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White is for Witching

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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  5,267 ratings  ·  870 reviews
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, wh
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Riverhead Books (first published June 23rd 2009)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,267 ratings  ·  870 reviews


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karen
Sep 01, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-biggest-fear
i read this. i'm 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. i'm not sure what this book is. it's not a traditional story, it's 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 real-life situation of never knowing when the last time you will see someone will b ...more
Beverly
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I finished this. It was only 200 pages or so. I read another one by her that I liked a bit better. Both books have lovely cover art and great titles, the other book was Boy, Snow, Bird. This one has a creepy house which is given a voice in the narrative which I really liked. Basically it is about a haunted house which likes to keep its female owners around itself even after death and encouraged said women to hasten their deaths. Narrative structure and clarity is not to be found here altho ...more
Richard Derus
Rating: 2* of five

The Publisher Says: As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But t
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Maria Headley
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rowena
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: woman-authors, gothic
“I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home, I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read–I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.”- The house in Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is For Witching”

Although I bought an Oyeyemi book a few years ago, this is actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. I really enjoyed it although reading the review from the Toronto Star that referred to O
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Amy | shoutame
Jul 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult
I was very close to putting this book down as I wasn't getting on with it at all, but I stuck with it and soon found myself falling head over heels!

This one follows the Silver family who run a bed and breakfast in Dover - Luc and the twins, Miranda and Eliot. You soon learn that Lily (the wife and mother) has passed away. Not only has this caused strife within the family, the house appears to be reacting as well. We soon learn that generations of the Silver family women are living within the wal
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Sarah
Jan 13, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Puck
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Puck by: Charlotte Coldwell
In White is for Witching the classic Gothic story of a haunted house is given new life, but keeps being just as unsettling and dark as the older ones.

Despite what the title suggests, this book doesn’t contain any witches. It’s the eerie and intriguing tale of a young teenage girl named Miranda ‘Miri’ Silver who moves with her twin brother Elliot and her father into a new house after the death of her mother. That old house in Dover has been in the Silver family for generations, and while her brot
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Joey Woolfardis
A lyrical book about a house that keeps its women captive. Miri has pica: the name for an urge to eat things that aren't food. Throughout the book we follow her downward spiral, through deep illness to attempted revelry at university, alongside her twin brother and widow father.

It's an interesting book. At first, the stilted chapters and flow of chapters had me a little hooked, but by the end they become boring and a little tedious to work out whom is narrating each little bit. Perhaps the who d
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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
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Fatma
OH THANK GOD ITS FINALLY OVER

First of all, THIS BOOK FRUSTRATED THE CRAP OUT OF ME. It felt like it was trying SO hard to be eerie and suspenseful when in reality it was just straight up confusing. I can't immerse myself in your story if I have ZERO idea what's going on in it. Please don't hurl random occurrences at my face and expect me to feel creeped out; that is not how you create ambiance, creepy or otherwise.

Character-wise, this book was also a complete disaster. Miranda is (supposed to
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Arielle Walker
This book is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

As dark as its title is not; haunting is the most useful word to describe it. Oyeyemi is an incredible writer, though in some ways you have to be in the mood for it. Luscious prose that slips in and out of lucidity, characters that are bent and torn and broken yet iron-cored strong.

There is no reliable narrator here. There are multiple possibilities for an ending, but the most satisfying one is where all attachment to this physical, mundane, three-dimen
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Oriana
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2015
I feel really guilty that I didn't review this sooner—it's three months ago that I read it, and already most of it has faded, leaving only a shimmer of a disturbing dark magical feeling. Which, now that I write it out, is fairly apt: this book gets a million stars for its knock-out language and harrowing captivation, but I just never really felt like I understood what it all meant.

Our heroine (such as she is) is Miranda Silver, a gothic waif with swirling dark hair who stumbles about in stiletto
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Lotte
“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening.” This is a quote by Angela Carter that's totally unrelated to this book, but that still fits the themes of the story absolutely perfectly in my opinion.
White is for Witching is a very weird, often times confusing, but ultimately very satisfying read about a haunted house and essentially, a haunted girl. Even though the story has variou
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Miriam
Not for me. Maybe for people with an interest in books about mental illness, who like that subject presented in a sort of mythopoetic manner.
Jennifer
Bewildered. Confused. Empty. I was never able to find the rhythm of this. The groove. There were times I did, but I lost it. It was hazy. It slipped away. Sometimes I lost who the narrator was, I had to go back to find him/her/it. Sometimes I lost the time we were in. Maybe it has to to with the stopped watch. Maybe the house was playing tricks on me. Again I had to go back to find it, the time. All this going back was made easy by the delicious sentences. But in the end even those sentences did ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
3.75 stars

Any fans of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House might want to put Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching on their radar! Or really any fans of any books where a house plays a major role - Rebecca, Salem’s Lot, you get the idea.
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It’s quite a chilling little book, following twin brother and sister as they try to move on from their home in Devon which their father attempts to run as a guesthouse, onto university, even though they’re both still struggling with the death of their mo
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Kelly
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
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Giulia (juliareadingdiary)
Atmospheric, unnerving, mesmerising.
I think this book is a great example of horror-gothic fiction, a well-executed take on the haunted house theme. It reminded me a lot of The Haunting of Hill House, as the house in this book is not simply haunted, but it’s a sort of a devilish creature with a voice and a will of its own: in fact, it’s one of the three narrators, and it speaks directly to us readers in some very twisted lines.
I’ve found all the characters to be well-written and diverse, and I li
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Phil Sun
Atmospheric and frightening at times, Oyeyemi's novel picks up momentum only in the last 50 pages or so. Underdeveloped characters and relationships leave me unsated in the end.

Edit - 3 December 2015

Warning! Spoilers ahead.

I have been thinking about this novel lately, about whiteness in general. Whiteness as a haunting, in the structure of modern Western society. The Guardian claimed, “This is a ghost story without much of a ghost, or a story. And like a spectre with no one to haunt, it seems d
...more
Amanda
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Zach
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, horror
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
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Kim Rox
Jan 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
'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
April
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Still, I wondered if the salt and pepper were really necessary--they seemed too cruel when it would be easier to dispatch her by blowing out her flame before it grew, or by holding a mirror up to her wrinkled face and saying, "I don't believe in you." But then, maybe "I don't believe in you" is the cruelest way to kill a monster.

This book kind of blew me away. I hadn't heard of Oyeyemi before, and now she is impossible to forget. It's no surprise she had two critically acclaimed plays produced a
...more
Zen Cho
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, by-poc, chicklit, sff
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: some-favorites
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
Nicole
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, favorites
The first half of this book was so strong it had a certain taste and smell to it. When I was reading I felt the book vibrating throughout my whole body. The second half felt like someone watching me, a pain in my shoulder where their eyes burned me, and a dark, evil thing curled up at my feet. I can only describe this book with feelings and images.

Sorry, for my incoherent rambling, but it was really good and put me in a certain mood. Also, it is really creepy/scary, like really really. Like no
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Readers & Writers: White is for Witching 2 15 Sep 19, 2017 07:11AM  
Lush Library: White is for Witching - SPOILER thread 18 76 Nov 26, 2011 09:15AM  
Lush Library: White is for Witching - questions SPOILERS 10 66 Nov 15, 2011 04:48PM  
Lush Library: White is for Witching - Who's going to read along? 20 24 Nov 01, 2011 12:38PM  
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Helen Oyeyemi is a British novelist. She lives in Prague with an ever-increasing number of teapots, and has written eight books so far.
“Please tell 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 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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“I know of witches who whistle at different pitches, calling things that don't have names.” 70 likes
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