Read White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi Online


In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. The twins, Miranda and Eliot, and their father, Luc, are mourning the sudden death of Lily, beloved mother and wife. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter applesIn a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. The twins, Miranda and Eliot, and their father, Luc, are mourning the sudden death of Lily, beloved mother and wife. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of Silver women inhabit its walls, and Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. When one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story. "Miri I conjure you..."'Still only 24 - an age at which most would-be novelists are searching for a voice - Oyeyemi is ready to make the transition from wunderkind to established author. Virtuosic' - Daily Telegraph 'Superbly atmospheric. The dark tones of Poe in her haunting have also the elasticity of Haruki Marukami's surreal mental landscapes' - Independent 'Creeps off the page, crawls up the spine and burrows deep into the reader's paralysed mind' - Daily Mail...

Title : White is for Witching
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780330458153
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 245 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

White is for Witching Reviews

  • karen
    2019-03-22 12:04

    i read this. i'm not sure how to review it. like the other things i have read by her, she shows a great flair for foreboding and atmosphere but the end is a void. i'm not sure what this book is. it's not a traditional story, it's kind of fairy-tale-like, but even that... there are characters who are involved heavily, and then they are absent from the narrative, never to return. i guess in that way, it is like the real-life situation of never knowing when the last time you will see someone will be. but in a novel, i have certain expectations of structure and novel-sense which are not being satisfied here. there is much in this novel that is dreamlike and dream-logic, and that is very enjoyable, but if you are looking for a plot-driven book with closure and all the good traditional stuff, i would tell you you don't want this one. but i liked it more than i seem to have here.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-03-08 09:58

    Rating: 2* of fiveThe Publisher Says: As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power.With distinct originality and grace, and an extraordinary gift for making the fantastic believable, Helen Oyeyemi spins the politics of family and nation into a riveting and unforgettable mystery.My Review: Teenaged girl from a long line of off-kilter female ancestors loses her mother after developing a rare eating disorder. Clueless males make things worse. Her house is haunted. Blah blah blah.I cannot believe I wasted eyeblinks on this boring, vapid girl. Her mother couldn't stand her to the point of being gone most of the time, and I say go mom. Dad's a selfish, clueless cretin. In short, nothing new, except the little dullard has an affliction called “pica,” which makes her eat non-biological non-foodstuffs. Oh goody good good, another girl with an eating disorder that makes her Different from others, isolated, misunderstood! How refreshing! Such a bold storytelling choice. Why, NO ONE does that! Oh, and then there's the aforementioned clueless maleness. My sweet saints, why has no woman thought to use *that* in her books before? Two stars for introducing me to pica. Apart from that, I'd've settled on 1/2-star and a much longer, more vituperative attack on the pointless, me-too, competently written snore-inducingly dull book.

  • Amy | shoutame
    2019-03-27 09:45

    I was very close to putting this book down as I wasn't getting on with it at all, but I stuck with it and soon found myself falling head over heels!This one follows the Silver family who run a bed and breakfast in Dover - Luc and the twins, Miranda and Eliot. You soon learn that Lily (the wife and mother) has passed away. Not only has this caused strife within the family, the house appears to be reacting as well. We soon learn that generations of the Silver family women are living within the walls of the B&B. Miranda is able to hear these spirits and we slowly see the effect they are having on her mental health. As the novel moves we unfold the secrets of this house, when Miranda goes missing - where will they find her?This one left me feeling unsettled and I thought it was brilliant - once I got used to the writing style I found myself completely gripped. I would highly recommend this one for a dark winter's night!

  • Rowena
    2019-02-26 07:46

    “I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home, I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read–I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look.”- The house in Helen Oyeyemi’s “White is For Witching”Although I bought an Oyeyemi book a few years ago, this is actually the first book of hers that I’ve read. I really enjoyed it although reading the review from the Toronto Star that referred to Oyeyemi as a “kin of Morrison” really rubbed me the wrong way as very lazy and misleading because Oyeyemi’s writing is really not like Morrison’s at all and it’s clear to me that she’s carved her own niche and did so well.This was a great story, one which I admittedly found it hard to follow at first. However, it’s a story I was rewarded for not giving up on. There is a very unusual stricture wherein a new character starts speaking IN THE MIDDLE OF A SENTENCE! I personally found this brilliant after I got over my initial confusion. Once I got used to that quirk and realized that more like it were coming, it was a fun read. It’s essentially a neo-gothic storyline featuring a demented house which is one of the characters in the book, a pair of strange twins, the spirit of a deceased mother, and a Nigerian housekeeper who watches Nollywood movies. It has some contemporary storylines that focus on refugees and immigration detention centres in England: "You come without papers because you have been unable to prove that you are useful to anyone, and then when you arrive they put you in prison, and if you are unable to prove that you have suffered, they send you home."I’m really looking forward to reading more from Oyeyemi, i don’t think I’ve ever come across a writer like her, and as young as she is it will be great to see how her craft develops. Definitely recommended.

