What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi - review by Francesca Wade

Francesca Wade

Modern Magic

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours


Picador 263pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

In the final story of Helen Oyeyemi’s dazzling collection, an acerbic depiction of office workers bullying a colleague – salad dressing spilled on her desk, corrupt file attachments crashing her computer – takes a turn for the uncanny when Eva, the enigmatic victim, loses her diary. The story’s narrator, another colleague who has taken pity on her, recovers the leather-bound tome and undoes its brass clasp. As she scans the pages, the book begins to unfold ‘like a hand’, enveloping the narrator in a dizzying whirl of voices from Eva’s head. This collection abounds with such disorientating surprises: locked rooms reveal hidden treasures; animals, ghosts and dolls display unprecedented empathy; and supernatural presences lurk everywhere, sometimes benevolent, sometimes menacing. 

One of Granta’s 2013 Best of Young British Novelists, Oyeyemi is known for the fabular qualities of her work. Her five novels refract myth and fairy tale into hybrid meditations on storytelling and identity. The stories in this, her first collection, are linked by running threads of potent imagery: flowers,

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