Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thoughts on "The Icarus Girl"

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

My Rating:

As I was reading this novel I kept thinking, "I can't believe that a 19 year old wrote this." Now that I've finished and put it down a for a few days I realize that it would take a 19 year old to write this, a very talented 19 year old. She is close to the age of the protagonist and old enough to write sensitively about it. The detail of the life of a young girl in this novel is dazzling. She helped me recall so vividly what it was like to be a little girl and how hard it was. How strange and awkward it felt and how, on occasion, you needed to let the popular girl know that she should think twice about messing with you just because you were quiet and bookish. As Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, once said, "it's tough out there on the playground."

The Icarus Girl is one damn scary book. At first, I wasn't sure if what was going on was just in this very strange child's mind. I feared for the child's sanity. I felt under her skin and in her skull. I don't know that I liked it there. The child seemed so unbalanced. The way she would have a panic attack and scream when she felt misunderstood. It was unnervingly real.

Oyeyemi skillfully dealt with the theme of "doubles" which is so important in Yoruba culture. Talk to a Yoruba diviner and it is the binary nature of the cowrie shells that will determine your reading. On/Off, Up/Down, Good/Bad, TillyTilly, etc, etc ...

Helen Oyeyemi is a new talent. I met her briefly here in NYC at a reading at the KGB Bar. She has big, wide, innocent eyes. But don't let that fool you. She's a seer and in possession of a rare skill and a very precious gift.


Dolen said...

Yes! My husband said the very same thing about her. He says he bets a lot of people underestimate her. I went to hear her read to day from her new novel. She's definitely impressive.

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