White is For Witching is narrated by four different characters, including the haunted house in Dover at the centre of the story. It took me a while to really grasp what this novel’s title meant, and I think the moment I did was the moment when it all fell into place for me. Oyeyemi slowly unveils a layered story about racism, the legacy of historical wrongs, and the way these shape the lives of the past- and present-day characters. There are also plenty of complex relationships along the way, including Miranda’s romance with Ore, a girl she meets when they’re both students at Cambridge. Think The Little Stranger with postcolonial undertones in addition to Shirley Jackson and you’ll have a good idea of what this novel is like. I’m really looking forward to reading more of Oyeyemi’s work.
“Your Highness, you have seen enough of the world to know that there is never only one truth, one side of a story. Perhaps your sources are true; I do not doubt they faithfully reported what they understood. But perhaps I am also telling you some part of the truth. To say that your sources lied, or that I do now, is to claim knowledge of the unknown.”Thorn by Intisar Khanani: This retelling of “The Goose Girl” gave my beloved Shannon Hale’s novel of the same title a run for its money as my favourite version of this tale. The main reason why I was so impressed with Thorn is that it’s a novel that is deeply concerned with justice and power. In Khanani’s retelling, the princess’s time as a goose girl means she becomes engaged with her fellow workers’ political concerns — namely the stark inequalities in access to justice between the rich and the poor. Not only that, but the power differential between disenfranchised goose girl Alyrra and the prince she was meant to marry is not only explored, but kind of a major plot point.
As if this wasn’t enough, Thorn features an antagonist who is “not just a sorceress following a bloody oath”, but a character with complicated motivations of her own. I’ll leave you with a strong recommendation that you read Aarti’s excellent review of this book, and also with a parting quote that made my heart sing. I love how lately I’ve been coming across a lot of examples of complex romance that’s built around negotiation and the slow developing of trust.
I take a step forward, so that I am barely a handspan away from him, and rest my other hand on his chest, feeling the rise and fall of each breath. “I have no doubt of it,” I say, because I cannot yet tell him I love him, because we need more time without games and deceit between us to find such love.♥
A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki: Memory is entirely to blame for this one, and as usual she was right. I loved this book like whoa. It is, as Memory put it, “a gorgeously written, meticulously constructed piece of fiction about how we tell and react to stories, about recollection, and about the self.” It’s about history too, and taking a stance, and how feeling like you haven’t done enough can slowly poison you, and perhaps even about learning to be kind to yourself.
The most impressive thing of all is how Ozeki explores these themes through a cast of characters whose lives couldn’t be more different. There’s Nao, the Japanese teenager whose diary is at the heart of this story; there’s Ruth, a middle-aged writer who finds Nao’s diary on the small Canadian island where she lives; there’s old Jiko, Nao’s 104-year-old Buddhist nun great-grandmother. They’re separated by time and circumstances, but linked by emotional ties and by their common humanity.
There’s plenty here about time and memory and storytelling and impermanence that hit me right in the heart. A Tale for the Time Being hit a lot of my buttons and tackled many of my current concerns, so it was absolutely the right book at the right time for me.
Now go read Memory’s review.