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The Icarus Girl

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3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  2,676 Ratings  ·  413 Reviews
Jessamy “Jess” Harrison, age eight, is the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother. Possessed of an extraordinary imagination, she has a hard time fitting in at school. It is only when she visits Nigeria for the first time that she makes a friend who understands her: a ragged little girl named TillyTilly. But soon TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, until ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 11th 2006 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2005)
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karen
okay so the ending - who knows - but the rest of the book had a lot of enjoyable writing. its true it was predictable and there were some inconsistencies, but then i realized she was 17 when she wrote this, so i forgave the flaws.(so magnanimous, i) it would have been 4 stars, but that ending.... but i have her other novel so ill read that, and the new one is out soon and im sure that they will be more mature but still retaining the "good bits" from this first one.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
My final feelings about this book couldn't be any farther from where they started. I selected this book as one of the latest piles for a speed-dating project, and after 50 pages I wanted to put everything else aside and immerse in the story. The writing of the young girl Jessamy and her mysterious friend grabbed me - it felt new, different, fresh.

Somehow along the way it grew tiresome. I think perhaps the idea made a better short story and it just seemed stretched out, the ending was not very sa
...more
Rafe
Nov 08, 2007 Rafe rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: most people
As an English teacher, I spend a lot of time being told to tell teenagers that the "only" important West African author is Chinua Achebe. Having long believed that Benjamin Oke and Sole Woyinka prove that wrong, I was delighted to find The Icarus Girl, and in it, a lovely, slightly scary story about a Nigerian/British girl. It is more Western than most "Africa" books; more African than most English books. In all, it is a delight, and I look forward to reading more from the same author.
Raquel
Feb 10, 2008 Raquel rated it it was amazing
I didn't go to sleep the night I finished this novel. I got into bed and attempted to read my chapter or two and ended up reading until I was done...at 5 o'clock in the morning! Every time I finished one chapter, I had to read the next and then the next. But nothing ever happened...other than extreme creepiness due to the main character, 8 year old Jess's evil-creepy alter ego/spirit/imaginary friend of the same age. I had way too many questions when this story was done. I mean, I like it when ...more
Viv JM
3.5 stars, rounded down for the ending, which felt too rushed and a bit too inconclusive!

I have shelved this as horror, as it certainly contained some very creepy and downright scary scenes. On the one hand, it's a story about a half-English, half-Nigerian little girl coming to terms with her feelings of not fitting in. On the other hand, it's a dark dark tale incorporating some seriously terrifying mythologies. This book was written when the author was still at sixth form, and taken in that con
...more
Alexa
Sep 07, 2016 Alexa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-16, woc-16
This is an exquisite examination of the mind of an imaginative child, with just hints of otherness around the edges. The child and her thought processes are amazing – and Oyeyemi’s ability to maintain a certain ambivalence is remarkable.
Leah
Oct 12, 2015 Leah rated it it was amazing
If you believe there is a fine line between madness and psychic abilities this is a fascinating look at one troubled young girl's life. Well worth the read even if you don't hold those beliefs.
Lola
Nov 03, 2008 Lola rated it it was ok
It has taken me way longer than it should to get through this 320 page book. I just couldn't do it. I lost interest 100 pages into it, not because it was boring but because it just wasn't engaging. I didn't form any attachments to the characters, I didn't look forward to picking it up in my free time to continue reading, and i'm not at all curious as to how the plot will pan out (Ok maybe just a little curious, but not enough). Although i do have to say that even though i wasn't so invested in ...more
Tony
Nov 18, 2009 Tony rated it liked it
While this debut novel is certainly an impressive achievement for an 18-year-old writer, it's hard to escape the conclusion that purely on its own merits as a book, it's rather flat. Apparently partially inspired by the author's own troubles as a child, the story centers on the psychological problems of 8-year-old Jessamy. The lonely only child of a Nigerian woman and English father, she lives in the suburbs of Kent, England, and we meet her for the first time as she hides in a linen closet. The ...more
Samantha
3.5 stars.
Jessamy is 8 years old, half-English and half-Nigerian and has a friend named TillyTilly that no one else can see. TillyTilly wreaks havoc on Jessamy's life and the lives of those around her.
I liked this book, but I also felt confused by this book. I came to this title because it was described as having a lot to do with Nigerian fairy tales. The moment I finished reading this book, I fired up google to find out what I could about Nigerian fairy tales, which was not a lot. So that unf
...more
Lizzie
Aug 06, 2015 Lizzie rated it really liked it
I didn't follow every single thing that happened in this book but it was okay? I was pretty into it, so even if some of its magical bits clunked around, I let them.

I was entirely unprepared for how scary this was. It isn't a horror book at all, but a lot of scenes are genuinely frightening! I did a lot of the reading at bedtime, in the dark in a strange house. I loved it but wow.

I impulse-bought this at a stoop sale just before leaving Brooklyn, even though I was on a strict no-new-books packing
...more
Zoe Brooks
Aug 22, 2013 Zoe Brooks rated it liked it
Shelves: magic-realism
I am not sure what it was about this book that didn't engage me. I have to admire the fact that it was written when the author was in her last year at secondary school. And there is some very good writing in this novel. But somehow the book just misses the mark.

The premise is interesting, if familiar, and suited to magic realism. A highly sensitive and imaginative child divided between cultures (the Nigerian of her mother and white British of her father) goes visit her grandfather in Nigeria whe
...more
Lauralee
I wanted to love this book. The themes of duality, sisters/twins, and cultural identity were engaging, but it seemed like these were never fully explored, despite the length of the book. The author, Helen Oyeyemi, spends over 300 pages drawing readers into her story, inviting them to wonder what kind of entity is at play with the main character, Jess/Wuraola. Jess is the nine-year-old daughter of a Yoruba, Nigerian mother and an English father. Jess is an exceptionally clever child, but has not ...more
Lila
Like almost everyone else, I was not satisfied with the ending, but marvel at the fact that Helen Oyeyemi was only 18 when she wrote it. Had everything somehow come more together in the end, I would have given this book 5 stars. Regardless of the ending this book is definitely worth reading and I look forward to discovering more books from this author!
Daphne
Jan 14, 2016 Daphne rated it liked it
The first third of this book was definitely the strongest. A wonderful introduction to the MC, and an even more interesting look at a compound families life in Nigeria.

It got weaker after that, but I enjoyed the end even though many are upset by the ambivalence.
Jessica
Sep 30, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
A lovely debut novel. Has a little bit of creepiness that she used more of in White is for Witching.
Sarah
THIS IS WRITING.
Meagan
Aug 19, 2013 Meagan rated it liked it
I'm not sure how much to say about the plot of The Icarus Girl. It's not hard to figure out what's really going on in the story if you give it some effort, so it's not like I'm giving wild spoilers or anything. But then again - what about those readers who would like to know as little as possible going in to a story like this? I guess I'll try to skirt the issue as much as I can, but if you're planning on reading this and want to remain untainted by anything resembling a spoiler, now is the time ...more
Mely
Apr 05, 2012 Mely rated it liked it
This has a pretty, literary cover and a pretty, literary title and so I thought it would be, at most, part of the Todorovan fantastic, maybe it is real and maybe it is imagined/insanity, which, honestly, I find one of the most boring conceits in all of literature most of the time. But no! There is an ACTUAL GHOST. Or perhaps not a ghost. But an actual supernatural being. Structurally, this is a very traditional ghost story. The prose is lovely, but my favorite thing is Jess and her reserve (must ...more
Korey
Jun 22, 2015 Korey rated it it was amazing
If you pick up this crazily awesome book late at night like I did last night you will be forced to stay up all night just to finish it, as I have. I just could not put this book down. It was unique and creepy and really excelled at creating a frightening atmosphere, while having ambitions beyond just scaring its audience. All the fun of a popcorn read and all the beautiful prose, sensitivity, and depth of a so called "literary" novel. I loved it! Drop what you're doing and read this now.
Abby
Aug 13, 2016 Abby rated it really liked it
*3.5
Jen
I’m still waffling on if this is 2.5 or a solid 3. I'm going with a 3 for the sake of GR's rating system, but also because I did like this book. There isn't a thing wrong with the storyline, in fact, The Icarus Girl has a unique and intriguing plot. It’s all about a half-Nigerian, half-English eight-year-old named Jessamy, who is having difficulty adjusting to her social surroundings. To escape her realities, she does what any child would do and that is finds acceptance in creating imaginary wor ...more
Ian Wood
There's a complete spoiler-ridden review on my blog.

