In the The Icarus Girl, eight-year-old Jessamy Harrison is the only child of a Nigerian mother and English father--sensitive, intelligent, imaginative and prone to sudden and inexplicable screaming tantrums. She has unusual obsessions for a child--Hamlet and haiku to name two--and finds it hard to make friends. Then, on her first visit to her mothers family home in Nigeria, Jess meets TillyTilly, a strange child with extraordinary abilities who leads her into forbidden places and uncomfortable situations. Some time after returning to the UK, TillyTilly turns up at the Harrison's London home and, at once, life for everyone is turned upside down.
This complex, multi-layered novel is compelling because of its unusual subject matter but also because of its lyrical prose. Written while studying for her A-levels, Helen Oyeyemis debut shows an immense maturity and understanding which belies her age. There are a number of dream-like scenes of intense emotion--a mystical visit to a funfair, an insight into a fellow pupils shameful secret and a sleepover that ends badly--that cleverly blend magic realism with horror story. But theres also an innocence--intermittent reminders of Oyeyemis youthfulness which sneak up unexpectedly. Some of the dialogue is confusing and the structure is less than smooth in parts.
The Icarus Girl looks deep into Jesss soul and asks questions about the true reasons for her troubled state of mind and her place in her family, her community and in society at large. It looks at the issues of self and the alter ego, at the relationships of twins and doubles and from there, deeper still, into complex psychological issues of identity and belonging. As a child of mixed-race herself, Oyeyemi has much to say on the wider and most important issue of cultural identity, integration and tolerance. This is a promising first novel by a talented young writer. Would be particularly appreciated by precocious and literary teenagers.--Carey Green
'This is a beautiful, haunting story of precocious eight-year-old Jessamy This compelling tale of folklore and cultural differences is sure to top the bestseller lists' Daily Mail 'A moving study of alienation' Guardian 'An astonishing achievement simple, well-drawn characters, crisp dialogue and an enviable grasp of the rudiments of storytelling' David Robson, Sunday Telegraph 'The author plays numerous sophisticated games with notions of twinship and identity A highly auspicious fictional debut' Sunday Times
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (3 Jan 2005)
Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 3.4 cm