Helen Oyeyemi

Vincentka vs garbage water – an original short story by Helen Oyeyemi

Winter: Each time you step outdoors your toes curl – well, they try to – and you hiss into your scarf. The temperature’s like a shock and awe manoeuvre; it stupefies. Morning after morning either I or the lady at the newspaper kiosk make the announcement, “This is it, it’s the coldest day of the year, it can’t get any colder than this”, before bursting out into bitter laughter at the naivety of having had exactly the same thought the day before…
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Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi review – all aboard the mystery train

It may be laden with whimsical details and witticisms, but the opening chapter of Helen Oyeyemi’s Peaces feels grounded given her penchant for disorienting fables. Any predictability vanishes, however, when narrator Otto, his partner Xavier and their pet mongoose Árpád Montague XXX arrive at a dozy Kent railway station and board a sleeper train named the Lucky Day. Instantly, they find themselves in “an upside-down sort of place”, figuratively and also literally: in one carriage, the seats and tables are fixed to the ceiling. Others contain a library, a greenhouse, an art gallery (all the canvases are white, revealing different images for each viewer). From here on in, this smart, inventive narrative moves with antic momentum, darting between past and present, and from storyline to storyline.
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Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi review – a hurtling hothouse of a novel

Helen Oyeyemi is a bamboozler, a discombobulator, a peddler of perplexity. She crushes fables and fairytales down to a powder and then laces her fiction with it like some kind of literary hallucinogen. Her novels should come with pharmaceutical warning labels: do not operate heavy machinery under the influence. Symptoms may include slurred realism and a persistent allegorical itch.

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi review: a fantastical, mischievous train ride

Peaces, the seventh novel from Helen Oyeyemi, is a love story. Possibly. Oyeyemi, author of The Icarus Girl (which she wrote at 18), Gingerbread, and the marvellous short story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, specialises in slipperiness. Hers are uncanny worlds in which things are never what they seem; or in which things are usually two things at once.