Helen Oyeyemi (is that an awesome name or what?!) was only eighteen when she wrote this novel. I've seen no word as to why a novel so closely tied to Africa has a title taken from Greek mythology! The story begins with Jessamy Harrison hiding in a cupboard. Her mother finally locates her and asks her how she would like to go to Nigeria for a vacation, and off they go to visit her mum's family. Jess feels just as alienated in Nigeria as she did
...more
Nicole
The full Double Review can be found at Bitches With Books.

This was a highly anticipated read for me. Oyeyemi has written several novels since her debut, The Icarus Girl, and has generally received a lot of praise for her works of magical realism. And, of course, I was curious about the book written by this author who apparently wrote so magically and captivatingly at only 21 years old when she was still in university (that's when she wrote The Icarus Girl). I suppose we are conditioned these day
...more
Tiara
Jessamy Harrison is a somber, contemplative child who keeps to herself. She loses herself in her world and her imagination. Her mother, a writer originally from Nigeria, decides to take her family (which includes Jess and her English husband) to her home country where Jess learns about her mother’s roots for the first time from her mother’s family. There Jess meets a little girl named TillyTilly who becomes one of Jess’ closest friends despite the fact that there’s something a little strange ...more
Utami
Jan 17, 2012 Utami rated it liked it
Salah satu buku yang saya perlu waktu yang lamaaa sekali untuk menyelesaikannya :D. Sebenernya bukan karena ceritanya tidak menarik, tapi ya… nyari waktunya itu. Dan buku ini beberapa kali tertinggal di ruangan kerja saya di kampus.

Jessamy, yang biasa dipanggil Jess, adalah seorang gadis kecil berusia 8 tahun dengan ibu dari Nigeria dan ayah dari Inggris. Jess tinggal bersama keluarganya di Inggris. Suatu waktu, Jess dan keluarganya berlibur ke Nigeria, kampung halaman ibunya. Dan di Nigeria in
...more
Amy
Jan 19, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Amy by: MartiP
What a complex book-- I am still absorbing it, even though I finished it a week or so back. And the fact that it was written while the author was still in school. Egads! I am humbled and awed.

From the first minutes of meeting 8 year old Jessamy, who was hiding in the airing closet (we don't have those here, but I know what they are!) rather than play with other children her age, I was swept into the writing. Jess, is bright, precocious, unpopular and prone to screaming tantrums and is also the d
...more
Vivienne
I first read this novel in 2009 and was enchanted by it as evidenced by my initial review (2009 Book 97). So I was very pleased when I suggested it to our library reading group and members agreed that it seemed an interesting choice. On a second reading I was even more impressed by its beauty, strangeness and charm.

After recently reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah I also felt that I was better able to appreciate The Icarus Girl's theme of race as experienced by a young woman of mixed
...more
Chloe (thelastcolour)
This book was so creepy and haunting but I just couldn't put it down. It is the story of an 8 year old girl called Jessamy whom has a Nigerian mother and an English father. She is a rather strange child with a huge imagination. Her mum reads her Shakespeare and she adores the story Little Women. Her family travels to Nigeria to meet her mothers parents and cousins and sisters. Jessamy feels out of place in both England and Nigeria, she is isolated and lonely but one night she meets this girl c ...more
Veronika
Aug 28, 2007 Veronika rated it really liked it
The first time this book caught my eye was when I heard that the author, Helen Oyeyemi, was only 17 years old at the start of this book. Being only 16, this of course sparked my interest, then I heard what the book was actually about and I knew I had to read it. Being an obsessor of fairy tales and where the line is drawn between good and bad, I could have sworn this book was written for me. I was not disappointed.

The character of TillyTilly was absolutely fascinating, one second seeming as an a
...more
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FABClub (Female A...: The Icarus Girl group discussion (May '16) 20 11 May 13, 2016 12:19PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi 2 26 Jan 27, 2015 06:33AM  
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Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She graduated from Cambridge University in 2006, has written a total of seven books (lucky seven!) and lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots.
More about Helen Oyeyemi...

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“Once you let people know anything about what you think, that's it, you're dead. Then they'll be jumping about in your mind, taking things out, holding them up to the light and killing them, yes, killing them, because thoughts are supposed to stay and grow in quiet, dark places, like butterflies in cocoons.” 33 likes
“Two hungry people should never make friends. If they do, they eat each other up. It is the same with one person who is hungry and another who is full: they cannot be real, real friends because the hungry one will eat the full one. You understand?” 11 likes
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