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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and beautifully written.
Boy, Snow, Bird follows the story of Boy after she escapes fro her abusive rat-catcher father to a small town. There Boy meets Arturo, and his enigmatic but somehow strange daughter Snow. Later, when Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, she learns that Arturo's family has been hiding a secret, one which has the power to rip their family apart.

I have...
Published 2 months ago by L. Doughton

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid, unexciting novel, lacking the brilliance of her other works
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...
Published 5 months ago by Marius Gabriel


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and beautifully written., 19 July 2014
By 
L. Doughton (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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Boy, Snow, Bird follows the story of Boy after she escapes fro her abusive rat-catcher father to a small town. There Boy meets Arturo, and his enigmatic but somehow strange daughter Snow. Later, when Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, she learns that Arturo's family has been hiding a secret, one which has the power to rip their family apart.

I have never read any of Oyeyemi's work before, so was not sure what to expect. The fairytale themes woven throughout this novel give it a strange, dreamlike quality, and while I found this to be part of the novel's overall charm, there are times when this makes the book feel rather slow and sleepy. The narrative is split between the voices of Boy and Bird. Boy's sections are engimatic, while Bird's have more of a naieve charm which I personally found easier to engage with. There are some interesting touches, such as the symbolism of the mirror, woven throughout, and I certainly did not expect either of the twists when they came (although reading back identity, race and colour in general are deeply interwoven themes throughout the whole story).

This is a very clever novel, and I suspect on which will benefit from a second reading. Oyeyemi has a distinct and unique voice, and a beautiful turn of phrase, and I will certainly look into more of her work in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid, unexciting novel, lacking the brilliance of her other works, 10 April 2014
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Kindle Edition)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shocking and amazing, 9 April 2014
This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (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?

Every sentence in this book radiates energy, and sometimes sentences themselves bump into each other, the idea might pause for a paragraph, but reappear in another paragraph. Prose here really is alive, not stereotype for the words, 70 percent of modern American literature uses. It makes me happy, you’re feeling originality, otherness.

But the first half of the book has a problem not with the style, but with the narrative, with the writer’s ability to clearly tell the story. There is just not enough clarity. Narrative wobbles and it is not clear whether the author knows where she is going, or just writes in the hope that the story itself will lead somewhere. The key point of the first chapter emerges as an ax from the pond - that is, all of a sudden, without any hints from the text. One expects from the writer who writes unique prose a certain subtlety.

But the second part is written more smoothly, without wiggle of the first, and the second part offers very thinly scattered clues, trivia, internal techniques that later get together and make the overall picture. Particularly impressive is the fact that the first and second parts of the novel are completely different, as it should be when there is a narrator change. Despite the existence of racial themes, it has no effect on the style: the entire novel is written in literary English, without its "black" version. The characters discuss the color of the skin here, but it's just one of the themes of the novel. Racial theme here is one of the components of the theme of the family.

The finale of Boy, Snow, Bird is immaculate, shocking, amazing, as however you think for something unexpected, you still will be surprised. Despite the flawed beginning for such a finale you can forgive this book a lot. Overall imperfection of this book says only that great books are rarely smooth and perfect.
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3.0 out of 5 stars DETERMINEDLY MYSTICAL, 1 Aug 2014
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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A woman called Boy. A white girl called Snow. A black girl called Bird. A rat catcher. A stepmother. Mirrors that do not always reflect true....

Prepare for a whole range of fairy tale allusions.

Clearly many fellow reviewers have been enchanted. Sadly I found it hard to tune in to the novel's wavelength, feeling important issues like colour and sexuality have been overwhelmed by contrivances.

The start raises hopes with its self-deprecating humour (teachers mystified how Boy achieves her 'A's, male schoolmates paying her to pen letters to woo potential girlfriends). Then there is that most satisfying escape from a sadistic father, he typical of ogres in stories most grim.

Gradually however everything seems to become cluttered, certain aspects of puzzling relevance. A major twist takes the novel into a new (and far more absorbing) dimension, Twentieth Century American attitudes towards coloureds under close scrutiny.

That final revelation? Readers may differ over whether it convinces.

Throughout there is strong portrayal of female characters, but husband Arturo and Boy's former best friend Charlie undeservedly seem somewhat peripheral.

Very much in the minority, I found "Boy, Snow, Bird" more concerned about literary technique than with heart. Too many artificial devices distract from impact that could have been made. This is a pity, for valuable points are made about colour prejudice, some of them extremely moving. Note particularly the attitude of Arturo's mother, Olivia - she symbolic of desperate measures taken in order to enjoy the American Dream.

