Belinda’s Book Nook Review: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi


Title: The Icarus Girl
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Copyright: April 11, 2006
Genre: fiction
Format: book Pages: 352

So I finally started this book that I’ve had since my birthday.  I thought that this book might sound good if I read the entire book outloud. I decided that I give it a try. I wanted to hear my mouth try to pronounce the names and hear the words coming through my lips as opposed to just in my head.It started off fine and then challenges presented themselves when my kids arrived home from school early on half days or my husband working from home. So finding time to read out loud needed to be scheduled. Early mornings mid-day when the kids are at school are the prime times when I was able to do this. I was successful for much of the reading of this book.

Quick Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Jessamy “Jess” Harrison, age eight, is the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother. Possessed of an extraordinary imagination, she has a hard time fitting in at school. It is only when she visits Nigeria for the first time that she makes a friend who understands her: a ragged little girl named TillyTilly. But soon TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, until Jess realizes she doesn’t actually know who her friend is at all. Drawing on Nigerian mythology, Helen Oyeyemi presents a striking variation on the classic literary theme of doubles — both real and spiritual — in this lyrical and bold debut.

My Thoughts:

I had heard about Helen Oyeyemi about a few years back and then last year on Booktube. Then a show that I watch that talks to author’s about books interviewed her. So my approach to this author and her works is to take the opportunity and the time to explore all of her writings to date in the order published. I don’t always do this but I would like to see how she evolves as a writer from book to book and what similarities or common themes she may have throughout her books. I also really wanted to just hear her stories and learn more about Nigeria and it’s people through her stories. Of course my other motive was to support a black female author.

This book was written by Oyeyemi while she attending college and published at the age of 19 started out very strong. I felt very engaged while reading this story. There were a few areas where the pacing slowed a bit too much but she was building up background information. I think she did a great job of trying to convey the feelings of a biracial child trying to find friendship and ward off bullies. The main character, Jess was a bit of an introvert but wanted to try to figure out how to navigate the world of friendships. Oyeyemi did include the challenges that a young girl of mixed race growing up in a predominantly white environment.

I really enjoyed the way that Oyeyemi included so much detail that help to bring the story to life. For example, I like the description of the grandfathers wrinkles and the lighting in the room and the aromas that she smells when she arrives in Nigeria for the first time. She captured the senses well.

One thing that bothered me about in this book was her portrayal of Jessamy’s father. He is a British white male and his wife is a Nigerian woman and he came off as very weak to me in the book.  There’s were many instances where I just wanted him to have a backbone. The first few instances of that happening in the story I just brushed off as him being a person who wants to avoid conflict and keep the peace. But after a while it just felt like it felt like it was a deliberate characteristic she intended to portray. Perhaps to balance out the stronger characteristics of the wife (Jess’s mom). I do wish she provided more background information of the father. Perhaps that would have brought to light the reasoning for his behavior.

I found the story very interesting and the only thing is the ending that bothers me. I will leave that for any of you that decide to reads it to see what you decipher. I would love to hear from anyone that has read it because I’m not really sure but there was a bit confusion on my part with the ending.

Overall, I would recommend the book and look forward to reading her other books.

Happy reading!


join the conversation


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: