The Icarus Girl
By Helen Oyeyemi
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385513838, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 21, 2005
List Price: $23.95*
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“The Icarus Girl is an astonishing achievement.” —Sunday Telegraph (London)
Jessamy “Jess” Harrison is eight years old. Sensitive, whimsical, possessed of an extraordinary and powerful imagination, she spends hours writing haiku, reading Shakespeare, or simply hiding in the dark warmth of the airing cupboard. As the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother, Jess just can’t shake off the feeling of being alone wherever she goes, and the other kids in her class are wary of her tendency to succumb to terrified fits of screaming. Believing that a change from her English environment might be the perfect antidote to Jess’s alarming mood swings, her parents whisk her off to Nigeria for the first time where she meets her mother’s family—including her formidable grandfather.
Jess’s adjustment to Nigeria is only beginning when she encounters Titiola, or TillyTilly, a ragged little girl her own age. To Jess, it seems that, at last, she has found someone who will understand her. But gradually, TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, making Jess start to realize that she doesn’t know who TillyTilly is at all.
Helen Oyeyemi draws on Nigerian mythology to present a strikingly original variation on a classic literary theme: the existence of "doubles," both real and spiritual, who play havoc with our perceptions and our lives. Lyrical, haunting, and compelling, The Icarus Girl is a story of twins and ghosts, of a little girl growing up between cultures and colors. It heralds the arrival of a remarkable new talent.
HELEN OYEYEMI was born in Nigeria in 1984 and has lived in London from the age of four. She completed The Icarus Girl just before her nineteenth birthday, while studying for her A-levels. She is now a student of social and political sciences at Cambridge University. She has written two plays, Juniper’s Whitening and Victimese. The Icarus Girl is her first novel, and she is at work on her second.
“Oyeyemi looks set to claim her own place in a list of English-language Nigerian authors that includes Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe and, more recently, Ben Okri.”
—Financial Times (London)
“The Icarus Girl is a dark enchantment that leads readers into the recesses of a young girl’s fevered psyche. A bewitching tale of childhood joy and wonder, pain, loss, and cultural estrangement.”
—Kerri Sakamoto, author of The Electrical Field and One Hundred Million Hearts
“The Icarus Girl is a beautifully imagined and lyrically executed novel. At turns dark and funny, it is always balanced by an expansive light. Oyeyemi is a gifted writer.”
—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand