Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

The story of a precocious 8 year-old girl seemingly unable to cope with the pressures of skipping a grade, The Icarus Girl opened strong and certainly captured my interest.

Told from the perspective of the main character Jess, the story unfolds in an appropriately disjointed fashion as she moves between England and Nigeria. Her internalization of Nigerian folk-tales as she attempts to process emerging family secrets is well-drawn, and I certainly felt her pain as her world fractures around her.

Ultimately though, I was disappointed with the deus-ex-machina ending and the total lack of resolution of any of the questions raised in the novel. The story was haunting, and Oyeyemi skillfully built tension with her talented prose, but those skills seemed to evaporate in the final 25-page section of the book. Regardless, the book was a good read, and probably rates 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Singular Hostage by Thalassa Ali

In the beginning, I was totally drawn into Mariana's story and had high hopes about this novel. The hints of tragedy in her past, her love of India and her sense of adventure make Mariana a very sympathetic heroine; I for one hoped that she was going to find happiness with Harry Fitzgerald, the one suitor who seemed to understand her.

The desciption of life in India, the glimpses into the walled compounds of women, and the mystical undercurrent to Indian life added immeasurably to the narrative, until about two-thirds of the way through when the book suddenly took a turn into the absurd. Mariana's inexplicable decision to thrust herself into an untenable situation coupled with her subsequent inability to explain her way out struck me as ridiculous.

From the scene in the Maharajah's Citadel to the very end of the book, I was exasperated with Mariana and with the novel itself. The ending was rushed and left everything unresolved, a decision that makes slightly more sense now that I see there are two more installments to the story, but still weakens the quality of the book. I'm just happy to be finished with Mariana and will certainly not be picking up volumes 2 and 3 of this epic.