At the beginning of December, I was very lucky to receive a copy of Helen Oyeyemi’s latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird (to be published in March 2014). It sat, unwrapped and looking at me from the top of my chest of drawers for a couple of weeks, until all my uni work was finished. As per usual, I read the first fifty pages and then wouldn’t let myself read any more until my essays were done and handed in. (I know, it’s got to the stage where I am using more books as positive reinforcement. Worrying, but it works!)
Boy, Snow, Bird is a story about Boy Novak, a woman who runs away from her abusive father and creates a new life for herself in a little town called Flax Hill. There’s more than the occasional nod to fairy-tale, with a familiar stepmother/daughter story, a preoccupation with mirrors and the reflections in them, and a little bit of magic. Oyeyemi described the novel as “about a woman named Boy who tries to avoid becoming a wicked stepmother and really doesn’t know if she’s going to manage it. Her husband gets a say to some extent, but ultimately it’s up to Boy, her biological daughter, Bird, and her stepdaughter, Snow, to decide what sort of family they’re going to be.”
I loved it. I became really attached to Boy as the narrator, and was a bit thrown off when the story switched to Bird, and was glad when it changed back, though Boy’s voice was ever so slightly different once her story had been tinged with Bird’s view of her. I was so intrigued by Boy, and the distance from her as a narrator really did demonstrate how different her thoughts and actions were – whereas she was seen as being maybe slightly… cool as a character, her narration was anything but. As well as Boy’s story, and her relationships with her daughters, there’s also the story of the Whitmans and their ‘secret’, there’s Boy’s father, Frank, and there’s Bird’s strange abilities. There were a couple of things I wish had been explored more – without giving away too much of a spoiler: I wish there was more about the mirrors, the relationship between Boy and Snow, and the revelation about Frank Novak almost at the end completely changed the story for me – but I really enjoyed it.
As always, all of my books are on Goodreads, and I love being sent recommendations, so if you have read something amazing recently, give me a shout. I’m starting on The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake tonight, which the lovely Sarah sent me for the bookswap, and then I’m going to start on something from this giant stack of library goodies.