Gingerbread

Gingerbread

Book - 2019
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"The prize-winning, bestselling author of Boy, snow, bird and What is not yours is not yours returns with a bewitching and inventive novel. Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children's stories -- equal parts wholesome and uncanny; from the tantalizing witch's house in Hansel and Gretel to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can -- beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe. Perdita Lee may appear your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there's the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it's very popular in Druhástrana, the far away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee's early youth. The world's truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet's charismatic childhood friend Gretel -- a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met. Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother's long lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet's story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi's inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader"--
Publisher: Toronto :, Hamish Hamilton,, 2019
ISBN: 9780143197850
Branch Call Number: FIC Oyeye
Characteristics: 258 pages ;,23 cm
Alternative Title: Ginger bread

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SPL_Melanie Mar 12, 2019

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n_cw
Jul 16, 2019

I was surprised by the number of reviews I've seen of this book where people couldn't get into it. I couldn't put it down. I listened to the audiobook, and I wonder if that made a difference. It's definitely bizarre, and it's true that there's not much of a fast-moving plot to hook a reader, but I found the deep-dive into a family fascinating, and I loved strangeness of the magical realism.

c
camilamost
Jun 25, 2019

This book had a very dreamlike quality and the prose is very beautiful. This isn't a book where the plot is super important, in fact the main character at one point says "Why insist on pinpointing who was who and what is what and when was when?". I enjoyed the atmosphere of the book, and by the end I quite liked the main characters. I also enjoyed that I had no clue where the book was going.
You definitely have to be very present while reading this book, because what may seem like an offhand comment will become a key piece of information later one. At one point when a ton of characters were introduced I had to bookmark the page so I could keep referring to it till I could work out who was who.
Also, the first chapter and a half are hard to relate to and don't really pull you in, but stick it out because it becomes much more interesting in chapter 2.

e
engurney
Jun 17, 2019

After seeing this pop up on multiple 2019 reading lists I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately I found it really difficult to follow and lacking in any clear plot line. The characters were unlikable and it felt like an exercise in vocabulary use. I adore magical realism but this was just too much. Sad to say I didn't get any further than the first 50 pages before calling it quits.

m
Margush
May 28, 2019

Eccentric? That what they call these days something they don’t understand? I guess this book is eccentric. 10 pages max. There’s no plot hence your brain works overtime trying to follow the sentences to make sense of them. I gathered gingerbread was delicious. That much I understand having read those 10 pages. Not my cup of tea.

b
BKWordNerd
Apr 24, 2019

I really liked Oyeyemi's "Boy, Snow, Bird," but I couldn't get into "Gingerbread." The plot doesn't make sense and the characters aren't particularly likeable. I wish I wouldn't have bothered with this one.

SPL_Melanie Mar 12, 2019

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camilamost
Jun 25, 2019

camilamost thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

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SPL_Melanie Mar 12, 2019

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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