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Boy, Snow, Bird Hardcover – 27 Feb 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447237137
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447237136
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.7 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A spellbinding, wholly original look at families and the secrets they keep . . . An absolutely amazing and absorbing read (Marie Claire)

Gloriously unsettling . . . it's clearly the book she's been waiting for . . . the greatest joy of reading Oyeyemi will always be style: jagged and capricious at moments, lush and rippled at others, always singular, like the voice-over of a fever dream. (New York Times)

Boy, Snow, Bird is a haunting, tender portrait of three women from one of our generation's most talented literary writers (Stylist)

Boy, Snow, Bird is among my favorite new releases for this year already. A retelling of the Snow White fairy-tale that focuses on race, it's a sensitive, intelligent treatment of a subject most fiction still sidesteps. Fans of Adichie's Americanah who also like a little fantasy in their coffee will be enchanted, I think. (Flavorwire)

You don't want to leave Boy, Snow, Bird . . . a joy; the kind of fiction where you can wallow in the language and thrill at her inventiveness. (Emerald Street)

One of my favourite books this year is Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. It is a modern version of the Snow White fairy tale and challenges the origins of meaning. (Jenni Fagan The Herald)

Vibrant, funny and poignant (Big Issue)

Striking, shimmering fiction . . . Boy, Snow, Bird is an intoxicatingly immersive riff on the myth of the evil stepmother (Metro)

Oyeyemi writes beautiful prose, can adopt a sassy American idiom with assurance and produces sentences that no one else would think of . . . Boy's is a unique narrative voice (The Times)

An extraordinary modern fairy tale, with huge international buzz (Red magazine)

A powerful intertwining of fairytale and reality . . . Boy, Snow and Bird are brilliant creation, and through these three appealing and mysterious characters Oyeyemi examines female identity in all its delightful and terrifying complexity . . . Oyeyemi is a master of language; her writing is beautiful and precise, and her ability to hide deep meaning in unassuming words is breathtaking. This is a bewitching book, in every way. (The List)

Oyeyemi is the cleverest in the land (Washington Post)

'Riveting, brilliant and emotionally rich . . . Dense with fully realized characters, startling images, original observations and revelatory truths, this masterpiece engages the reader's heart and mind as it captures both the complexities of racial and gender identity in the 20th century and the more intimate complexities of love in all its guises. (Kirkus)

Helen Oyeyemi consolidates her position as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists 2013 with the publication of her fifth novel, a story about the perception and power of appearances and race, and their potential destructiveness . . . An enchanting and captivating book. (Independent)

Creepy but cute and convincingly American . . . it describes the mistreatment of the unusually intelligent and beautiful, and the insanity which lurks in self-knowledge (Graham Robb, Books of the Year 2014 Times Literary Supplement)

Oyeyemi continues her serious inquiry into the novel's potential and into what happens when you shake an old story into an otherwise unimaginable time, setting, shape and relevance. To me she is one of our most exciting, witty and questioning novelists as well as quite simply a writer of sentences so elegant that they gleam (Ali Smith, Books of the Year 2014 Times Literary Supplement)

Boy, Snow, Bird is my favourite Helen Oyeyemi book to date. Dazzling, inventive, light on her feet, Oyeyemi's voice is distinctive, unique (Jackie Kay, Best Books of 2014 Guardian)

Taking 'Snow White' as a cultural touchstone, Oyeyemi's novel offers up a cautionary tale on post-race ideology, racial limbos and the politics of passing (Notable Books of 2014 New York Times)

From the Back Cover

BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn't exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman - craftsman, widower, and father of Snow.

SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished - exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that's simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow's sister, Bird.

When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo's family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart.

Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi's place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ray Garraty on 9 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
The story begins in the postwar years on Manhattan. Girl with a strange name Boy Novak lives with her father in a small house. Boy does not know anything about her mother, and her father works as a rat catcher. The basement floor of Novak’s house is laden with cages with rats that Boy’s father uses for his work.

Boy has a passion for words, has a strange attraction to mirrors, has average grades in school, all due to the fact that she grew up in a family of lone rat catcher. Boy’s father often beat her, sometimes scares her with rats.

«I did fine at school. I'm talking about the way boys reacted to me, actually, since some form of perversity caused me to spend most lessons pretending to absorb much less information than I actually did. Every now and then a teacher got suspicious about a paper I'd turned in and would keep me after school for questioning. "Has someone been. . . helping you? "I just shook my head and shuffled my chair sideways, avoiding the glare of the desk lamp the teacher invariably tried to shine into my eyes. Something about a girl like me writing an A-grade paper turns teachers into cops.»