  • Maria Headley
    2019-03-12 09:38

    This is the first book I'd read by Helen Oyeyemi, and I instantly had to purchase everything else. Girl has a way with words, a way with weird, and a way with witching. It kills me, full on kills me that she is writing like this and she's only, dear god, 26 years old. (And moan, I think she wrote this one when she was 23.) I'd possibly die of jealousy, except that she's completely amazing, and you know what? It's in the world's interest to have writers this good working in it. I think Oyeyemi is going to win gigantic prizes. Right now, she's doing work that writers twice her age only wish they could do. Her voice is utterly unique, and though there are slight hitches in her work, the hitches are so slight, and the work so mindblowing, that any troubles in her books are completely forgivable. Problems of bounty, as I've said in a previous review - that of Chris Adrian's The Great Night, are much less troubling to me than are problems of starkness. The basic outlines of the story involve Miranda Silver and her fraternal twin Eliot, whose closely merged lives are, in the wake of both tragedy, and also simply because of growing up, beginning to diverge. Miranda has pica - in her case, a hunger for chalk, and plastic - and has melted down emotionally following the death of the twin's mother, Lily. Eliot is hungry for something else, the hunger of many who've come from such close quarters. He's hungry for the world, hungry to get away from his childhood, and from the house he grew up in. The house has its own agenda when it comes to Miranda. It has no intention of letting her go. White is For Witching reads like a contemporary London hybrid of Shirley Jackson's fantastically creepy too-close-too-ruined sister story We Have Always Lived in the Castle and, oh, what? Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper and Herland? Maybe throw in a little Lorca, a little House Of Bernarda Alba. There are four generations of women in this book, and none of them end well. There's also this house, which has its own opinions and goals, and its own voice. Sometimes the book is narrated by the house. Need I say that the house is bloody scary? It's a victory of storytelling. Oyeyemi balances multiple POV's very tidily - those of Eliot, Miranda, Miranda's lover Ore, and of the house itself. It's also a heartbreaker. Miranda transforms over the course of the novel, unwillingly, from a fairy tale heroine to a monster, to at last, Snow White, but a Snow White whose prince will never come. Oyeyemi doesn't pull punches here. Her ending isn't a relief, but a collapsing certainty. You know that things will not end well from the first pages of the book. It's no spoiler to say so. The keen pleasure here is in the infinitely imaginative way that Oyeyemi controls her narrative, like an elevator operator holding the pulleys in her hands, easing them down, down, and then with a lurch, letting go. Down into the darkness we tumble.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-10 10:53

    Sometimes when I'm reading a book, it's so out there that it makes me feel stupid. I think, "I bet a city woman on a subway would understand this thing." Or at least fake it. I can see this book being the subject of coffee table chatter at cocktail hour or at a ivy league campus book club, but not anywhere close to Paris, Illinois. Why? Because it's darn confusing. There are three narrators--Minerva, a yougn lady who suffers from pica (eating stuff like clay and chalk), Ore, a girlfriend Minerva meets in college, and the house. Yep, that's right, one of the narrators is a house. And it's a creepy house. All the women in Minerva's family have been crazy to some extent, so Minerva was bound to suffer from something. She gets away from the house during college, but still is sick and doesn't recover from the pica that institutionalized her during high school. Add in Minerva's twin brother who thinks Ore is beautiful, but Ore is in love with Minerva.Okay, so the plot isn't that bad. But the switching of narration drove me nuts. There is no indication when it happens, other than things don't make sense. I kept thinking, "What is going on?" and "Why am I reading this?" I kept hoping the book would read easier, but it never happened for me. I strongly disliked this book, except for the cover. It looks reader-friendly, but the mystery of the book was destroyed with the way the mystery was told. I didn't find the house mysterious, just annoying.

