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White is for Witching
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White is for Witching

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  1,270 ratings  ·  252 reviews
In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter...more
ebook, 244 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Picador USA (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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karen
i read this. im not sure how to review it. like the other things i have read by her, she shows a great flair for foreboding and atmosphere but the end is a void. im not sure what this book is. its not a traditional story, its kind of fairy-tale-like, but even that... there are characters who are involved heavily, and then they are absent from the narrative, never to return. i guess in that way, it is like the never knowing when the last time you will see someone will be. but in a novel, i have c...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 2* of five

The Book Report: Teenaged girl from a long line of off-kilter female ancestors loses her mother after developing a rare eating disorder. Clueless males make things worse. Her house is haunted. Blah blah blah.

My Review: I cannot believe I wasted eyeblinks on this boring, vapid girl. Her mother couldn't stand her to the point of being gone most of the time, and I say go mom. Dad's a selfish, clueless cretin.

In short, nothing new, except the little dullard has an affliction calle...more
Sarah
Sometimes when I'm reading a book, it's so out there that it makes me feel stupid. I think, "I bet a city woman on a subway would understand this thing." Or at least fake it. I can see this book being the subject of coffee table chatter at cocktail hour or at a ivy league campus book club, but not anywhere close to Paris, Illinois. Why? Because it's darn confusing. There are three narrators--Minerva, a yougn lady who suffers from pica (eating stuff like clay and chalk), Ore, a girlfriend Minerva...more
Maria Headley
This is the first book I'd read by Helen Oyeyemi, and I instantly had to purchase everything else. Girl has a way with words, a way with weird, and a way with witching. It kills me, full on kills me that she is writing like this and she's only, dear god, 26 years old. (And moan, I think she wrote this one when she was 23.) I'd possibly die of jealousy, except that she's completely amazing, and you know what? It's in the world's interest to have writers this good working in it. I think Oyeyemi is...more
Blair
White is for Witching is a strange but rather beautiful book. It's a story about lots of things - the fragility of family relationships, the bond between twins, sexuality, racial prejudice - but at the same time it isn't really about any of these. The unfinished themes are held together by Oyeyemi's prose, which is fluid, lyrical and reads almost like poetry at some points. The narrative is unconventional and initially hard to follow, as it switches between different viewpoints without explainin...more
Sarah
Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother’s house.
Her throat is blocked with a slice of apple
(to stop her speaking words that may betray her)
her ears are filled with earth
(to keep her from hearing sounds that will confuse her)
her eyes are closed, but
her heart thrums hard like hummingbird wings.
Does she remember me at all I miss her I miss the way her eyes are the same shade of grey no matter the strength or weakness of the light I miss the taste of her I
see her in my sleep, a
...more
Amanda
Oct 21, 2009 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Oriana Leckert
Recommended to Amanda by: Saba Afshar, Amy Sly
The daughters of the Silver family are cursed with a hunger for things that do not nourish. The Silver girls absently smear their mouths with handfuls of dirt, lick chalk from secret pocket stashes, nibble on plastic spoons beneath the sheets. The family home in Dover holds them through their suffering, unfolds for them and keeps them together. Part One of White is for Witching, "curiouser," begins with the return to Dover of eighteen-year-old Miranda Silver, an ethereal chalk-eater in stilettos...more
Kiran
DISCLAIMER: swearing. Maybe spoilers too.

This book was troubling. I understand, on top of its supernatural plot, it engaged with racism, sexism and homophobia, for which it should rightly be commended. The problem is, sometimes it strayed over the line and gave off some very questionable messages.

First off, I would like to say that Ms Oyeyemi's writing was, taken as a whole, reasonably engaging. But there were many instances where she seemed to linger on stylistic conceits that were utterly poin...more
Sheri
So, I'm still trying to digest things on this one. Which, of course, I like (because anything that challenges me must ultimately be good for me, yes?). Unfortunately, I feel a bit like I did after reading the Goon Squad: that is, maybe there is nothing to find and so it's not really that the book is challenging me, but instead is simply that I am second guessing my own reaction. In other words, is the author a genius or is she a fake? I enjoyed Mr. Fox and I loved Boy, Snow, Bird so I'm tempted...more
Zen Cho
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
This book was made for me - I loved reading it so, so much. Oyeyemi excels at leaving the perfect number of clues to scintillate. The names of a few authors in Miranda's book case, from which we all draw conclusions about who she is; a black cloth coat with a watercolor lining she feels compelled to sew (why?); the chalk she eats, intricate pastries baked with deadly fruit, a doll drenched in rose water. The book drew me in with beautiful, tactile puzzle pieces that never quite form a cohesive s...more
Kelly
White Is for Witching blends gothic horror, racial politics, and the older, bloodier sort of fairy tales into a deeply unsettling novel. The story opens with a passage intentionally reminiscent of "Snow White," describing the mysterious imprisonment? disappearance? death? of the heroine, Miranda Silver. From there, we move backward in time, to the point when the events leading to Miranda's fate began.

