GingerbreadBook - 2019
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If you like enchantment and unsettling fiction you might just want to pick up this fabulist tale by Helen Oyeyemi. Based in fairytale, at least loosely, Oyeyemi’s signature style tells the story of Harriet and Perdita Lee, and their family legacy – a gingerbread recipe.
But this is no ordinary gingerbread. It reflects the maker, and holds properties that are unexpected and uncanny. Harriet and Perdita live in England, with Perdita seeming to be a regular teenage schoolgirl, and Harriet a hard-working single mother. But Harriet comes from Druhástrana, a country that even Wikipedia says is imaginary. Her gingerbread doesn’t seem to get her the entrée into the British PTA circles she hopes it will, but it was extremely popular back home in Druhástrana.
In Druhástrana Harriet grows up in a little village, near a big shoe. She finds her best friend after discovering Gretel hiding down a well. Gretel has a strong influence on Harriet’s life, finding her a job in a gingerbread theme park from which Harriet eventually escapes by mailing herself to England… you just have to go with the story here. Hang on and enjoy the unexpected nature of the narrative. The joy of the read is in the extraordinary writing style, and in the mother-daughter relationship between Harriet and Perdita. The narrative takes the story of Hansel and Gretel, twists it and shifts it alongside a dark family history, and focuses on the relationships of family, friends, and the question of who a person might be separate from all of that.
There is no deep and moving conclusion, rather, like a fairy tale, it comes to an end with most things wrapped up but a few loose ends left hanging. Deliciously disorienting, wonderfully weird, this read may confuse you at times but it is beautifully written and just right for the lover of fable, fairytale, and fabulism.
Published in the Stratford Beacon Herald
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