  • Puck
    2019-03-07 10:52

    In White is for Witching the classic Gothic story of a haunted house is given new life, but keeps being just as unsettling and dark as the older ones.Despite what the title suggests, this book doesn’t contain any witches. It’s the eerie and intriguing tale of a young teenage girl named Miranda ‘Miri’ Silver who moves with her twin brother Elliot and her father into a new house after the death of her mother. That old house in Dover has been in the Silver family for generations, and while her brother and father try to move on with their lives, Miri slowly falls prey to the dark influence of the house. In this book the writer Helen Oyeyemi has mixed the classic Gothic elements with myths and ideas from her own Nigerian background. This gives the book a unique character and combined with the author’s mysterious writing style, makes this a ghost story that will make your hair stand on end. The author has a good understanding of “show, don’t tell” and since the story is told from different points of view, by not entirely reliable narrators, you don’t know who to trust or what to believe. Are the spirits of the Silver house really possessing Miri, or is it all a hallucination caused by her mental illness? So the story is strange and pretty frightening at times, but although Oyeyemi does a great job on describing the shadowy house, the book doesn’t have much of a plot. Besides Miri, very few people become aware that the house is haunted or try to do something about it. Miri is also a stereotypical ‘ghost-girl’ with pale skin, dark hair and because she suffers from an eating disorder called Pica, she’s very thin and unhealthy looking. She fortunately gets some character development in the second part of the book, but sadly her brother and father remain very flat. Which is a shame, since family (bonds) are such an important theme in this book. Another thing what bothered me was Miri’s Pica. From what I looked up Pica is a pretty dangerous eating/mental disorder, but nobody seems to treat it seriously in the novel. Elliot and Miri’s father don’t pay close attention to what she eats and only throw away chalk when they find it, as if Pica isn’t something that can kill a person. This leads me to conclude that Oyeyemi played Miri’s Pica for creepiness only…which doesn’t sit quite right with me. So while the characters are thin (especially Miri) and the storyline isn’t very thrilling, you should read this book alone for Oyeyemi’s tale of the haunted Silver house. Thanks to the author’s cryptic prose the story will get under your skin, just the ghost do to Miri, and keep you reading to find out how it ends. White is for Witching is like a dark fairy-tale, a bewildering nightmare, and a novel that made me very interested in reading more from Helen Oyeyemi. 3,5 stars and a great book to read this October! #Halloween

  • Blair
    2019-03-17 14:37

    White is for Witching is a strange but rather beautiful book. It's a story about lots of things - the fragility of family relationships, the bond between twins, sexuality, racial prejudice - but at the same time it isn't really about any of these. The unfinished themes are held together by Oyeyemi's prose, which is fluid, lyrical and reads almost like poetry at some points. The narrative is unconventional and initially hard to follow, as it switches between different viewpoints without explaining which is which (oh, and one of the narrators is a house...) although I got used to this quite quickly.The thing I found most frustrating about the story is that it's impossible to tell what is real and what is not when it comes to the supernatural element regarding the Silver family's house. It's made clear that there is a strong history of mental illness in the Silver women, but what actually ends up happening to them is a mystery. Is the house really haunted by Miranda's great-grandmother, or are the apparent manifestations of this a product of Miranda's damaged imagination? The fact that Ore, in her own narrative, appears to experience some of the house's power would suggest there really is some kind of evil presence, but some scenes segue into things that can't possibly be happening - if the house/Anna narrative is true, Sade should be dead, but she later reappears more or less alive and well. Are all the narrators unreliable, including the third-person one? It's a fascinating, but mind-boggling question. Personally, I don't think this is a supernatural tale as much as it is a story about actual madness and the madness of relationships and love. Something that slightly annoyed me was that Miranda's character is such a cliché - a mentally disturbed young woman, described as looking so wasted and ill as to be on the verge of death, yet everyone somehow finds her beautiful and falls in love with her... Ultimately, the truth about Miranda's fate (murdered because of her connection with the Kosovan refugees? 'Taken' by the house? Committed suicide?) remains a mystery.Fittingly, this is a bewitching tale and a great winter read. Dover and Cambridge are brought to life effortlessly and everything flows so well that you believe in all of it. There are numerous plot holes and unfinished strands, but the prose is so spellbinding that you don't notice this until after you finish reading and start thinking back over everything that's happened - and there is a LOT to think about; it would be fascinating to study and analyse, and would be a perfect book club choice as it can be interpreted in so many different ways and I imagine this would make for some great discussions. A beautifully written book, but beware - you may find it frustrating.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-23 14:45

    Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother’s house.Her throat is blocked with a slice of apple(to stop her speaking words that may betray her)her ears are filled with earth(to keep her from hearing sounds that will confuse her)her eyes are closed, buther heart thrums hard like hummingbird wings.Does she remember me at all I miss her I miss the way her eyes are the same shade of grey no matter the strength or weakness of the light I miss the taste of her Isee her in my sleep, a star planted seed-deep, her arms outstretched, her fists clenched, her black dress clinging to her like mud.She chose this as the only way to fight the soucouyant.I'd like to quote every line of this book.But you might as well just read it.

