- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books (8 March 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594634637
- ISBN-13: 978-1594634635
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,07,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours Hardcover – 8 Mar 2016
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“Magical and show stopping.” —Elle.com
“Oyeyemi so expertly melds the everyday, the fantastic and the eternal, we have to ask if the line between ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ is murkier than we imagined—or to what extent a line exists at all. . . The deeper one descends into the fabulist warrens of these stories, the more mystery and menace abound, and with each story I had the delightful and rare experience of being utterly surprised. . . Transcendent.” —The New York Times Book Review
“It is, in a word, flawless. . . Oyeyemi seems to be incapable of writing anything that's not wholly original. . . Oyeyemi manages to make the story both realistic and fantastical, and the characters are rendered with grace and compassion. . . [What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours] is a lot of things: dreamy, spellbinding, and unlike just about anything you can imagine. It's a book that resists comparisons; Oyeyemi's talent is as unique as it is formidable.” —NPR, Michael Schaub
“Oyeyemi’s fictional world is scintillating and eccentric, an ‘implosion of memory,’ as one character puts it.” –The New Yorker
“What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. . . boasts ambitious stories written masterfully by an adventurous author, and is another example of Oyeyemi’s skill at finding inspiration in the smallest and most ephemeral details.” —Women in the World, in association with The New York Times
“An enchanting and beautifully crafted first collection of stories, linked by the recurrence of keys. . . Oyeyemi’s storytelling is without parallel.” —BBC.com
“Oyeyemi infuses magic into the lives of contemporary characters.” —TIME
“Dizzying, baffling, and beguiling. . . The stories in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours are unruly in the best way, drawing on pre-modern modes of tale-telling (fairy tales, Boccaccio, The Arabian Nights) to show they’ve lost none of their power in the present.” —New York Magazine, Vulture
“[Oyeyemi] again shows her ability to mesmerize and enchant.” —The Washington Post
“Oyeyemi writes with mastery, sometimes keeping her prose sparse and declarative only to unleash a bounty of description and humor a sentence later.” —Entertainment Weekly
“In this collection of short stories, there are many keys that unlock many things. . . What links them all? You’ll want to open and see.” —Cosmopolitan
“These modern fairy tales from award-winning author Helen Oyeyemi…will unlock your imagination with stories of love, loss, and. . . keys. . . magical, feverish, spooky, and delightful.” —Marie Claire
“The most inventive. . . story collection of the year.” –O, The Oprah Magazine
“Inventive and free-ranging. . . Combining the fantastical and the ordinary to dreamlike effect, these tales are full of tenderness, humour and strange delights.” –The Financial Times
“Summarizing Oyeyemi is like trying to tell a dream. . . Casual and accessible at the sentence level, [these stories] are not so much experimental as deeply comfortable with the pre-narrative and proto-narrative impulses at the heart of storytelling.” —The Chicago Tribune
“A potent and playful collection.” —The Boston Globe
“[U]napologetically odd—a goldmine for those who crave magical realism with surprising twists told through spectacular writing. . . Readers should take their time with each story, possibly rereading in order to glean as much of Oyeyemi’s intent and meaning as possible.” —San Francisco Book Review
“These hauntingly enigmatic linked short stories attest to the author's reputation as a stylist of the first rank… Fasten your seatbelts for the ride… ‘What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours’ [is] a testament to her growing reputation as a contemporary master.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Spellbinding.” —The Denver Post
“Flirting with the speculative, Oyeyemi weaves stories about living puppets and their puppet masters, old diaries not meant to be opened, ancient libraries, and secret gardens. It’s hands-down my favorite book of the year thus far.” —The Chicago Review of Books
“Think the god Hermes, that fleet-footed trickster, and perhaps you have Oyeyemi’s style in a nutshell… Oyeyemi’s infinitely nested stories seem an end in themselves, born of a limitless imagination.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Breathtakingly bold and original.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Oyeyemi demonstrates her deftness with description, of finding beauty in bizarre places. . . being granted access to these inventive and ambitious stories is a bit like receiving a gift, one full of strange and private wonders.” —Miami Herald
“Whether it’s the one about the puppetry school or the mystical diary, these nine virtuosic stories promise to mix up your reading diet with deliciously weird, thought-provoking, and fearless fare.” —Los Angeles Magazine
