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Boy, Snow, Bird

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3.33  ·  Rating Details ·  19,330 Ratings  ·  3,219 Reviews
BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman – craftsman, widower, and father of Snow. SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished – exactly the sort ...more
Hardcover, 308 pages
Published March 6th 2014 by Riverhead Books (first published August 27th 2013)
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Atembe Fonge Since this is a very liberal take on the classic Snow White, I think the mirrors were an hommage to the magic found in that fairytale, and how the…moreSince this is a very liberal take on the classic Snow White, I think the mirrors were an hommage to the magic found in that fairytale, and how the mirror was kind of like the Truth-Teller in the classic Snow White, whereas in this novel the mirror was kind of the opposite--depending on whether the reader trusts the views of Boy, Snow and Bird. Sometimes narrators cannot be trusted in books; they have their own jaded view points and see or remember things differently than they may really be in real life. For instance, Boy suspected Snow of being evil, like the Rat Catcher did of Boy, although neither character proved to be AS evil as the other suspected. Then again, I as a reader could never really say whether or not either Boy or Snow were truly good at heart...

Anyway, I think that Boy was a little obsessed/entranced by mirrors because she was made to believe, by the Rat Catcher, that she was worthless, and I think she realized that her beauty was real and there was something meaningful behind it; she existed and had worth. I think Snow and Bird couldn't see themselves because they were beautiful, but in a world where their looks were either seen as a blessing or a curse depending on the company they were in. It was hard to feel like they belonged anywhere so the mirror was showing that they don't belong in any specific place, even though they both knew they were loved and wanted.(less)
Ruth Charchian Ahh. That IS the question after reading this book. It is vague and filled with bland, mid tones that obscure her meaning. We are all expecting…moreAhh. That IS the question after reading this book. It is vague and filled with bland, mid tones that obscure her meaning. We are all expecting archetypal characters and universal themes in bold colors. They could be any of the following: good/evil, beauty/ugliness, black/white, identity/character. Her attempts at fantasy writing are weak. Therefore, only she knows what she intended because she sure couldn't pull it off.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Caroline
***ALL SPOILERS HIDDEN***

Boy, Snow, Bird is part of a growing trend among recently published books: books whose blurbs make them sound much more appealing than they actually are. It belongs unequivocally alongside deep disappointments such as The Age of Ice and The Night Circus. Getting dubbed a “re-telling of Snow White,” does not help Boy, Snow, Bird. I want to be clear about this upfront: in no way can Boy, Snow, Bird be classified as a fairy tale re-telling (and possibly, Oyeyemi never inten
...more
Ron Charles
Dec 05, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-favorites
Once upon a time, there was a girl who left her home and traveled to a cold land far, far away. Sometimes she was very sad, and once she fell down a dark well, and no one knew if she would get out, but she did. She wrote a book and sold it for a pot of gold. People said, “Surely, she is one of the best young writers in the realm,” and she wrote happily ever after.

That fairy-tale version of Helen Oyeyemi’s life is hard to resist. The Nigerian-born British writer has wrestled with cultural disloca
...more
Ami
Oct 16, 2013 Ami rated it it was amazing
This is the sort of book that you read on the subway, so engrossed that you only glance up every four or five stops. And every time you look up, you need to quash the urge to grab the person next to you and say, HOLY COW THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD YOU NEED TO READ IT IMMEDIATELY, STRANGER.

On its surface, it is the story of a woman named Boy, who escapes her terrible father and life in New York for a calmer existence north. Boy marries, mothers a step-daughter, finds a best friend who is a writer, and
...more
Lala BooksandLala
Mar 31, 2017 Lala BooksandLala rated it liked it
Shelves: magical-realism
I really could have loved this. Absurd writing and nonsensical storytelling is right up my alley.
Then the second half came...and oh boy...what a mess.
Greg
Jan 22, 2014 Greg rated it really liked it
Boy was the daughter of the Rat Catcher. Tired of the Rat Catcher's abuse she runs away from New York City to a small town in Massachusetts.

Thus starts the story of the three female characters: Boy, Snow and Bird; at the center of the this novel.

Oyeyemi once again has weaved together a story that fuses the real world with fairy tales. She embraces both the whimsical qualities and the underlying terror of those stories that begin with “Once upon a time...”

As a reading experience there is someth
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Natalie
I found this beauty of a book in the library and just had to check it out when the cover transfixed my eyes. And with already having read Oyeyemi's What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours in the previous month, I was more than ready to pick up this tale.

