"Flawless. . . another masterpiece from an author who seems incapable of writing anything that's less than brilliant." —NPR
From the award-winning author of Boy, Snow, Bird and 2019's Gingerbread comes an enchanting collection of intertwined stories.
Playful, ambitious, and exquisitely imagined, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours is cleverly built around the idea of keys, literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret—Oyeyemi’s keys not only unlock elements of her characters’ lives, they promise further labyrinths on the other side. In “Books and Roses” one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers’ fates. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?” an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. “‘Sorry’ Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea” involves a “house of locks,” where doors can be closed only with a key—with surprising, unobservable developments. And in “If a Book Is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don't You Think,” a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).
Oyeyemi’s tales span multiple times and landscapes as they tease boundaries between coexisting realities. Is a key a gate, a gift, or an invitation? What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours captivates as it explores the many possible answers.
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.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours 3 out of 5based on
29 days ago
I absolutely loved this collection of short stories. It is a slow read, yet thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end.
My favorite part is that Oyeyemi seems to play with the setting within and between stories. There is a timelessness of the settings. While most of the stories have explicit references to modernity, such as cars or email, the tone and narration can slip into those of fairy tales obscuring the actual era. Yet, there is such a strong sense of place throughout that the reader never feels destabilized.
Individually and as a collection, these stories are profound. This is a perfect read if you are craving imaginative stories and unbelievably rich language.
For more information, see https://annabananabookblog.home.blog
More than 1 year ago
I bought this based on the great reviews. It started out with an interesting story, but went downhill from there. By the time I got to the puppet story, which was way too long and overly detailed, I had no interest in any of the characters. I thought the writer was pretentious and tried too hard to make the ordinary seem mystical. I can find nothing to recommend this book. Unless you really love the short story format, skip this one.
More than 1 year ago
A doomed romance set against the romantic and mysterious city of Barcelona. Fans of a cultish pop star dealing with the fallout of his bad behavior. A student puppeteer–where there’s more to the puppets than meets the eye. All of Oyeyemi’s stories revolve around locks and keys. some of the stories are tangentially related. All are captivating.
Those of you that know me, or having been reading my ramblings here for a bit, know I generally prefer my short stories with a touch of the odd. Oyeyemi delivers. Like with her novels Boy, Snow, Bird and White is for Witching (and presumably also the ones I have not yet read), Oyeyemi takes the ordinary and spins a fairy tale. Or she adds that one odd element that makes all the difference. These stories live up to that. If you like Karen Russell or Kelly Link (who was just a Pulitzer finalist!), this will be right up your alley.
With her touches of magic, Oyeyemi manages to dig deep, and all of her stories ring of truth. One of the stories that stood out to me most involved two teenagers dealing with he fallout of the pop star they idolized beating a woman. The tone feels extra sinister as if these girls were victims themselves. And, in many ways they were. It was a look at the fall of a teen idol that did not shame the teens, and I loved that. It was analysis of how we worship, and forgive, “stars” seemingly ripped right from the headlines.
The marketing of this one led me to believe these stories were more interconnected than I found them–though that they are connected is undeniable. There also could have been things I missed. Regardless, pick this one up.
More than 1 year ago
So here’s the honest truth. When I read Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird two years ago, I didn’t like it – AT ALL. I read it before I had started this blog, and have to say I was quite harsh in my Goodreads review. Now, after having read more literary fiction and developing a taste for the more off-beat and weird scope of lit fic, I think I would actually enjoy it these days. There’s absolutely no doubt Oyeyemi can write therefore, despite my less than stellar experience, I was still inspired to pick up her latest short story collection. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Just goes to show, giving second chances is not only a nice thing to do, but makes for some great reading.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours checked all the boxes for me in regards to what I most appreciate in a short story collection, including: a bit of oddness throughout, and some connecting vein linking the stories together in a cohesive manner. Plus, like I mentioned above, just damn good prose is always a positive.
Each story, in some way, involved locked doors, keys, and secrets, but utilized and abstracted that concept in many different ways, therefore it always felt fresh and inventive. Every story left me with more questions than answers, but in that satisfying and thought-provoking kind of way, versus a frustrating and “wtf” kind of way.
Of course, there always seems to be at least one dud in every short story collection, and for me this was the one about puppets. I’m not sure if I just don’t “get it,” or maybe I’m just scared of puppets, but it felt long and a bit tedious to me as I was reading it.
Another pseudo-negative, but sort of my own fault too, was the sheer number of characters. I didn’t sit down and read this through and through, and instead read a story here and there along with concurrently reading several other things. Unfortunately, I suspect this did me a disservice, in that I wasn’t able to appreciate the smaller connections, as many of the characters who had a starring role in one story, appeared in a more minuscule way in a different story. This is something I no doubt would have loved, had I been able to pick up on it more consistently; which again I think was partially due to too many characters and also the way I read the collection.
All in all, just read it, you won’t be sorry. This experience has further sparked my interest to take a look at some of Oyeyemi’s backlist and explore what I am most likely missing out on.
For more, visit http://www.bookishtendencies.com
More than 1 year ago
I know the critics love her but I found her characters unlikeable, her plots pointless and her stories childish.
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