  • Miriam
    2019-03-18 12:52

    Not for me. Maybe for people with an interest in books about mental illness, who like that subject presented in a sort of mythopoetic manner.

  • Jennifer
    2019-03-26 08:52

    Bewildered. Confused. Empty. I was never able to find the rhythm of this. The groove. There were times I did, but I lost it. It was hazy. It slipped away. Sometimes I lost who the narrator was, I had to go back to find him/her/it. Sometimes I lost the time we were in. Maybe it has to to with the stopped watch. Maybe the house was playing tricks on me. Again I had to go back to find it, the time. All this going back was made easy by the delicious sentences. But in the end even those sentences did not make up for my disappointment. Things went exactly how I thought. I wanted something more. I wanted to peek deeper behind the doors, I wanted something darker. I just couldn't grasp it.

  • Arielle Walker
    2019-03-12 12:48

    This book is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.As dark as its title is not; haunting is the most useful word to describe it. Oyeyemi is an incredible writer, though in some ways you have to be in the mood for it. Luscious prose that slips in and out of lucidity, characters that are bent and torn and broken yet iron-cored strong. There is no reliable narrator here. There are multiple possibilities for an ending, but the most satisfying one is where all attachment to this physical, mundane, three-dimensional world is thrown aside. I found myself having to hold at least three separate understandings in my mind at once, each one as relevant as the next, complementary but directly in opposition.I'll say nothing of the plot; I don't think anything can be said that Oyeyemi hasn't said herself.

  • Oriana
    2019-03-16 15:56

    I feel really guilty that I didn't review this sooner—it's three months ago that I read it, and already most of it has faded, leaving only a shimmer of a disturbing dark magical feeling. Which, now that I write it out, is fairly apt: this book gets a million stars for its knock-out language and harrowing captivation, but I just never really felt like I understood what it all meant.Our heroine (such as she is) is Miranda Silver, a gothic waif with swirling dark hair who stumbles about in stiletto heels wasting away because of a condition called pica, which compels her to eat only things that are not food: chalk, dirt, plastic. She is also inhabited by, or able to commune with, or possessed or obsessed or terrified of her dead mother and her dead mother's dead mother and a few more dead moms on up the chain—and possibly also the house in which she lives with her brother and widowed father, both of whom are desperately trying to keep her alive, but also trying to keep their own grieving and strange heads above water. So.The whole book is very slippery, very magical, very dark, with lots of harrowing dreams and hopeless striving and languorous sex and unspoken doublespeak. If you let yourself sink in, it will envelop you and cast a pall of foreboding shadow-sparkle at the edges of your vision while you're reading, and for a good while after. But ultimately I think I felt like it was all just a web of spun black sugar that melted away to reveal nothing concrete at the center that I could sink my teeth into.

