Sunday, November 06, 2011

The imaginary friend in a novel - Icarus Girl

Published in 2005, this story is about an imaginary friend. (Evidently a lost twin, but but seemingly none of the readers or reviewers got that. Of course that was seven years ago and a lot has happened since then ........)

From the guardian:
The Icarus Girl
by Helen Oyeyemi
280pp, Bloomsbury, £16.99

The Icarus Girl, a debut novel completed when its author was still at school, begins innocently, with a childish debate about identity. An eight-year-old girl is hiding in a cupboard "saying quietly to herself, I am in the cupboard. She felt that she needed to be saying this so that it would be real. It was similar to her waking up and saying to herself, My name is Jessamy. I am eight years old." Jessamy likes to amend her favourite children's classics by writing new versions over their pages with her pen: "Beth's so nice you'd think Louisa May Alcott would have treated her better." It turns out that she herself is the heroine of an unalterable hurt narrative, her tale of herself and her imaginary friend, which twists into a new version of the doppelgänger myth, the myth of the fetch, the fateful twin. It's a story with an eye for the baroque state that childhood can be and on the damage that cultural fracture inflicts on everybody, no matter how young or old.

 A review said:

‘The author plays numerous sophisticated games with notions of twinship and identity ... A highly auspicious fictional debut’ Sunday Times
Another review said
At first I wonder if Tilly Tilly is Jess' imaginary friend, then I think maybe she's schizophrenic but then Tilly Tilly proves that she is really a ghost who starts out being a nice playmate but then becomes more malevolent as the book goes on.  The book touches on identity: Jess is a "half-and-half" child; life from a child's perspective: being accepted and having friends, not liking school and African folklore..later on in the novel Tilly Tilly 'gets' back at people who've somehow been unkind to Jess (at least in Tilly Tilly's eyes): a teacher at school and Jess' father both seem to have an emotional breakdown (can you say scary?) and something very bad happens to one of Jess' friends.  Jess becomes the heroine when she prevents Tilly Tilly's attempt to permanently 'swap places' with Jess...All in all it was an interesting read.  

I think that it is perfectly possible that Helen Oyemi is a womb twin survivor.  Nigeria is after all the country with the most womb twin survivors (nearly half the population, in fact)   So it's likely, at least.

Like many novels, and in particular first novels, the story is based upon the author's own story.  I wonder, if we look, if we can find other lost twins, lurking behind the novels we read every day?


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