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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

TITLE: White Is For Witching

AUTHOR: Helen Oyeyemi 
PUBLISHER: Hamish Hamilton CA (AHC)
DATE OF PUBLICATION: June 23, 2009 (first published May 1, 2009)
FORMAT: Hardcover, 224 pages
GENRE: Horror, Fantasy

Miranda is at homehomesick, home sick ...”

As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power.

With distinct originality and grace, and an extraordinary gift for making the fantastic believable, Helen Oyeyemi spins the politics of family and nation into a riveting and unforgettable mystery.

I chose this book for the January Task of the 2012 Versatile Reading Challenge, which was to read a book by a Nigerian author. It won the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award.

This is quite possibly the oddest book that I have ever read!

The central character to the story is Miranda, an 18 year-old girl whose mother has recently passed away. She is a strange girl who is afflicted with pica, which her mother and grandmother suffered from as well.

The book has multiple narrators: Miranda, Eliot (Miranda’s twin brother), Ore (Miranda’s girlfriend whom she meets in college), and “the house.” I found the multiple narrations very confusing. There is no indication whatsoever when the book is switching narrators. Oftentimes, I thought Miranda would be narrating and then Miranda was mentioned in the third-person, so I knew that I was wrong and had to flip back into the story to figure out where the narration left off with Miranda and to try to figure out who now was speaking! I was really thrown when I realized that it was “the house” that was narrating parts of the book, because I thought that it couldn’t possibly be the house that was speaking!

I eventually figured out that the odd style of overlapping phrases was one visual cue to the change in narrators. This is an example of how it looks in the book:

"It looked so fine on
the mannequin 

proved very useful for me when Miranda, Luc and Eliot left for the airport."

Strange, isn't it?

I have read such high praise for Oyeyemi, and my expectations were high for this book. Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me. I kept reading, hoping that the plot would go somewhere, but it didn’t. With the genre labels of “horror” or “paranormal,” I was hoping for a scary or creepy story but this book did not deliver.

MY RATING: 1 star! I didn’t enjoy it at all. It wasn’t for me. 

This book qualifies as:


  1. I started reading the synopsis and though this sounds interesting, but I am with you on the multinarrator issue and maybe this will have to wait a while. Thank you for sharing today.

  2. wild, that does read very different than anything I read. The house, lol.

  3. I can't stand when you don't know who is talking. That is one of my biggest pet peeves in a book. It should always be clear. If I have to flip around to "figure" it out it's just not worth my time.


  4. Hi Darlene, thanks for such a candid review. There are indeed moments when a book just does not seem to be for us. :) Hope you enjoy your next read though. :)


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