Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover, 2011
Where I Got It: Bought it for my Kindle
Why I Read It: After reading this review by Zibilee at Raging Biblomania, I impulsively downloaded it to my Kindle
My Rating: 3.5 stars but I might also give it 2.5 stars. Honestly, I think I just wasn’t up for this book so I’ll give it 3.5 stars to be nice. (But deep down, I give it 2.5 stars.)
Considering that I’m still not really sure exactly what was going on, writing this summary shall be a challenge. Let’s see … as best as I can tell, the story is about a writer (Mr. Fox) who is married to a woman named Daphne but is having an affair of sorts with his muse (Mary Foxe), who is slowly taking corporeal form in the real world. But when I tell you that this story is not told in a straightforward way, trust me on that
The story of this love triangle is told in a series of short stories, vignettes, fairy tales, letters, and narratives by the three characters and jumbled together in a blender of sorts so that the reader must be on the very tip-top of their game to keep it all straight. It was very A Visit from a Goon Squad-ish but even more confusing. Stories would abruptly end and one of the characters would start talking and half the time I wouldn’t know what was going on.
For instance, there would be a story about Mary Foxe, and I’d be completely unsure if she was a character in a story written by Mr. Fox, one she made up herself, or just a character in the bigger story being told by Helen Oyeyemi. Then characters would appear in fantastical fairy tale-like stories and then show up later as real people in the real world. Getting all this straight was really difficult, and I’m not actually sure I did keep it straight.
To be 100% honest, my main reaction to the book was “WTF??” I found myself thinking this over and over again throughout the book. And when I got to the very end, I remember thinking to myself: “Your entire review should just be WTF?!” As a service to you, I’m struggling to provide a bit more information.
The writing itself isn’t bad. I found myself getting sucked into the various stories that Oyeyemi was telling via Mr. Fox or Mary Foxe or Daphne, but I just couldn’t connect the puzzle pieces together in a satisfying way. Now this could definitely be my fault as a reader. I read this book at night before going to bed, and I realize now this isn’t a book to be read for relaxation or when tired. It requires a bit more commitment from the reader.
In the end, I just didn’t have it in me to go back and try to make the book fit together for me. In fact, I had to go back to Zibilee’s review to get a better understanding of what was going on.
One last thing, this had the most awful ending I’ve read in a book in a long time. I just HATED IT. But at least the book was over.
Readers up for a challenging read, fans of the fractured storytelling form a la A Visit from the Goon Squad. (And hey, if you read this book and “get” it, can you explain it to me?)
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