“Surprising, and satisfyingly so.” —Dallas Morning News
“Short stories that lead readers on secret journeys without ever leaving home.” –Pittsburgh Tribune Review
“Boldly original stories, often with fantastic elements.” –The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“In every story, surprising and beautiful phrases fall carelessly from the author’s pen. Which is a good reminder for aspiring writers: Trust that your imagination is infinite. Creativity is not like currency; spending it doesn’t leave you with less. Thinking creatively inspires more creativity. Oyeyemi shows us what can be accomplished with absolute trust in the expansiveness of one’s imagination. If you’re feeling uncertain, just dip into What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours for the proof.” –Washington Independent Review of Books
“A book that is sure to unlock the imagination of anyone who follows along.”—Refinery29
“A downright addictive read.” —Nylon
“There is no other fiction writer working in English, save Toni Morrison, whose books I look forward to more.” —Brooklyn Magazine
"Contains Oyeyemi's heady trademark combination of upside down fairy tale fantasy that is as emotionally resonant as it is inventive, and the excellent details from modern life that bring her stories firmly into some magical version of our own world." —Esquire
“A restless imagination harnessed to a smooth and propulsive prose style — Helen Oyeyemi’s fiction is a juggernaut, and she brakes for no one.” —Vulture
“Helen Oyeyemi is a literary genius, and it shows in this fantastic collection of short stories. . . With characters that will welcome you, push you, and surprise you, Oyeyemi's writing takes you past your expectations.” —Bustle
“Helen Oyeyemi has established herself as one of the premiere fabulists in the realm of the contemporary novel. . . [This collection] serves beauty and violence in equal measure, but is beholden to neither.” —Flavorwire
“A revelation. . . the perfect story collection.” —Mashable
“Here is the delightful union of vivid language, compelling plot, resonant characters and profound meaning that we turn to literature to find.” —The Root
“On the page [Oyeyemi] roars. . . Oyeyemi leaves us spellbound and begging for more of her ingenious and utterly addictive prose.” —Essence
“Helen Oyeyemi is a master at mixing magical elements with substantive topics.” —Redbook
“Both charming and unsettling, Oyeyemi’s stories will stay with you a long time.”—Bust
“[A] word must be said about the prose itself: spectacular.” —Electric Literature
“Stunning. . . Highly imaginative and enchanting. . . This collection is Oyeyemi at her best.” —Buzzfeed
“These nine casually interlocking stories. . . overflow with the cerebral humor and fantastical plots that readers have come to expect from Oyeyemi.” —Kirkus (starred)
“[Oyeyemi’s] enthusiasm for a world where witches and phantoms coexist with psychiatrists and graduate students is infectious. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours leaves readers with the captivating notion that behind every locked door lies additional mysteries.” —BookPage
“Page after page of macabre wit and beautiful, lingering imagery. This is a book where a busking viszla and ironic prison selfies happily co-exist. . . If these stories are mazes, they’re ones where readers can be all too happy to find themselves lost.” —Books and Whatnot
About the Author
Helen Oyeyemi is the author of the story collection What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, along with five novels-- most recently Boy, Snow, Bird, which was a finalist for the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She received a 2010 Somerset Maugham Award and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. In 2013, she was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists.
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Top customer reviews
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books and roses,
'sorry' doesn't sweeten her tea,
if a book is locked...
were the most intriguing and memorable.
I rather didn't like the fact that the stories were convoluted and often went off on irrelevant tangents. Oyeyemi's characters from some stories make minor appearances in others, and I found it quite random and pointless. However, the writing is absolutely gorgeous, and the stories are very atmospheric. I enjoyed the overall theme and how she interwove magical realism into most of the stories.
Some additional information regarding this particular edition: It is a hardback at an amazing price (Rs. 415) with a gorgeous cover and an open binding that looks amazing. If you are a bibliophile who also gives in to a little cover-lovin' like me, you should get this for your bookshelf. It's a great add-on to any library.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Weird, sometimes wonderful, but… just as often crazy-weird, as in if she was sitting across from me telling me these stories, I would either suspect she had taken some magical mystery tour courtesy of Timothy Lear’s medicine cabinet, or she needed drugs of another kind.
“books and roses” – This was my favorite, and the reason I kept reading the remainder of the stories. What’s not to like about a story including a mysterious library and a locked garden?
