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Butterfly Fish

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  18 reviews
With wry humour and a deft touch, Butterfly Fish, the outstanding first novel by a stunning new writer, is a work of elegant and captivating storytelling. A dual narrative set in contemporary London and 18th century Benin in Africa, the book traverses the realms of magic realism with luminous style and graceful, effortless prose.
Hardcover, 346 pages
Published 2014 by Jacaranda Books Art Music
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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 ·  126 ratings  ·  18 reviews


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Tomi Adenekan
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I was fascinated by the reviews and couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. The beginning got me even more interested and I soon settled in. However, while I found the story set in Nigeria and in Britain interesting as stand-alones, I felt weaving them together wasn't smooth. I felt it was contrived and this removed some authenticity from it. Joy, Queenie, Adesua, Omotola, Mrs Harris ... I feel all these are strong and interesting characters but none really fully developed. Having said that, ...more
Abby Slater- Fairbrother
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Butterfly Fish is a blend of various ear’s and spans between London and Benin. I think the synopsis is immediately eye-catching and extremely unique. The author has done a fantastic job of weaving modern day London, 1950s London and 19th century Benin.
The novel opens with Joy in modern-day London. She is overcoming the death of her mother and it has been a painful process. She is helped by neighbourhood eccentric Mrs Harris. Who plays the role of lonely old lady, perfectly!

“I just feel . . . a
...more
Olubukola
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
The writing is simply beautiful.
Rachel Stephenson
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book squarely takes the blame for me not reaching my reading target for 2020*! It was so turgid it took me weeks to get through it, gritting my teeth. The story is confusing, and the links between the different threads unclear until very close to the end. The final section of the book undergoes a complete change of tone, getting quite disturbing, and the magical realism turns to utter incoherence. Phrases which are, presumably, supposed to sound mystical, are just incomprehensible and meani ...more
Manasa
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good Reads Says:

With wry humour and a deft touch, Butterfly Fish, the outstanding first novel by a stunning new writer, is a work of elegant and captivating storytelling. A dual narrative set in contemporary London and 18th century Benin in Africa, the book traverses the realms of magic realism with luminous style and graceful, effortless prose.



A couple of months back I read Irenosen Okojie’s short story collection Speak Gigantular and it blew me away. I was obsessed with all her characters and
...more
mimo
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A strange (intimate, open-ended yet emotionally satisfying) story told in luscious and intriguing prose. The style is free-wheeling yet controlled, overall, although there are some garden path-esque sentences. It creates an effect where meaning is constantly squirming away from you, and you reach for it willingly, because the meaning when parsed turns out to be consistently nuanced. A joy to read.

I liked that there was a distinctive style difference when the chapters alternated time and place. T
...more
Toksyk
Jan 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
One of the worst books I've ever read! The writing was all over the place and I didn't much like the way the storyline kept jumping between time and place and characters. It read like it was trying to do what Helen Oyeyemi did in The Icarus Girl but I wasn't just feeling it. Struggled to read and only finished out of sheer curiosity of just how bad it could get and how it was going to end. ...more
Simran
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Irenosen writes in such a beautiful way that you regularly come across really great sentences that you just keep repeating to yourself.

However, as much as I don't want to say this - it was a book I found hard to get into. After reaching more than half way, I realised I was more forcing myself to read it and couldn't quite get into it. There were some really interesting parts (those focused on Benin), however those seemed to be drowned out by the narrative of the main character which I just foun
...more
Hannah Swanwick
It was quite gentle and then the last third was rammed with really horrible revelations, didn't feel like the different character chapters tied together well at all... The characters were all interesting and it had enough to keep me going but the last 70 pages gave me a headache. ...more
Rhonda
I especially enjoyed the chapters of this book about the wives of the Oba. But the magical realism sprinkled throughout this novel is really fun, a great treat for the imagination.
Melissa
May 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really astounding writing
Cat Harris
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
So weird, sad and good
Mary Isaac
Jul 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: around-the-world
Benin
Ellen Desmond
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I first discovered this book having heard the author speak at a book festival and was moved by her discussion. I was not disappointed when I picked up Butterfly Fish. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. It covers such an expanse of topics with such ease and grace of plot, I couldn't put it down. ...more
Elite Group
Oct 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
An amazing book for a debut author

This book is quite amazingly written and crafted. Joy is a photographer living in London struggling to recover from the sudden death of her mother. Her only friend is one of the tenants in her building, Mrs Harris, and it is this lady who finds Joy after an unsuccessful suicide attempt and helps her to talk through her problems. The identity of Mrs Harris is also shrouded in mystery, we find out towards the end of the book who and what she is but she becomes a s
...more
Sheila
Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable and interesting read. I loved the parts set in 18th Century palace of Benin and how the story of the brass head was woven round the characters. Joy's thoughts were influenced very much by her attempts to block out memories by using drugs and alcohol which made some of the descriptions seem somewhat far fetched, however her mind was very much influenced by the piecing together of her origins and became a little confusing as her mental health worsened.
A strange yet interesting tale!
...more
Sharonb
Feb 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF’d after 30 % I usually enjoy multiple time lines but this was confusing. Also didn't like the writing style ...more
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Irenosen Okojie was born in Nigeria and moved to England aged eight. A freelance Arts Project Manager, she has previously worked at Apples & Snakes as the National Development Coordinator and for The Caine Prize as a Publicity Officer for their 10th Anniversary Tour. Her short stories have been published in the US, Africa and the UK. Her first novel, Butterfly Fish, was published by Jacaranda Book ...more

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“I am the father whose feet you danced on, I am a million broken stars at your fingertips, I am the night sky's discarded brother, I am a blanket made of rain. I am the conscience searching for your footsteps; I am the Harmattan wind whispering secrets that will fall into the foamy hem of the sea and wash up on the beaches of other countries as rough pebbles and hollow seashells.
I am beating.
I am
I-”
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