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.
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.
Her mother's voice sounded through the hallway, mixing with the mustiness around her so well that the sound almost had a smell. To Jess, sitting in the cupboard, the sound of her name was strange, wobbly, misformed, as if she were inside a bottle, or a glass cube, maybe, and Mum was outside it, tapping.
I must have been in here too long--
"Jessamy!" Her mother's voice was stern.
Jessamy Harrison did not reply.
She was sitting inside the cupboard on the landing, where the towels and other linen were kept, saying quietly to herself, I am in the cupboard.
She felt that she needed to be saying this so that it would be real. It was similar to her waking up and saying to herself, My name is Jessamy. I am eight years old.
If she reminded ...
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 ...
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- PW Starred Review
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