Thank you to NetGalley and Jacaranda Books for providing me with an early release of this book in exchange for an honest review.
You may have seen this book nominated for the Jhalak Prize (which highlights works by BAME authors of British origin). It is to see why it has made the longlist. Okojie’s debut short story collection is nothing short of exemplary. Not one of the stories is similar to the other ranging from topics such as foot fetishes, purgatory (in London’s underground network), euthanasia and resurrection.
Each of Okojie’s fable-like stories end in a twist of fate – sometimes good sometimes bad. Despite my best efforts I could not see a common theme – most are set in London but some are in Europe, some are modern – others aren’t and some feature downright magical themes yet others are based on ordinary lives. The only common thread I could muster was that each of them are dark stories. Whether they started or ended that way they all had an underlying tone of nervous anticipation. I suspect that this is what Okojie intended and I loved this collection the more for it.
Whilst some of the stories are a bit weaker than the others that is only a few small percentage and it is only due to how outstandingly gripping the one prior to it was. Each of these stories will linger in your mind mainly due to the way they unexpectedly end.
My favourite story was Animal Parts where we meet a young boy who has a tail. His mother loves him dearly and accommodates the tail in his life. However, as he grows up he sees the townspeople and his schoolmates turn on him and make him feel like an outsider: he doesn’t belong. Whatever he has ‘caught’ – they don’t want it. Yet the mother, her deep longing to have a child, continues to send her son to school where he is relentlessly bullied – one particular paragraph describing said bullying still haunts me. This story ends in such an evocative way it made me cry.
My least favourite was Walk With Sleep but as that was based on the ‘jumpers’ (people who commit suicide) on the London underground network now faced with spending eternity within that confined space – I think that had more to do with how awful that would be than the story itself!
Have any of you read it? Are you planning on reading any of the other longlisted Jhalak Prize longlist?
I had the great pleasure of interviewing Irenosen on Speak Gigantular – you can see that post here.
Recommended for: short story lovers!
Favourite quote: “man should wrestle with some anxiety if he likes a woman, don’t you think?“
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!