  • Fatma
    2019-02-26 07:39

    OH THANK GOD ITS FINALLY OVER First of all, THIS BOOK FRUSTRATED THE CRAP OUT OF ME.It felt like it was trying SO hard to be eerie and suspenseful when in reality it was just straight up confusing. I can't immerse myself in your story if I have ZERO idea what's going on in it. Please don't hurl random occurrences at my face and expect me to feel creeped out; that is not how you create ambiance, creepy or otherwise. Character-wise, this book was also a complete disaster. Miranda is (supposed to be) your prototypical Quirky girl: she wears super high heels all the time, is always in black, and always wears vibrant red lipstick. (wow, high heels, lipstick, and black clothes. SUPER QUIRKY. -_-) That not Quirky enough for you? Well, fret not dear reader because Miranda also has an eating disorder, Pica, to make her Extra Quirky! Sarcasm aside though, the eating disorder, considering how serious it is, is never really fully addressed, nor are its consequences. Oyeyemi is just like oh, Miranda went to a psychiatric facility for a while for her Pica but now she's back, and even though Miranda's disordered eating continues throughout the book (on top of the fact that her brother continues to enable her), absolutely nothing substantial is said about it or its potential treatment. You can't just capriciously give a character an eating disorder to make them seem interesting and then largely ignore it throughout the rest of the narrative. If you're going to give a character an eating disorder—or any kind of disorder for that matter—then you better make sure you're up to the task of fully and properly representing it.As for the other characters, they were bland at best and interchangeable at worst. Ore is just kinda there to contrast Miranda's strangeness; Eliot has zero personality apart from the fact that he occasionally says "fuck" and smokes weed (after all, that's what all teenage boys do: say "fuck" and smoke weed!!! That's totally how you write interesting, three-dimensional characters!!!); and Luc, Miranda and Eliot's dad, could've been replaced with a piece of paper for all I cared because that's how flat he was as a character. (Brief tangent: somebody give Luc an award for being the SHITTIEST PARENT OUT THERE because he was so freaking useless in this book. He was never present, and when he was, he was cooking his dumb pastries and avoiding any and all problems.)To put it lightly, White is for Witching felt less like an atmospheric read to me and more like a phony one. To put it bluntly, EVERYTHING WAS HELLA CONFUSING AND FRUSTRATING AND THINKING ABOUT THIS BOOK ANGERS ME SO I'M GONNA STOP TALKING ABOUT IT NOWYeah...I didn't enjoy this very much—at all, really.

  • Sheri
    2019-03-24 12:36

    So, I'm still trying to digest things on this one. Which, of course, I like (because anything that challenges me must ultimately be good for me, yes?). Unfortunately, I feel a bit like I did after reading the Goon Squad: that is, maybe there is nothing to find and so it's not really that the book is challenging me, but instead is simply that I am second guessing my own reaction. In other words, is the author a genius or is she a fake? I enjoyed Mr. Fox and I loved Boy, Snow, Bird so I'm tempted to give Oyeyemi the benefit of the doubt. And yet, I just can't really bring myself to give it more than the middle-of-the-bell curve 3 star rating.This is a ghost story; it is the story of a haunted house. The house is not haunted by ghosts, it is haunted by its own presence (which I would argue is decidedly male given its predilection for collecting female souls and its desire for control). The ghosts are the past generations of Silver women (Anna, Jennifer, Lily) and during the course of this story, Miranda. However, the purpose of these ghosts is unclear. The house itself doesn't really haunt others; it simply collects the women. The women do not harm others, they just join themselves. I guess they cause emotional harm to Luc, Elliot and Ore, but really they are not doing much.It is a fairy tale. There are lots of references to Snow White (including the poisoned winter apples). The story also includes fairy tales (the story of the souycouant and the goodlady), as well as oblique references to Hansel and Gretal and Sleeping Beauty. It is not clearly defined, nor does it follow the pattern of a traditional fairy tale. There is no clear bad guy, there is no escape (or attempt to escape). It really is just a collection of pretty images. And yes, Oyeyemi can write the images. However, this book is not convincingly a story. There is no plot tension or development or crisis. I would call it a character piece except that the three narrators are Ore, Elliot, and the house ghost and none of these change. They don't develop; they don't challenge themselves or others. Miranda is the fourth main character, but of course she is always portrayed in third person (because she a compilation of Anna, Jennifer, and Lily? I was unsure why she was not granted narration status). She changes the most throughout time, but not necessarily in the course of the novel. She is a slightly brooding teenager with pica before her mother dies (and she determines it is her fault for falling asleep the night that Elliot predicted Lily's death), but otherwise she was pretty normal. After Lily's death, Miranda becomes a shadow of her former self (hah, hah, pun intended). She wastes away turning into the ghost of her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Unfortunately, she is not very sympathetic and so the reader is left not really caring.Overall it is a worthwhile read. It is compelling, spooky at times (although not as dark as I typically like), and a quick read. Certainly recommended as a page turner, but not really sure that there is much more here.

  • Kelly
    2019-03-18 09:43

    White Is for Witching blends gothic horror, racial politics, and the older, bloodier sort of fairy tales into a deeply unsettling novel. The story opens with a passage intentionally reminiscent of "Snow White," describing the mysterious imprisonment? disappearance? death? of the heroine, Miranda Silver. From there, we move backward in time, to the point when the events leading to Miranda's fate began.The story is told from several points of view, all of them seeing events from different perspectives, all of them possibly unreliable narrators. Miranda herself, her brother Eliot, her lover Ore, and her ancestral home all have their own versions to tell as the plot unfolds. The house looms as the center of Miranda's tale. Menacing and xenophobic, it desires control over the people it considers its own, and means harm toward those it sees as foreign. The house and its ghosts want to make Miranda a vessel for their hatred. Miranda struggles against the house's domination, a battle that threatens to destroy her mental health and possibly her life.Helen Oyeyemi's prose is haunting and poetic. I hesitate to use the word "beautiful," as that might give a false impression of "pleasantness." Oyeyemi depicts nightmares, not pretty dreams. She has a knack for describing ordinary things in a way that makes them suddenly horrific, and when she describes horrific things, she does it in a subtle, oblique way that feels like you're looking at something so unspeakable that you can only look with your peripheral vision:The University Library is a mouth shut tight, each tooth a book, each book growing over, under and behind the other. The writing desks are placed in front of bookshelves, some of them between bookshelves so that whoever is sitting at the desk gets a feeling of something dusty, intangible and unspeakably powerful, something like God, watching them through tiny gaps in the shelves. People kept trooping past the desk I'd chosen, in search of books and free seats, and within half an hour I'd stopped looking up when someone passed. I wanted to read about the soucouyant. I wanted to write about her, I still do. What do I want to write? Just a book, probably, another tooth for the UL's mouth. Something that explores the meaning of the old woman whose only interaction with other people was consumption. The soucouyant who is not content with her self. She is a double danger — there is the danger of meeting her, and the danger of becoming her.White Is for Witching works as a novel of the supernatural, and it also works as an allegory. I hesitate to even mention the A-word, for fear of driving away readers who've been burned by preachy authors. Helen Oyeyemi doesn't preach, however. There's a message, but it never overshadows the plot and characters. It's just that you can see an extra dimension to the story if you look through the lens of allegory.

  • Zen
    2019-02-24 14:43

    Helen Oyeyemi has such a way with words. This is the second book of hers that I've read — the first being Mr. Fox, which I loved — and it didn't disappoint! I'm often enchanted by books where initially disparate elements come together in brilliant, poetic, masterful ways, and White is For Witching is no doubt one of those.Miranda Silver has gone missing, and everyone has their own take on the strange events that led to her disappearance. Who are you going to believe? The boy, Eliot, who sees the appeal in Poe's casual brand of horror? The girl, Ore, who senses the malevolent force of a soucouyant wherever she turns? Or the house, 29 Barton Road itself, who pulls all-season apples through its windows and adjusts its floorboards to ease Miranda's path? There are floors between the floors, just as there is more than one level to reality.This book reads like a long riddle, or a series of riddles that each character is trying to solve in his or her own way. Perspectives change, past and present intersect, and each segment requires the reader to rely on cues embedded in the narrative to piece it all together. (i.e. When Miranda's hair is long, you know it's the past. When a first-person narrator refers to Miranda as Miri, you know it's her brother. When the omniscient, seemingly third-person narrator suddenly goes 'I' and 'my', that's the house talking. You get used to it.) It seems that one of the common criticisms of this book is that it can get confusing, but I found that once I picked up on what to look for, I didn't have any problems. Very rarely did I have to go more than a few sentences into each segment before figuring out the "who" and "when" from the context, which seems absolutely deliberate on the author's part. This book won't hold your hand, but it'll certainly glance back to make sure you're following.What else can I say? This story is just layers upon layers of lovely writing, wherein even the simplest of details can turn out to be full of meaning if you know where to look. It's not straightforward, it's not simple, and it's not suitable for reading after dark if you're easily spooked... which I am. If you don't hear from me after tonight, please be advised: I may have been swallowed up by my house, possessed by the goodlady, or just too scared to leave the confines of my room lest someone offers me the wrong kind of apple pie. You've been warned.As I'm writing this, there's surprisingly only one quote posted here, so I'm going to add some snippets which I think should come up at the bottom of the page? If you find that they appeal to your sensibilities as a reader, then get this book. It will wrap you up in its weirdness and witchery, and leave you wondering if your house is reading over your shoulder. (Spoiler: it probably is.)

