“Frustrating and meandering” – Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_2022-7-25-202004Where to start with this one? Well, in all honesty, after reading Peaces, it probably makes sense to start with a tangent. So I will. But, unlike Helen Oyeyemi in Peaces, I will try to keep that tangent relevant. This tangent will be about an earlier book by Oyeyemi  – a book that I raved about on this very site, a book that I loved, a book that made me feel I had found another author to add to my list of must reads for every novel. Boy, Snow, Bird was a magical, fantastical, and oddball work of fiction – but also one that had a hell of a lot to say. I couldn’t recommend it more highly. And as always happens when I discover a writer part way through their career, I returned to one of her earlier works (Mr Fox). After reading that novel I told myself that it was okay that I found it patchy and incohesive, because she had obviously upped her game by the time of Boy, Snow, Bird.

Anyway. Tangent over. But why start with a tangent in the first place, I hear you ask? Well I just finished Peaces and I am unsure whether I will ever be able to think in anything other than tangents for the rest of my life. Peaces is so full of tangents, that I am struggling to tell you what the story was. A couple are on their honeymoon (but they aren’t on their honeymoon) after getting married (but they didn’t get married), and their honeymoon is on a train (which doesn’t really seem much like a train when you read about it) and they have been invited onto this luxury train by someone they know (although they’ve never met this person) and really it is all some kind of ploy by a person who doesn’t seem to actually exist (although he does exist, I think, by the end). Something like that, anyway. Honestly, I cannot tell you much more than that in terms of the plot. By the time one of the protagonists started furiously wanking in a train carriage I was so lost I could barely remember what I was reading.

And what a shame that is. Because Oyeyemi can clearly write. I don’t have to go back to Boy, Snow Bird, to see that. Peaces has patches of great writing, sentences that could cut through glass, and the occasional piece of hilarious dialogue. But then there’d be a chapter about two mongooses falling in love and all the good work would be torn down.

Any Cop?: I hate to be so negative about any novel, but the job of a reviewer is to tell the truth. And I found this to be such a frustrating and meandering read that there really isn’t much else I can say. Read Boy, Snow, Bird instead.

Fran Slater

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