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White is for Witching

by Helen Oyeyemi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8824518,705 (3.41)88
Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award One of Granta 's Best Young British Novelists From the acclaimed author of Boy, Snow, Bird There's something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it's been home to four generations of Silver women--Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda's mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover's hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.… (more)
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» See also 88 mentions

English (44)  Dutch (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
So beautifully written that I'm happy to forgive the ending which seemed deflated. Delivers on many levels - ghost story, coming of age, even political analysis. And, did I mention? beautifully written. ( )
  Lemeritus | Aug 21, 2021 |
1.75*
This book was strange. The POV switches randomly and it can be difficult to determine who (or what) is narrating the story. The house has a part to play, and it's difficult to tell what is "real". I didn't feel much, if any connection to the characters and wanted more of an explanation on the ending as well. overall, I wasn't very impressed with this narrative. ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
As much as I enjoyed reading this book (it is supremely well-written and accomplishes a perfect balance between whimsical notes underpinned by a feeling of unease), I will fully admit that I felt like there were so many pieces that I didn’t quite get. The modern-faerietale aspects were wonderful (Oyeyemi may be drawing on African mythology, with which I have almost no familiarity with as of yet, but cultural mythos has a distinct flavour wherever it appears), but what I struggled with was what felt like a dissonance in the sense of time and space within the novel itself. Which makes little sense considering that the story is grounded pretty solidly around the twins, Miranda and Eliot, and only takes narrative detours to Miranda’s girlfriend (not entirely accurate, but for the sake of simplicity leave it alone) and the unspecified spectral characters. In theory it may have been the undefined supernatural elements that threw me, since they seem to be at once the house, Miranda’s deceased female relatives, Miranda herself, or a being that encompasses and manifests through all of these characters. Regardless, it was an excellent read, and is definitely one which I shall have to peruse again as it seems to be built for re-reads. ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
Would have had another half star but the story lost me right at the end, with Sade and Ore gone I'm not sure I really cared about any of the others. Enjoyed it anyway, beautifully told. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
Throughout this book I frequently had no idea what was happening. Constantly changing narrators, including a house, which change from one to the other so smoothly it's hard to tell who's talking.
Utterly bewildering but quite beautiful and melancholic. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Some have compared Helen Oyeyemi to Henry James, and at first glance this seems a strange connection. White is for Witching is an unconventional novel, less a structured story than an extended mood piece, a rumination on horror as personified in a disintegrating personality. Even so, White is for Witching captures some of the characteristic Jamesian ambiguity, the openness to multiple interpretations that has kept literary scholars debating, more than a century after it was written, whether The Turn of the Screw is really a ghost story, or just a metaphorical haunting that reminds us of the dark corners of everyday existence.... Oyeyemi earns my praise for infusing even the most outlandish details in this story with a plausible psychological resonance. I may walk away from this book wondering whether it isn’t more a hallucination than a structured narrative. But I could imagine reading accounts of just this sort in collection of psychiatric case studies. And this is more than just the chronicle of a medical condition. It is a legit horror novel. After all, what could be scarier than a ghost story where you can’t escape…because you are the ghost?
 
Helen Oyeyemi’s eerie third novel features a young woman who has a strange eating disorder and lives with her twin brother and widowed father in a haunted house across the street from a cemetery full of unmarked graves. On the surface, this setup might appear best suited to the young adult fiction market, but Oyeyemi (who was born in Nigeria and educated in England) knows that ghost stories aren’t just for kids. And “White Is for Witching” turns out to be a delightfully unconventional coming-of-age story.
 
White Is for Witching is written so elliptically that it can be hard to follow. It opens with four pages of poetic, disjointed writing that makes almost no sense until you have finished the book - which would be fine if the remaining 241 pages swept you off your feet, but the whole novel is sadly unengaging.... This is a ghost story without much of a ghost, or a story. And, like a spectre with no one to haunt, it seems destined to fade soundlessly away.
 
The book is structured around multiple voices—including that of the house itself—that bleed into one another. Appealing from page one, the story, like the house, becomes extremely foreboding, as the house is “storing its collapse” and “can only be as good as” those who inhabit it. The house’s protective, selfish voice carries a child’s vision of loss: in the absence of a mother, feelings of anger, betrayal and bodily desire replace the sensation of connection. Unconventional, intoxicating and deeply disquieting.
added by Lemeritus | editPublisher's Weekly (Feb 16, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helen Oyeyemiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Tooke, KatieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I hold my honey and I store my bread/In little jars and cabinets of my will./I label clearly, and each latch and lid/I bid, Be firm till I return from Hell. - Gwendolyn Brooks, Selected Poems
Dedication
First words
Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother's house.
Quotations
What I mean is, each act of speech stands on the belief that someone will hear. My note to Miri says more than just I’m lonely. Invisibly it says that I know she will see this, and that when she sees this it will turn her, turn her back, return her.
When Dad laid the stitched pillowcase and duvet out for her on the sofa, the colours reminded her of something she’d never seen.
She didn’t want to say “refugees.” She didn’t want to say “Kosovans.” She didn’t know why. Or maybe it seemed feeble somehow, like making a list of things that were a shame, grouped in order of quantity—shame number seventy-three (73): loss of four (4) Kosovans.
Emma is an only child, and she was drunk besides.
...a brittle shape with life in it, like a flute playing itself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award One of Granta 's Best Young British Novelists From the acclaimed author of Boy, Snow, Bird There's something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it's been home to four generations of Silver women--Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda's mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover's hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.

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