Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

1. First lines. 2. Publisher: Penguin Random House. 3. Bird flight by Wolfgang Heubeck from Pixabay 4. Soft gingerbread cookies by Small Town Woman 5. Cupped hands Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay
Playful and imaginative, this story is all about the importance of family.

I didn’t really like this book, but I did appreciate the vivid descriptive language.

Harriet Lee lives with her teenage daughter Perdita in a seventh-floor apartment in London. Neither of them fit in well socially. Perdita, after falling seriously ill after eating gingerbread, demands that her mother tell of her childhood in fictional Druhastrana where she learned to make gingerbread from a family recipe.

“On an evening when Perdita’s away on a school trip, Harriet sits in front of her computer eating sample squares of lavender shortbread and practicing her favorite form of procrastination: writing highly positive reviews of her eBay, Etsy, and Amazon purchases. Five stars for everybody. She didn’t finish one of the books she just gave five stars to. She just liked the author photo. Five stars for the portrait photographer, then. She’s been doing this ever since some of her students told her they do this with one-star reviews. Opposing random negativity with random positivity – that’s the main thing.”

“Harriet’s stomach felt full of what she could only describe as glitterfizz; it seemed the baby decided to have some fun and convert its amniotic fluid into prosecco.”

“If Harriet were ever to accept an award for her gingerbread, her first shout-out would be to Mr. Bianchi. He was such a perfect hater. His denunciations of “this basic snack” never stopped him eating it, and for all that he went on and on and on about how easily he could match Harriet’s gingerbread, he never let anybody taste batches he turned out.”

Quotes from the book.
  • The Washington Post “Gingerbread,” is a challenging, mind-bending exploration of class and female power heavily spiced with nutmeg and sweetened with molasses. If you think you know where you’re going in this forest, you’ll soon be lost. Oyeyemi has built her house out of something far more complex than candy.”
  • The New York Times: “At its simplest, “Gingerbread” is about family — Harriet tells her daughter her origin story, how Harriet came to England with her own mother from the magical but flawed country of Druhástrana, and how they struggled to survive and create a new home for themselves. It is also about the gingerbread Harriet bakes: spicy, addictive, transporting, either brittle or chewy, often given in friendship, occasionally laced with the threat of death. … This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader.“

Also published by Pan Macmillan.

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