst, they offer grudging respect for an impressive first novel from one so young, but point out flaws in this story that weaves Nigerian myth with a classic doppelganger tale. 

At the positive end of the spectrum are The Sunday Telegraph (UK) who acclaim it an "astonishing achievement" and The New York Times who say it is, "Deserving of all its praise."

At the other end of the spectrum  are Kirkus Reviews who feel that "this ambitious psychodrama becomes repetitive in structure and can't always sustain the adult tone," and Publishers Weekly who opine that, "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."

As always, you can judge for yourself by reading an excerpt at BookBrowse.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2005, and has been updated for the April 2006 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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