Boy meets a young man named Charlie, but their relationships don’t work out. Unable to withstand the regular beating of her father, Boy one day gathers a few of her belongings, steals $12 from her father and runs to the bus depot, buying a ticket to a small town Flax Hill.

Helen Oyeyemi has the ability to write vigorously. The book begins as a modern fairy tale that one girl can tell another. Dates are blurred, but there are a rat catcher, abusive father, running away from home and a small town of shadow nature. The beginning already makes guess what is in front of us, realism or magic realism?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marius Gabriel TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Helen Oyeyemi is often described as one of the most talented writers of her generation, no small praise considering the amount of wonderful talent there is around today. She is also praised for her originality and inventiveness, qualities which she displays dazzlingly in novels like Mr Fox.

Oddly, this novel has few of those qualities. It goes over very old ground indeed -- racial issues in the U.S. in the 1950s (decades before Helen Oyeyemi was born) acted out through the archetypal figures in the Snow White fable. There is so much in the novel that is already known to the reader, and which has already been covered in countless works of fiction and non-fiction, that the reader of Boy, Snow, Bird has few surprises in store. The lack of suspense made getting through this quite long and dense novel more and more of a chore, until I was impatient for it to end.

Nor is the writing in any way original or inventive. It has been deliberately flattened out and dumbed down to preserve the voice of the narrator, who comes across from the start as unemotional -- and in the last pages, when the "shocking" truth is revealed, as almost inconceivably detached. Cold, snow and alienation pervade this novel.

To my mind, the first third of the novel is the best and most engaging section, centering on the character of Boy, a character of Helen Oyeyemi's own age. She is at her best writing about what she knows. Essays into the minds and lives of older characters are less successful. But as I've said elsewhere, I am a great admirer of Oyeyemi, and I am certain that time and experience will turn her into the great novelist she was born to be.

Do I recommend this book to readers? Yes, of course. It's worth reading. But the reactions of other readers show that some were disappointed, as I was. I started with very high expectations, as they did. So if you do buy and start reading this novel, perhaps bear that in mind!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Love Books VINE VOICE on 19 Oct. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started off being not sure about this book. From the start I found it a beautifully written, magical book with a very dark Angela Carteresque slant towards fairytale motifs and poeticism that I found utterly engaging to read. But I wasn't sure if it was too fairy-taley for me.

But the more pages I turned, the more I appreciated the brilliance of the writing. Helen Oyeyemi's prose reminds me very much of Sylvia Plath's in the bell jar. It's sharp, lively, sometimes scathing, sometimes affectionate, always brilliant. Some commentators have said they found it lacked heart; not me. I loved the sparseness of the writing.

The Boy, Snow, Bird of the title are a young woman who flees her brutal ratcatcher father, a truly horrible character, her stepdaughter and her daughter. Very slowly themes begin to emerge; friendship, love, the problems of America during the 1930s and 40s.

I'd heard of Helen Oyeyemi before but this is the first book of hers that I'd read. I was not disappointed.

It won't appeal to everyone, but for the pleasure of immersing yourself in something beautiful, unusual and magical, this book is worth a read. I absolutely loved it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Laura T TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Boy has fled her abusive rat-catcher father and is trying to make a life for herself in a new town. However, when she meets Arturo, she is simultaneously repelled by, and drawn to, his small daughter, Snow, who seems to be part of Boy's destiny in a way she does not yet understand. When Boy has her own daughter, Bird, and realises the secret that this small family is hiding, she banishes Snow but clings on to Bird as she tries to protect herself and her daughter. Will these fragmented sisters ever be able to reconnect?

I found this novel, the first by Oyeyemi I've read for a long time (I tried The Icarus Girl as a teenager but remember little about it) to be tricksy to read and to review. I loved Boy's voice, and the fairy-tale linkages that Oyeyemi picks up upon throughout the first section, even though these references could occasionally become a little too obvious. The novel is set in post-WWII America, but I only remembered this fact half of the time; the strongest scenes in the novel are those with the most sense of history, I think, such as when Boy meets some black teenagers in a bookshop and reflects upon race, one of the major hidden themes of this novel. At other times, it felt as if Oyeyemi was using history as a backdrop for the very postmodern story she wanted to tell, which frustrated me.

The second section of the novel, narrated by Bird, was where it began to lose my attention. I found it difficult to relate to the teenaged Bird as a character - she falls foul of a number of adolescent cliches, being precocious, observant and underestimated by the adults around her. In contrast to Boy, I felt that her voice was not as distinctive, and this became especially obvious when she started to correspond with Snow.
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