TITLE: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
AUTHOR: Helen Oyeyemi
GENRE: Short Stories, Adult Fiction, Magical Realism, Contemporary
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
The stories collected in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are linked by more than the exquisitely winding prose of their creator: Helen Oyeyemi's ensemble cast of characters slip from the pages of their own stories only to surface in another.
The reader is invited into a world of lost libraries and locked gardens, of marshlands where the drowned dead live and a city where all the clocks have stopped; students hone their skills at puppet school, the Homely Wench Society commits a guerrilla book-swap, and lovers exchange books and roses on St Jordi's Day.
It is a collection of towering imagination, marked by baroque beauty and a deep sensuousness.
What I Liked:
- This is the first book that uses magical realism that has really grabbed me! I normally don't get on with the genre because I find the weird inclusion of bizarre happenings without explanation too confusing. But Oyeyemi wove it all so beautifully into her stories that I found myself captivated rather than put off. The style of the book is beautifully curious too, reading like a baroque historical fantasy when it is in fact, for the most part, contemporary fiction set in Europe. It's a beautiful world that she's built - made up of keys and locks, books and puppets, giving huge Pinocchio vibes for that reason alone!
- This book was beautifully diverse. I went in knowing that there would be many different ethnicities in this book, as I'd read the synopsis of 'Boy, Snow, Bird' and figured these stories would be along the same lines. But the casual LGBT+ inclusion really pleasantly surprised me. In fact most of the relationships in this book were LGBT+ and it was refreshing to read them in the stories with such a degree of normalcy. Especially in a European setting! I really recommend people that want to expand their reading to get hold of this book for that reason alone!
What I Disliked:
- There was only really one thing that I didn't enjoy about these tales, but it was a big thing. Every tale started intriguingly and built throughout into a great story. And then suddenly, they were over without any kind of real ending. It went beyond ambiguous, it actually felt unfinished most of the time, which was really frustrating. Each story was meant to be a glimpse into the character's lives of course, but I wanted to feel like there was an actual point to reading about them. It was very disappointing.
This was a really great book in so many ways and a goos taster of Helen Oyeyemi's work as a whole. I definitely want to read her full-length novels because I feel like I'd like them even more! Oyeyemi's prose is beautiful, characters diverse, setting and plot was interesting and I also really liked that most of the stories referenced characters from the others. It meant that I came across characters I'd already met! I particularly enjoyed 'a brief history of the homely wench society' and ''sorry' doesn't sweeten her tea' because of the feminist ideals they referenced and the rarely broached subjects they discussed (especially regarding fame and celebrities).