“A library at night is full of sounds: The unread books can’t stand it any longer and announce their contents, some boasting, some shy, some devious.”
“sorry doesn’t sweeten her tea” – rock stars and their bad behaviors
“It’s a nice house for Ched too, in that it’s big and he got it on the cheap, and anyway he’s not really comfortable in overly normal situations. As it is he hears voices. Nobody else hears these voices but they’re not just in Ched’s head, you know? In this world there are voices without form; they sing and sing, as they have from the beginning and will continue until the end. Ched borrows their melodies: That’s the music part of the songs he writes.
“is your blood as red as this?” – creative tale about puppets and puppetry.
"You told me about how stories come to our aid in times of need. You'd recently been on a flight from Prague, you told me, and the plane had gone through a terrifyingly long tunnel of turbulence up there in the clouds. 'Everyone on the plane was freaking out, except the girl beside me,' you said. 'She was just reading her book--maybe a little faster than usual, but otherwise untroubled. I said to her: 'Have you noticed that we might be about to crash?' And she said 'Yes, I did notice that actually, which makes it even more important for me to know how this ends.”
“I was on my way out and they thought they were helping me; instead they turned motion and intelligible speech into a currency with which personhood is earned.”
“drownings” – a “warning” tale, not wonderful but okay.
“There’s that difficulty with delirium too: You see it raging in another person’s eyes and then it flickers out. That’s the most dangerous moment, it’s impossible to see something that’s so swiftly and suddenly swallowed you whole.”
“presence” – bizarre … like an episode of Twilight Zone based on something like Dr. Phil’s couple’s counseling...
“Two minutes until midnight. She looked around at the pale blue walls, then out of the window and into the communal garden; there was a night breeze, and the flowers were wide-awake.”
“a brief history of the homely wench society” – This was okay, more relatable but to me didn’t feel as if it fit in with the others.
“dornicka and the st. martin’s day goose”- just okay
“freddy barrandov checks…in?” I enjoyed almost everything about this story.
“Yours is a pitiful existence. I had you followed for six months and all you did apart from turn up to play in a sandpit with infants was go to galleries, bars, the cinema, and a couple of friends’ houses. What kind of person are you? I spoke to your weed dealer and he said you don’t buy that much. You are without virtue and without serious vice. Do you really think you can go on like this?”
“ if a book is locked there’s probably a good reason why, don’t you think?” - My second favorite in this collection, with a weirdly wonderful ending.
It might be a bit of a stretch to call the nine stories that compose WHAT IS NOT YOURS IS NOT YOURS “interconnected,” although many do share moments of commonality, including some characters and imagery. Most notably, virtually all the stories contain imagery of locks and keys, which sometimes lie at the center of the plot but just as often serve a more metaphorical purpose.
In the opening story, “Books and Roses,” a woman who was left at a monastery as a baby with a key to an unidentifiable door falls in love with another woman who has been left a key by a former lover, and both ladies must discover what doors their keys unlock --- and why. In “Drownings,” a man desperate to save a kingdom --- and a young woman --- from a tyrant throws a key into a fire, but his actions may destroy more lives than they save. And in “Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea,” a man takes care of a possibly hostile fish while its owner is overseas. The house is called “The House of Locks,” and the housesitter finds the house’s properties unsettling: “Because of the doors. They don’t stay closed unless they’re locked. Once you’ve done that you hear sounds behind them; sounds that convince you you’ve locked someone in.”
This kind of vaguely supernatural presence also runs through the stories, from the sentient puppet who narrates the second half of “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” to the “Little Red Riding Hood”-inspired story “Dornička and the St. Martin’s Day Goose” (in which the “wolf” may also be more metaphorical than actual).
As in her previous fiction, Oyeyemi draws on a variety of geographic locales and folk traditions in these stories, although many of them share an eastern European feel, from the names of the characters to their setting to the kinds of imagery that is employed. Oyeyemi’s narrative voice, her ability to write quasi-folkloric prose with such authority, can make occasional contemporary references (such as mentions of Google searches or the Eurovision song contest) seem startling. These brief interruptions to Oyeyemi’s classic tropes and deliberately old-fashioned prose style serve as reminders to readers that great stories, timeless stories, can still arise from modern times, and that the language and images of folk traditions can still, at times, take us by surprise.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl