First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
I have come across First Impression Friday through Krsitin Kraves Books. It piqued my interest so I decided to start my own First Impression Friday series. For my last First Impression Friday post for the year, I’ll be previewing Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingebread.
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 bake. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhastrana, the faraway (or, according to many sources, nonexistent) 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, teenage Perdita’s search for her mother’s long-lost friend 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.
Whilst scavenging the web for books to be published in 2019, I kept coming across Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread. Its premise immediately caught my attention, hence its inclusion in my 2019 Books I Look Forward To List. It took me some time to find a copy of the book after its publication. Thankfully, I was able to chance on one whilst I was on one of my random trips to the bookstore.
Inspired by the place gingerbread (hello Hansel and Gretel) holds in the world of literature, particularly in the world of fairy tales, Oyeyemi endeavored to come up with her own modern and timely interpretation. At the heart of the novel is the mother and daughter pair of Harriet and Perdita Lee. The teenage Perdita is undergoing a phase, that all too familiar, ubiquitous rebellious phase. There to pacify her is her mother who is also trying to spread her influence into her daughter’s school’s Parental Power Association.
What I immediately liked about the book is Oyeyemi’s writing. It has a wonderful and diaphanous flow to it that is just to my liking. It got the right mix of fantasy and modern storytelling. However, what hampered my appreciation of the novel is its perplexing premise. I find it quite ironic that what made me want to read it is also the one part that I find challenging. Moreover, the volume of characters is making it even doubly challenging understanding the story. There is just one too many character and it is difficult keeping up with all of them.
Whilst reading the novel, I tried searching more about the novel. I was actually surprised when I found out that it got a very pedestrian rating in Goodreads – an average rating of 3 stars. It seems that many a reader was confused by the story as well. However, I am not going to let these reviews influence my perspective of the book. I respect that each reader is unique.
The positive note: I am just a quarter way done with the book so there is still a lot of room for the story to develop. I am just hoping that the murky start will start clearing up as I read more into it. I am hoping that what I am (and most readers actually) finding confusing will start taking more prominent shapes. My hope is pinned on this especially that I find the premise interesting and promising.
Happy weekend reading everyone!