Helen Oyeyemi’s books are so hard to review. They depend so much on atmosphere, on the slow build up of tension. And, in the case of White Is for Witching, a nightmare house that kind of eats people. (I hardly call that a spoiler since the sales copy gives it away.) I’ve seen the word haunting used a lot in regards to this book and I can’t disagree.
The prose is lyrical, intentional, and a bit strange in places. This is a beautifully crafted book, with the narration sometimes changing midsentence (which I think is accomplished in quite a clever way), and sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s speaking until a paragraph or so in. I have yet to digest the racial tension into cogent thoughts, though, or the importance of Miranda and Eliot being twins (although that felt less imperative to the plot than twins did in Icarus Girl). And I’m reminded of Turn of the Screw, but perhaps in atmosphere only and that edge of What is real? But something about the ghosts from that speaks to the idea of ghosts in the Silver house, and how it seems that Miranda herself has been consumed by the ghosts of Lily and Jennifer and Anna, and above all, the house.
I finished this just before I went to sleep and let me tell you, I don’t recommend that. I woke up several times in the night in quiet terror of the shifting half-light from my window.