The story is told from several points of view, all of them seeing events from different perspect...more
Ab
I've had this book sitting next to my computer for days now. Every time I go to write a review of it, I put it off because I'm afraid I won't be able to do it justice. This. Book. Was. Amazing. Oyeyemi is a MASTERFUL writer! Every time I read her, her prose gets more intriguing and absolutely beautiful! I LOVED "Icarus Girl," while "The Opposite House" wasn't as good, but this book . . . I want to read it again IMMEDIATELY!

Before explaining the story, I tabbed the book all over noting great imag...more
Zen
Helen Oyeyemi has such a way with words. This is the second book of hers that I've read — the first being Mr. Fox, which I loved — and it didn't disappoint! I'm often enchanted by books where initially disparate elements come together in brilliant, poetic, masterful ways, and White is For Witching is no doubt one of those.

Miranda Silver has gone missing, and everyone has their own take on the strange events that led to her disappearance. Who are you going to believe? The boy, Eliot, who sees the...more
Betsy
While I think the subject matter of this book is engaging, for me, the narrative style was not. I felt that this short book (227 pages) was like wading through mud because I would start reading a passage and think it was being told by one narrator only to discover, by context, that it was a different one of the narrators. I think it would have been helpful if there had been an editorial choice to make it clearer when the narrator changed, via different fonts, or the narrator's name/address at th...more
Juushika
Miranda has pica, a disorder which makes her consume non-edibles; her mother's death and strangely sinister family home encourage her ongoing mental deterioration--but however accurate, such a summary does little to introduce this story of a narrating home, unhealthy family, and fragile mental health. White is for Witching is a short, strange, wonderful little book--and that combination is not without fault. The narrative is stylized and apparently fragmented, which makes for an intriguing but d...more
Therese
First of all, I have to get this out of the way. I am in awe and more than just a little bit jealous of Helen Oyeyemi. She is phenomenally talented and has published four extraordinary and lyrical novels, of which White is for Witching is definitely my favorite. Rarely does a book get under my skin like this one did.

On the very first page you discover that Miranda Silver has vanished, leaving behind her mystified and scared family. Miranda was a strange and disturbed girl, prone to nightmares an...more
Zach
I love that the first review of this book is some nonsense about how you'd have to be a "a city woman on a subway" to "understand this thing." The dopey folksiness of this assertion aside, there actually isn't much here to get-this feels more like a framework that had been fleshed out at some points than an actual novel.

Anyway this is the story of two twins, Eliot and Miranda Silver, who live in a xenophobic haunted house. Like Britain, see? It (the house, which is also a narrator sometimes) wan...more
Nick
Helen Oyeyemi is just not for me. At least not if she's always like this. It's clear that she's trying to be mysterious and clever with her language, and there are sentences and turns of phrase that are quite lovely. But there's also a whole lot of confusion and affectation. And not nearly enough character development for me to either care about any of these people or indeed sometimes to know which one of the narrators was doing the talking (including the house itself).

I enjoyed Part Two (which...more
Sarah
29/8 - I read up to page 58 then took the time to skim/read Richard Reviles Censorship's review to see if my problems with the book were mine alone, it wasn't encouraging. I hadn't liked the writing style or four different voices from the first lines I read. I didn't like the fact that it was ambiguous as to whose voice I was hearing from, I had to work it out from which of the other characters were mentioned by eliminating them one by one. A character called Ore had a portion of a chapter right...more
Kim Rox
'White is for witching' is an extremely peculiar story of which I often found myself quite perplexed and exacerbated. I found myself reading and then rereading several passages so as to make sure I had read and understood them correctly and to my utter dismay found that indeed I had and was still in a state of limbo. It reminded me at times of Shirley Jackson's 'We have always lived in the castle' in that the language was similar. I also felt like this was all part of some sort of wicked experim...more
Sookie
It took me long time to get into this book and I initially didn't get the narration style with missing punctuation and some words slapped between two words for bridging a sentence that made no sense at all. It's okay the first one dozen time it happens but when you start seeing same thing in every other page, it gets annoying. Many reviews talk about fluidity and poetic narration. I didn't feel so mainly because the change in perspective was like a whiplash and at times it took several paragraph...more
Monica
Loved this book. Oyeyemi is wonderfully talented at bringing magic to the words she writes. Beautiful writing...that flows and moves to create a soft story. Soft...because Oyeyemi does not put black and white images in front of the reader. Rather, she paints a canvas of words that is colourful and forces you to pay attention as distorted images become solid.