In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow
...more
Elizabeth
Apr 28, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Hmmm. I really, really want to give this one four stars for the Snow White re-telling alone. And the first half of the book was so strong. So strong. I was equal parts riveted and repulsed. The writing is a bit confusing and strange (at times) but it somehow served the fairy tale-ish aspect of the story. Then it gets a bit too weird. The letter writing time period read like a device. The rat catcher reveal did not make any sense. And I mean NO SENSE. Of course it ended on an ambiguous note. Made ...more
Siavahda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megan
Feb 28, 2014 Megan rated it liked it
A beautiful book about ugly things. I really liked a lot about it, but I found the treatment of a particular issue near the ending (discussed under spoiler tags below) to be too brief and too superficial, and it took away from the book's strengths.

Boy Novak is a girl with a smart mouth, a crazy-making beauty, and a motherless, grim childhood that sends her fleeing from her New York City home. She winds up in tiny Flax Hill, Massachusetts, an idyllic town known for its legions of artisans, a plac
...more
Jill
Jan 28, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.” So begins the dazzingly imaginative and enigmatically-named new novel from Helen Oyeyemi.

But what happens when mirrors are not trustworthy? When Boy is really a girl? When a beautiful pale-skinned youngster actually shares the bloodline of the blackest of black individuals? When beauty is not truth and when truth is not beauty? When a mother or a grandmother is not a safe haven but so
...more
Blair
Helen Oyeyemi just writes fucking beautifully, and never has this been more apparent than in Boy, Snow, Bird. A loose reworking of the Snow White fairytale, it is told in three parts, as the title infers. Boy Novak is the narrator of the first and third parts; her daughter, Bird, narrates the middle section. Boy's stepdaughter, Snow, has no voice of her own other than a handful of letters exchanged with Bird, but then again she is not quite as central to the story as you might imagine.

Boy, a gi
...more
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
An almost perfect 5 star book ruined by a non-ending. I'm furious. I want to strangle the author.

Ok for a slightly more coherent rant:

Part 1- Boy

The story has connotations of Snow White and Cinderella while being skilfully placed in the 1950s (a nice touch by the author). It is steeped in magical realism. The tone is fearful, dark and muted. It is hard to get a grasp on Boy and although you feel sympathetic towards her the language is distancing. Although it is told in close personal point of vi
...more
Columbus
Mar 06, 2014 Columbus rated it did not like it
Bamboozled
Tricked
Duped
Hoodwinked
Fooled
Suckered
Misguided
Misled

(Add your own word that would apply here _________)

Almost every review I read prior to reading this book mentioned the Snow White fairy tale angle as the basis for this story. I would never have known this if it wasn't told to me and hearing from some others who've read the book it appears I'm not alone.

The author certainly writes well enough but the storytelling just left much to be desired. This tale begins in 1953 Manhattan and eve
...more
Ariel
Aug 19, 2014 Ariel rated it did not like it
Shelves: library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Maciek
Jan 18, 2015 Maciek rated it it was ok
Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird is a victim of misleading marketing. I knew little about the author and nothing about her work, and approached this novel with curiosity - I've read that it was a reimagining of Snow White, st in contemporary times; this, together with the book's intriguing title, was enough to make me want to read it.

Those expecting Boy, Snow, Bird to be a contemporary fairy tale, brimming with fantasy, are bound to be disappointed - there is little if any fantasy here, and refer
...more
tinabel
Nov 18, 2013 tinabel rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fairy-tale
Such an interesting premise, and such a great book..in parts. As a whole, it was a fail in my opinion. The novel is divided into three parts: the first is narrated by our protagonist, Boy; the second by Boy's daughter, Bird; and the third by Boy again. It was lucky it was divided up in such a way, else I probably would have stopped reading halfway through. It starts off well, Boy has an intriguing history (abusive father, absent mother) that sets her up as very sympathetic, yet despite the fact ...more
Puck
Wow, what an unique story. In Boy, Snow, Bird Helen Oyeyemi uses a well known fairytale to tell a smart, suggestive story about family secrets, (internalized) racism, and identity. Its ending though, is a problem.

We start the book with meeting Boy Novak, a young woman running away from her life with horrible abusive father Frank, a famous rat-catcher in New York. Taking the midnight bus to a small town in New England, Flax Hill, Boy tries to settle in, and ends up meeting Arturo Whitman. Arturo
...more
Sheri
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I received a copy of this book for advanced review. I am always skeptical of my own responses to such books (am I being too “easy” on something because it was given to me? or maybe I’m being too “hard” because I’m worried I might be too easy?); one can end up in a whirlwind of doubt over one’s own reactions. In the case of Boy, Snow, Bird, I found myself repeating to my husband several times yesterday, that I should really give this a 4 star ...more
Ij
Apr 03, 2014 Ij rated it liked it
Why the three (3) rating? It’s not the book, it’s me.