  • Zen Cho
    2019-03-01 07:41

    Wah, I thought this was really very good! Absorbing on a story level and impressive on a literarary level. Also frickin' scary. I went back and read the first chapter after reading the ending. But the ending, sigh, I find it a bit unsatisfying, I wish there had been a massive impressive showdown with the goodlady/soucouyant and then after that Ore and Miranda could settle down together and live happily ever after. Maybe Eliot could live with them. Threesome!Thoughts:- Twins must get tired of people thinking they are in love with each other/having sex. I mean, gross. It's funny that this book mentions this meme and then reinforces it.- The book makes Dover sound pretty and like it would be worth visiting.- I wanted to know more about Sade!- Things Oyeyemi is interested in: women, family, history, madness -- feminine madness in particular. Also this interesting repeated idea of the madness/badness living inside a woman, which is part of her in a way that is obscure but also very intuitive. In The Opposite House it is expressed in the line from Vertigo that the main character and her friend repeat to each other ("something inside me wants me to die"). I found it funny because the character in Vertigo was just faking this mystic madness whereas to Oyeyemi's characters it is a very real thing, but it's a good line. There's something in The Icarus Girl, which I'd started reading before I picked this one up and got carried away with it, that reminded me of that line also. Development of a theme. Really you see with her books how it can be effective to tell the same story again and again ... but then these are subjects I personally find deeply interesting. Perhaps other people wouldn't so much.This is definitely a horror book. (Incidentally I liked very much that it is a horror novel by somebody who has a different perspective on race issues than a white person would ... that scene in the bathroom with "the black coming off" is absolutely terrifying.) I wonder whether Oyeyemi would have been marketed as genre if she were white -- I don't know that she would, because her style is v. literararary, and her themes.I liked it very very much. Maybe I will give it five stars instead of four.

  • Amanda
    2019-03-24 14:41

    The daughters of the Silver family are cursed with a hunger for things that do not nourish. The Silver girls absently smear their mouths with handfuls of dirt, lick chalk from secret pocket stashes, nibble on plastic spoons beneath the sheets. The family home in Dover holds them through their suffering, unfolds for them and keeps them together. Part One of White is for Witching, "curiouser," begins with the return to Dover of eighteen-year-old Miranda Silver, an ethereal chalk-eater in stilettos and funereal black dresses, wide eyes and scarlet lips. Her twin brother, Eliot, and her father, Luc, are trying to survive after her mother Lily's death; Miranda is trying to survive with Lily's ghost. Part Two, "and curiouser," begins and ends (well, perhaps) with Miranda's departure from Dover and her advancing... condition.Beautifully written, Oyeyemi's neo-gothic tale of post-colonial England manages to shift narrators and haunt houses without seeming contrived. I very much loved the story and especially the writing, but it ultimately felt unsatisfying to me. Though she approaches Miranda from several angles the story still feels unfinished, particularly the racial implications that Oyeyemi presents. But maybe that's intentional. Anyway, I wanted there to be a bit more, for Oyeyemi to go a bit further in places. So I guess, to me, the story was so good that I wanted it to be better. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from this author and would recommend this book if you're looking for something a little strange. Accidentally appropriate read for October, too.Also, the UK cover is so great and the US cover is so not. Bummer.

  • Kim Rox
    2019-02-26 15:52

    'White is for witching' is an extremely peculiar story of which I often found myself quite perplexed and exacerbated. I found myself reading and then rereading several passages so as to make sure I had read and understood them correctly and to my utter dismay found that indeed I had and was still in a state of limbo. It reminded me at times of Shirley Jackson's 'We have always lived in the castle' in that the language was similar. I also felt like this was all part of some sort of wicked experiment of which by reading I'd somehow become part of simply by default.

  • Zach
    2019-03-09 12:35

    I love that the first review of this book is some nonsense about how you'd have to be a "a city woman on a subway" to "understand this thing." The dopey folksiness of this assertion aside, there actually isn't much here to get-this feels more like a framework that had been fleshed out at some points than an actual novel.Anyway this is the story of two twins, Eliot and Miranda Silver, who live in a xenophobic haunted house. Like Britain, see? It (the house, which is also a narrator sometimes) wants to protect its native daughters, the Silver women, by pulling some House of Leaves-style spatial manipulation and trapping spirits in non-existent rooms and so forth.Speaking of spatial manipulation, Miranda has pica, an eating disorder that causes her to hungrily devour inedible substances like plastic and chalk-a literal wasting away to match the spiritual wasting imposed by the over-protective house. Or something, I don't know.Oyeyemi is trying to tackle so many things with this book (in terms of both themes and narrative experimentation) and in such a short space (around 200 pages) that the execution was bound to suffer. What makes this so tragic is that when this book actually succeeds it's really great. The climax, in particular, manages to be both beautiful and melancholy in a totally creepy way.All in all, a deeply flawed novel that still manages to show a lot of promise for a young author (24ish when she wrote this, I believe?).