This is a story of twins. This is a story about a haunted house and the spirits that live within the walls. This is a story about a family....more
Kerry
Aug 06, 2014 Kerry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to Kerry by: Liz's choice for Book Club
This book is a little confusing, but only in the best of ways. Miranda has pica, which means that she only wants to eat chalk and plastic. (Spoiler alert: neither chalk nor plastic are particularly nutritional.) Her mother has died, and she thinks it might be her fault.

So when mad things seem to happen, to herself in the old family house in which she lives, are they real? Are these fictional manifestations of her madness, or are these things really happening? Is she a witch, or just a fucked-up...more
Julie
Oct 13, 2014 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Emily
This was a very quick, haunting read -- difficult to get into at first, due to the cryptic and mysterious prologue with the three alternating narrators (one of whom is a house). But once you get into the groove of Oyeyemi's writing style (presumably easier if you've read other things by her, which I hadn't), then it flows like water: her style is beautiful, literary magical realism, poetic without being overbearing. Also, that prologue is wonderful to revisit later in the novel, or at the end, o...more
Dimity
I really enjoyed this complex book although a lot of its complexity was probably lost on me because I didn’t really unpack some of the denser themes about colonialism, racism. All these deep undercurrents were included in a fascinating, addicting story perfect for the reader like me who isn’t always up for the “big issues” in their leisure reading. This novel that makes me outright envious of the author’s ability to envision the plot and characters and then flesh them out in such an effective an...more
Kayla
Is Miranda alive?
29 barton road: She has wronged me. I will not allow her to live.

That line got me hooked from the beggining.

White Is for Witching was a bit of a challenge for me to read. It wasn't a horrible written book, in fact, Oyeyemi's writing style was beautifully done and the story was intriguing enough to making me keep reading it.

So why do I say it was a challenge? Simply enough because the story was told from different POV. Oh, and I've read books with different voices and whatnot b...more
Kay
Haunted and haunting. This is a sometimes-hard-to-follow narrative that winds itself into your brain and refuses to be dislodged. After two false starts in reading this book, I finally finished it. Reminiscent of Valente's prose in Palimpsest, this book is much scarier. I suspect it's doubly creepy for me as I'm reading it mostly at home, at night, alone, in my creaky apartment in a house from the late 1800s. If you like to be scared, I definitely recommend reading it in a setting like mine. If...more
SilverRaindrops
This book disturbs me. Which is probably good, seeing how it deals with disturbing things and gets into the mind of people with disorders, but I'm not sure that I like it.

I love the house, where most of this story takes place. Its voice feels very authentic, and its parts of the narrative were my favourites. (Also, it seems like a place you'd really want to exist to be able to visit, like Hogwarts or Rivendell.)

There's Miranda, who has a mental disorder and is generally quite a difficult charac...more
Ele Munjeli
It's a book about a curse: there is no happy ending. Watching the hapless family swirl down the vortex of historic misdeeds supervised by a sinister domicile, I was reminded of John Wray's book Canaan's Tounge. Oyeyemi lacks his uncanny grasp of history, but she writes well how evil survives. Consumption is the vehicle of expression for the characters in the story: a matrilineal affliction called pica ( eating non-foods, such as chalk, dirt, plastic, etc.) haunts the protagonist. Some of the sce...more
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Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist and playwright. She was born in Nigeria in 1984 and raised in London. She wrote her widely acclaimed first novel, The Icarus Girl, before her nineteenth birthday; she graduated from Cambridge University in 2006, where she studied social and political sciences. In 2013 she was included in the Granta Best Of Young British Novelists list.
More about Helen Oyeyemi...
Boy, Snow, Bird Mr. Fox The Icarus Girl The Opposite House: A Novel Juniper's Whitening: AND Victimese

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“Please tell me a story about a girl who gets away."

I would, even if I had to adapt one, even if I had to make one up just for her. "Gets away from what, though?"

"From her fairy godmother. From the happy ending that isn't really happy at all. Please have her get out and run off of the page altogether, to somewhere secret where words like 'happy' and 'good' will never find her."

"You don't want her to be happy and good?"

"I'm not sure what's really meant by happy and good. I would like her to be free. Now. Please begin.”
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“What do you think of Poe?"

"He's awful. He was obviously... what's the term... 'disappointed in love' at some point. He probably never smiled again. The pages are just bursting with his longing for women to suffer. If he ever met me he'd probably punch me on the nose."

"I think Poe's quite good, actually. The whole casual horror thing. Like someone standing next to you and screaming their head off and you asking them what the fuck and them stopping for a moment to say 'Oh you know, I'm just afraid of death' and then they keep on with the screaming.”
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