White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi is transfixing, disturbing and unnerving. Oyeyemi’s talents are very impressive.

The novel focuses on Miranda Silver, who has run away, barefoot, into the night. Narrating the events leading up to her disappearance (or escape?) are her twin brother Eliot, friend Ore and the spirit of her malevolent mansion. We learn all has not been well with Miranda: her mother has died, her appetite for non-nourishing items such as chalk and plastic is wasting her away (a condition called pica) and she has a strong sense of the spirit world.

I read the first 100 pages of White is For Witching while suffering from heavy allergies and drinking two glasses of a light red wine (not a sensible combination I know). The combination of the alcohol, the allergies and the sheer atmosphere of madness the novel creates through its content and experimental structure made me feel really weird – a bit sick, and I didn’t sleep well that night.

This experience probably effected my enjoyment of the novel. I put it down for a few days but when I picked it up again I started to get into it more. I think it’s a really striking and well-crafted book, but definitely something you must be in the right mood for. I was impressed to learn the author is only 24-years-old. She has two prior novels; The Icarus Girl and The Opposite House, which apparently deal with similar themes to White is for Witching: family relationships, hauntings, superstition and madness.

Other reviews:

Eva at A Striped Armchair/Paperback Reader/Jenny’s Books/Bird Brain(ed) Book Blog

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16 responses

  1. That definitely sounds different! Yeah, it’s definitely hard to review something you weren’t even sure you liked. 24 years old is very impressive indeed!

  2. Interesting review! The story looks quite interesting! Quite impressive that Helen Oyeyemi is just 24 years old!

  3. Hope you´re feeling better now! Great review, the book looks really interesting. I´ve never even heard of the author, but from articles I´ve just browsed, she sounds very talented.

  4. I just added this to my TBR list (see today’s post).

  5. Sounds interesting. Some books you really need to be in the mood for.

    1. Definitely! And some are totally mood altering as well. 🙂

  6. Hmmm, I put this down after about 100 pages too. Unfortunately I never picked it back up again though! maybe I should go back to it.

    1. Hi! I think it picks up a bit in part II And Curiouser, which I think is a bit past the 100 page mark? The story gains more momentum as the twins go off to college I think.

  7. Sounds like a really interesting book, very dark.

    I don’t know if you have read Wicked by Gregory Maguire, but it had a similar effect on me, it was so dark and creepy that it really effected how I felt while I was reading it.

    I think its a sign of good book when the mood of the book infects your own mood.

    I hope your allergies are better now. I just discovered your blog and I really like it!

    1. Hi, great to meet you! Thanks for the compliment!
      I actually haven’t read Wicked, but have meant to for awhile.
      That’s very true, I think it’s a sign of great writing too. 🙂
      Ugh my allergies are worse today actually! But mainly because I was silly enough today to visit my boyfriend’s family who have a cat (major allergy provoker) and a dog (mild allergy provoker). Oh well!
      I’m going to go check out your blog now. 🙂

  8. Hmmm intriguing, I will have to see how I get on with this book in a few weeks time, sounds like an unusual one.

  9. This sounds intriguing.
    Cold medicine and wine don’t mix. Just drink straight Nyquil 😉

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  12. There is no doubt that Oyeyemi is a tremendously talented young writer but I thought the novel lacked focus and suffered for it – it may have been more enjoyable if I too had had a mix of allergies and red wine!

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