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Book Review: What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Here I go again, Judging books by their covers.

whatisnotyoursThe 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. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).
Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation?”

I mean, just look at that cover! How could I not? How could i resist? And they keys and books element to the stories just sounded so up my street, I had to read it.

They do say you should never judge a book by it’s cover. Unfortunately I work in a bookstore and the only way to tell where things go half the time is by the cover, you can usually tell; high literature and children’s fiction have very different cover styles. This does mean that I’ve kind of let this rule fall by the wayside as I’ve been seeing more and more gorgeous covers lately and I want to read them all. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours was one of them.

This is essentially a book of short stories, they eventually all come together and share characters at the end, but for the most part, the narratives are unconnected and you don’t need to worry to much. I’m not used to reading short stories, but I knew that they would eventually link up, so the changing styles and narratives really threw me, anyone who knows about my experiences with David Mitchell books knows I can’t cope with that shit. I only read two of the stories before I gave in.

The first short story was a beautiful tale, told in a silky, seductive way: the second was much more brash and to the point. While this made sense from the perspective of the various narrators, it was too much for my tiny mind. They were both quite slow paced and by the time I’d gotten into the story it had ended and I had to start all over again. I think I read about 3 pages of the third story before I gave up.

Maybe it was because it was short stories, or maybe it was because I just didn’t ‘get it’, but I couldn’t get into this book despite the fact that the prose was beautiful and the style changed so dramatically from narrator to narrator, something that is sometimes lost on other authors. It’s just not for me. DNF.


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