The Icarus Girl

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 March, 2006, 12:00am

The Icarus Girl

by Helen Oyeyemi

Bloomsbury, $116

Helen Oyeyemi may have lost her Nigerian accent and the ability to 'think and dream in Yoruba', as she told America's National Public Radio, but her childhood memories and adult imagination have produced a novel that will always be around, judging by the hype. Much has been made of Oyeyemi's age when she wrote the book, with reviewers judging it with her inexperience in mind. Oprah Magazine, however, found Oyeyemi's ability to straddle the border 'where Nigerian folklore meets sound English reason' even more remarkable than that she was 18 when she completed the tale, about a little girl called Jessamy Harrison. The eight-year-old is given to frightful fits and hiding in cupboards when we first meet her in Britain, the country of her father. Her Yoruba mother believes a change of scene will help, so the three visit Nigeria for a holiday. There, Jess meets her first friend - a girl called Tilly Tilly - who turns out to be far from a real pal. As the people around Jess fear she is going insane, Tilly Tilly reveals her true, frightening intentions.