Book - 2019
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"Perdita Lee may appear your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there's the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it's very popular in Druhástrana, the far away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee's early youth. The world's truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet's charismatic childhood friend Gretel--a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met. Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother's long lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet's story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Hamish Hamilton, 2019
ISBN: 9780143197850
Branch Call Number: OYE
Characteristics: 258 pages ; 23 cm


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I see that a lot of people did not enjoy this book, but I thought it was wonderful. It did feel like a bit of a dream and yes, gingerbread had a much larger role in this book than a cookie usually gets, but I thought this book was very well written. Maybe it is not a book for everyone, but it was imaginative and creative and I found the characters and events interesting and enjoyable to read about.

Jan 20, 2021

I tried to like this book, I really did. The first part seemed okay, but the strangeness of it just got to me......I slogged through to the end, hoping for some kind of closure. Too many times going back and forth in time, too many characters added to the last half of the book, and far too much depressing strangeness that I just could not like it.....I hesitate to give it any stars at all, but half a star feels about right. I have read many many different genres of fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, you name it, and never have I ever been so disappointed in any book. The hype over the author got me to finish it when I really really wanted to chuck it in the corner and call it a day. Just NOT my type of book at all.....

Sep 22, 2020

You'd think this would be the perfect read for me, but honestly, it left me a little cold.

Dec 27, 2019

I hesitate to review Gingerbread, because I feel that I didn’t grasp it. Still, Oyeyemi’s a master of dreamlike prose and plots which is what draws me to her work, but this felt too meandering and impenetrable. Worth a read for her signature style.

Dec 11, 2019

It's too easy to just say I liked this book. I enjoyed reading it. I'm still thinking about it days later. It felt less like a reading a story and more like experiencing a dream. It was a very interesting experience. I recommend it.

Aug 20, 2019

I didn't really enjoy this book. It had it's moments but overall like others said I just found it hard to follow along, didn't really get the point of the story or the plot. Just left me confused more than anything.

Aug 07, 2019

I only read 15 pages. This book was not for me - I just couldn't get into gingerbread having such a role.

Jul 16, 2019

I was surprised by the number of reviews I've seen of this book where people couldn't get into it. I couldn't put it down. I listened to the audiobook, and I wonder if that made a difference. It's definitely bizarre, and it's true that there's not much of a fast-moving plot to hook a reader, but I found the deep-dive into a family fascinating, and I loved strangeness of the magical realism.

Jun 25, 2019

This book had a very dreamlike quality and the prose is very beautiful. This isn't a book where the plot is super important, in fact the main character at one point says "Why insist on pinpointing who was who and what is what and when was when?". I enjoyed the atmosphere of the book, and by the end I quite liked the main characters. I also enjoyed that I had no clue where the book was going.
You definitely have to be very present while reading this book, because what may seem like an offhand comment will become a key piece of information later one. At one point when a ton of characters were introduced I had to bookmark the page so I could keep referring to it till I could work out who was who.
Also, the first chapter and a half are hard to relate to and don't really pull you in, but stick it out because it becomes much more interesting in chapter 2.

Jun 17, 2019

After seeing this pop up on multiple 2019 reading lists I was excited to give it a try. Unfortunately I found it really difficult to follow and lacking in any clear plot line. The characters were unlikable and it felt like an exercise in vocabulary use. I adore magical realism but this was just too much. Sad to say I didn't get any further than the first 50 pages before calling it quits.

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Jun 25, 2019

camilamost thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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SPL_Melanie Mar 12, 2019

If you like enchantment and unsettling fiction you might just want to pick up this fabulist tale by Helen Oyeyemi. Based in fairytale, at least loosely, Oyeyemi’s signature style tells the story of Harriet and Perdita Lee, and their family legacy – a gingerbread recipe.

But this is no ordinary gingerbread. It reflects the maker, and holds properties that are unexpected and uncanny. Harriet and Perdita live in England, with Perdita seeming to be a regular teenage schoolgirl, and Harriet a hard-working single mother. But Harriet comes from Druhástrana, a country that even Wikipedia says is imaginary. Her gingerbread doesn’t seem to get her the entrée into the British PTA circles she hopes it will, but it was extremely popular back home in Druhástrana.

In Druhástrana Harriet grows up in a little village, near a big shoe. She finds her best friend after discovering Gretel hiding down a well. Gretel has a strong influence on Harriet’s life, finding her a job in a gingerbread theme park from which Harriet eventually escapes by mailing herself to England… you just have to go with the story here. Hang on and enjoy the unexpected nature of the narrative. The joy of the read is in the extraordinary writing style, and in the mother-daughter relationship between Harriet and Perdita. The narrative takes the story of Hansel and Gretel, twists it and shifts it alongside a dark family history, and focuses on the relationships of family, friends, and the question of who a person might be separate from all of that.

There is no deep and moving conclusion, rather, like a fairy tale, it comes to an end with most things wrapped up but a few loose ends left hanging. Deliciously disorienting, wonderfully weird, this read may confuse you at times but it is beautifully written and just right for the lover of fable, fairytale, and fabulism.

Published in the Stratford Beacon Herald


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