Many love the novel. Sorry to be amongst the few not so keen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 9 May 2014
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Kindle Edition)
Chosen by someone else to read for a book club I did not expect the novel to be set in 1950's America. Well written, some nice twists. Characterisation was interesting, although not as well developed as it could have been. Overall - very enjoyable and I would read more by the author.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Your head is becoming the pillow', 1 Mar 2014
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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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. Although Snow's letters are superficially different from Bird's, underneath they feel like the same character in different situations, and this didn't enable me to connect with either of them. The ending of Boy, Snow, Bird is extremely abrupt, and both practically and psychologically unbelievable; I think it's one of the most controversial choices Oyeyemi makes in the novel and it didn't work for me at all.

Because I felt this novel was deeply flawed, I've only given it three stars, but there were some excellent passages and scenes within it, and I'm now keen to try something else by Oyeyemi to see if her earlier work is better-balanced; White Is For Witching, in particular, looks tempting.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody ever warned me about mirrors", 3 Aug 2014
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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There's some lovely writing here but overall I found this an unsatisfying and sterile mix of fairy-tale motifs, a view of America in the mid twentieth century, and a modern concern with issues of identity.

The project failed to ignite for me, and feels like a case of style and concept over substance and heart. Oyeyemi is a fine stylist with vision, but in this book it doesn't quite feel either authentic or individual.

Not the best book from an interesting writer.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky!, 30 July 2014
By 
kehs (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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A quirky read! I loved this tale and was fascinated throughout by the storyline. It's a modern day take on Snow White but Oyeyemi makes the fairytale unique. It's told in 3 narratives which all link together seamlessly. I thought I knew what was coming but there's one big twist that totally took me by surprise. A very clever novel indeed, and I already have Mr Fox by Oyeyemi lined up to read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Literary fairy tale about deception, appearances and racism that doesn't quite have enough drama, 19 Jun 2014
This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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It’s 1952. 20-year-old Boy Novak lives with her abusive rat-catcher father in New York, but when his abuse finally goes too far, she steals some of his money and decides to run away. She ends up in Flax Hill, Massachusetts, an arts and crafts town where everyone makes something and where Boy sticks out by not having any real skills. She becomes friends with Mia, an aspiring journalist and meets Arturo Whitman, a former history professor who became a jeweller after his wife died, shortly after the birth of his daughter, Snow.

At first Boy and Snow get along fine – if anything, Boy is beguiled by her step-daughter and is amazed at how Arturo’s family cherish her. But everything changes when Boy gives birth to Bird, and discovers that Arturo and his parents have been keeping secrets that will tear their family apart …

Helen Oyeyemi’s fifth novel riffs on the traditional fairy tale subject of evil stepmothers in a story of deception, appearances and racism that comes with a hint of magical realism. It’s a beautifully written book spanning two time periods (1952 and 1965) with the narration split between Snow and Bird, who are each given pitch perfect voices that set out their views on the complicated relationships within their family and slowly unveil the secrets kept within it. The problem is that no real drama comes out of these revelations either because characters fail/refuse to directly address it or because it’s dealt with off-page. This is particularly disappointing in the case of the last big reveal, which should have huge ramifications and really deserves a big finale but which instead leads to a low-key resolution with the real action happening after the book ends. It’s a shame because I loved the way Oyeyemi plays with the theme of appearances in this book and the magical realist elements (involving mirrors) really feed into it, as does the subtle way she incorporates the well-worn path of racism at this time in US history. Ultimately, had there been more of a pay-off to the book’s events then, I’d have found this a more satisfying read than I did. That said, the quality of the writing and the way Oyeyemi composes her images means that I can see why she was selected as a Granta Best British novelist and I will definitely check out her other novels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, 13 May 2014
By 
bookworm8 "bookworm8" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Boy, Snow, Bird (Hardcover)
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I found this a difficult, fascinating, intriguing read. I have not read any other books by Oyeyemi but will be doing so now!
The characters are strange, fluid personalities; myths, poems and symbols are intertwined with the lives and communities, mixed with sadness and pain, banishments and secrets. There are issues of colour and of the significance and importance of appearances and reality and the shifting boundaries between them. Its hard to say much without giving away the events, which would spoil the book for new readers, but if you like curiously-written, complex writing, give this a go. I'm glad I did.
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Boy, Snow, Bird
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
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