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Opposite House, by Helen Oyeyemi.

August 23, 2012

Opposite House, by Helen Oyeyemi. London: Bloomsbury, 2007.

A wonderful novel about an Afro-Cuban family and friends accompanied by magical characters and the deities of Santania.

I loved this novel, but hardly know how to write about it. It is full of experimental writing and magical realism that works for me even though I can’t explain why in linear language.

First there is the varied cast of human characters. The story centers on Maja, a young pregnant Afro-Cuban woman. Her parents are intellectuals and her mother a devotee of Santania. They brought her to London when she was a child and her brother was born there. Her lover is a Jewish Ghanaian studying medicine and her best friend from childhood is a lesbian Cypriot. Their interactions involve family loyalty and tension, migration and identity. Interwoven but never intersecting are the stories of the magical inhabitants of the “somewherehouse” with doors opening into both London and Lagos. And then there are the Santeria deities.

Oyeyemi writes beautifully. I could quote sentence after sentence of her gem-filled prose. Given the fascinating characters and the perceptive descriptions, it hardly matters that the plot is minimal.

Thanks to Eva for suggesting this book to me. I can’t wait to find another book by Oyeyemi.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes international experiences, experimental writing and magical realism.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2012 7:12 pm

    Definitely sounds like an interesting read with multi cultural dimensions

  2. August 28, 2012 9:54 am

    Thanks for your interest.

  3. August 28, 2012 10:39 am

    I’ve not read this one in particular by Oyeymi yet, but have absolutely loved the ones I have read by her. So impossible to review though right?! Glad you enjoyed!

  4. August 31, 2012 8:41 am

    You’re right. Very good but I almost gave up on reviewing it.


  1. Me, you, and books

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