Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_1957“Her heart was heavy because it was open, and so things filled it, and so things rushed out of it, but still the heart kept beating, tough and frighteningly powerful and meaning to shrug off the rest of her and continue on its own.”

Novelist Mr. Fox has a habit of killing off the heroines in his novels.  His muse Mary comes to life and turns Mr. Fox into a tragic character through her own stories, while he in turn does the same to her.  In the meantime, his wife Daphne is convinced that he is having an affair and soon becomes involved in the game between Mary and Mr. Fox.  With stories within stories Mr. Fox is an interesting adventure with a fairytale feel.

Helen Oyeyemi is a wonderful writer, and her prose is absolutely beautiful. There are a number of lovely quotes that I couldn’t help but mark and reread. The concept is unique and many stories are quite captivating, however I feel the overall book would have been much stronger if some of the content had not been included.  There are a lot of little stories and not all worked with the concept.  By the latter part of the novel it does start to drag and unfortunately lose the charm of its initial beginning, although it is unique and the writing is lovely.  If you prefer novels with a linear plot then this book is probably not for you.  However, if you like lots of stories, fairytales, and getting lost in beautiful language, then Mr. Fox is definitely worth a read.

“The girl tried, several times, to give her love away, but her love would not stay with the person she gave it to and snuck back to her heart without a sound.”

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_1305“The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side.”

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is a collection of nine short stories that center around the theme of keys, both literal and metaphorical.  Helen Oyeyemi has created stories that drew me in right from the start.  Each tale has an element of a story within a story, which is brought to life through beautiful writing and storytelling.

The theme and flow of the stories works well and each stands on its own.  With short story collections there sometimes is a tendency of everything blending together, however this is definitely not the case here.  I did find the stronger stories to be at the beginning and the end of the book, with the middle section lacking the strength of the rest of the collection.  Having said that there weren’t any stories I disliked, instead it was a mix of ones I loved, liked, and a couple I thought were just okay.  As far as short story collections go that is a big win for me.  Out of the nine stories, the ones I enjoyed the most are:

books and roses – a key opens the door to a library, a garden, and is the key to the fate of two lovers.

“sorry” doesn’t sweeten her tea – there is a house of locks, a scandal involving a famous singer, and the casting of a spell.

a brief history of the homely wench society – about a rivalry between two societies at a University that dates back many decades.

if a book is locked there’s probably a good reason for that don’t you think – a mysterious diary is locked and for a very good reason.

My biggest takeaway from reading this collection is the beauty of Helen Oyeyemi’s writing, which is compelling and captivating.  This is the first book I have read by this author and very much look forward to exploring more of her work.