Boy (a girl) runs away from home and her abusive father (a rat catcher). She eventually meets and marries Snow’s father. Boy gives birth to Bird. Boy becomes a wicked step-mother and sends Snow away to live with relatives.

Boy, Snow, and Bird all seem to not see their reflection in mirrors. A lot of twists and turns in the story with an unexpected ending.

I really thought the book was great. I am planning to read it again, soon. I like fairy ta
...more
Andi
Feb 21, 2014 Andi rated it it was ok
Wtf was that?
Rebecca McNutt
Boy, Snow, Bird has a strange but original and effective mix of neo-gothic and fairy tale themes, and at the heart of the story is a woman discovering how to handle a marriage and a new stepdaughter. When her stepdaughter has a baby, the surprising happens thereafter bring them closer together than they ever expected.
Lisa
Feb 12, 2014 Lisa rated it it was ok
This is disturbing, bizarre, and overly ambitious. I can see what the author was trying to do, but it didn't quite work. Too many loose ends, questionable behaviors, and a late plot twist out of nowhere added up to a disappointing read for me.
l.
The first section of this book was really excellent and beautiful, after that, things went a bit haywire.

The fairytale themes never really pan out - not that I wanted or was expecting a Bippity Boppity Boo moment but I thought the first section interwove ~magic into the narrative really well, whereas the second two sections were more puzzling than evocative - a bit, what are you trying to do here? Talking to spiders about cultural appropriation? What.

The ending twist is imo, completely awful.

And
...more
Audacia Ray
Feb 10, 2014 Audacia Ray rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2014
I am a sucker for stories that engage with fairy tales in any way, and I was particularly intrigued by the idea of this book dealing with race in the 1950s U.S. - most fairy tales focus on being creepily celebratory of whiteness (the fairest of them all!) and/or dark skin is the equivalent of evil. So I was looking forward to see how the complexities of race play out in this book. I kept thinking I had accidentally skipped pages because it felt like there were things missing in the story and esp ...more
Lotte
This is a very subtle retelling of Snow White (one of the Grimm's Fairy Tales) and I loved how elements of the original fairytale were woven into this story, changed around and subverted at the same time. Mainly it's an exploration of the interconnections of race, racism and beauty standards in 1950s/60s America, even though a lot of issues discussed in this book are still very relevant today. Most of the characters remained very distant and opaque until the end, which I'm pretty sure was a deli ...more
Owen
Jan 25, 2014 Owen rated it really liked it
Shelves: notable
Recently in English we read "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin, a short story about recessive genes and the social implications of light skinned people having a dark skinned baby. Boy, Snow, Bird is about the same thing, although it does not take place during the time of slavery/antebellum period. Both stories reveal the mistrust between spouses when their unknown backgrounds are brought into the light and their selfishness in trying to maintain their reputation, even throwing his/her spouse under ...more
Sarah
Jul 16, 2014 Sarah added it
There was a lot to like about this book, but a few things that left me unable to decide how I felt about it. The prose is gorgeous. I could open to almost any page and find something worth quoting. The commentary on race is well done.

As for the take on Snow White, it feels more like a variation on the theme than an actual retelling. It's a book about passing, on multiple levels, and a book about beauty. It's at its best when characters are telling each other stories. I sometimes felt like chara
...more
Jenbebookish
Another book with a difficult-to-articulate feel to it.

I've heard so much raving about this book and I've seen it on so many "Top books of 2014," "Best of.." lists, so much hype, that I was really expecting something great. Plus with such a beautiful cover, the book sparkled and gleamed and called to me daily until I finally picked it up to read at the start of the New Year. I figured, I want something beautiful and amazing to start off my reading year!

(Tsk tsk tsk Jenelle. I should know better
...more
Bookwormjh
Nov 03, 2013 Bookwormjh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I have mixed feelings about this book. It covers many different themes and is interesting in parts, but I felt that it was almost too ambitious and tried to do too much. It's a book about race and gender and also about people passing for something that they are not. It tried to tackle some of these themes through extensive reference to fairy tales. I felt like this didn't work as well as the author might have hoped. It was too much. There were also so many important themes and characters veering ...more
Heather
“I waited seven heartbeats.” With superb pacing and simple elegant prose Oyeyemi gives us a very natural unaffected look at difficult topics in, "Boy, Snow, Bird."

The crux of the novel I think can be found in this sentence;

“Very few people can watch others endure humiliation without recognizing the part they play in increasing it.”


This was nearly flawless writing. It showed the psychological development of Boy. It gave the vivid dynamics of mixed race families. It had wonderful dialogue. The plo
...more
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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.
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“Imagine having a mother who worries that you read too much. The question is, what is it that's supposed to happen to people who read too much? How can you tell when someone's crossed the line.” 69 likes
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