  • Nicole
    2019-03-19 11:55

    The first half of this book was so strong it had a certain taste and smell to it. When I was reading I felt the book vibrating throughout my whole body. The second half felt like someone watching me, a pain in my shoulder where their eyes burned me, and a dark, evil thing curled up at my feet. I can only describe this book with feelings and images. Sorry, for my incoherent rambling, but it was really good and put me in a certain mood. Also, it is really creepy/scary, like really really. Like no sleeping tonight scary.----I can't stop thinking about this book, it has invaded all of my thoughts. Also, I'm tempted to remove everything except this from my favorites shelf, The Waves can stay too.

  • Rachel
    2019-02-25 09:51

    A unique but puzzling book. Strangely written.

  • Annerlee
    2019-03-14 08:39

    A bit disappointed with this book. I found the changing point of view disorientating, possibly because I didn't have a character to fit the names to, at least at the start.The narrative was spooky at times, but there were too many words and not enough 'happenings' for my taste - I did like the winter apple imagery though.

  • April
    2019-03-19 14:40

    Still, I wondered if the salt and pepper were really necessary--they seemed too cruel when it would be easier to dispatch her by blowing out her flame before it grew, or by holding a mirror up to her wrinkled face and saying, "I don't believe in you." But then, maybe "I don't believe in you" is the cruelest way to kill a monster.This book kind of blew me away. I hadn't heard of Oyeyemi before, and now she is impossible to forget. It's no surprise she had two critically acclaimed plays produced and performed while studying at university; she is an astounding talent and author. Her unique storytelling abilities are crafted with such unimaginable beauty, it's hard to remember the last time I was encapsulated by such phantom-like words. She is truly a voice unlike any other I've encountered. I came to this novel expecting a ghost story and I got much more than I'd bargained for.White is for Witching is a multifaceted tale. Told from the perspective of several characters, including the house in which most of the novel is situated, the story is spun of two twin siblings: Miranda and Eliot Silver, who have suffered the recent loss of their Mother while she was abroad in Haiti. Miranda, for whom life is already a hard pill to swallow, is torn apart by this tragedy and her strange eating condition consequently exacerbates: "Miranda has a condition called pica she has eaten a great deal of chalk--she really can't help herself--she has been very ill--Miranda has pica she can't come intoday, she is stretched out inside a wall she is feasting on plaster she has pica" the house tells us, and it is only later when we realize just how haunting this description is. As we delve further into the past of these characters, and perhaps their present and futures, it becomes all too clear there is something very wrong with 29 Barton House. The twins' father struggles. Miranda falls in love. Apples fall from the ceiling. Something is tormenting the new maid. Eliot is not quite what he seems. And just where is Miranda Silver? I'm trying to keep my foot down firmly in leaving most of the story open for you all to discover yourselves, but there is something especially interesting in the way that Oyeyemi has crafted not only a delicious narrative hidden within a ghost story, but also a very important commentary on racial prejudice. While we discover newfound terrors and enigmatic encounters as we blaze through this maze, we are also made aware of the vicious and terrifying backdrop lurking behind it: the discrimination of immigrants in Britain. As a man is found hanged at the Immigration Removal detention centre, to which the household's Yoruba maid pays frequent visits, one of the pivotal characters (and narrators), Ore, an adopted Nigerian woman, is coping with the troubles of growing up in a white family (and less than respectable BNP-supporting cousins). The house does not take lightly to ethnically diverse guests and omits their names; it even torments them to the point of brutal psychological torture, saying venomously: “Juju is not enough to protect you. Everything you have I will turn against you. I'll turn sugar bitter for you. I'll take your very shield and crack it on your head.” The irony is overwhelming: immigrants are blamed for bringing in problems, yet the problems are already here. It's also interesting to note that the location Oyeyemi chose for White is Dover; geographically the closest to the European continent, and whose chalk-white cliffs would be the first thing immigrants would see when they arrived. A hotbed of migration, the area, we come to realize, is awash with barbaric attacks fed by emotional prejudice and irrational ignorance. There is no white here, yet white is everywhere. During my read I compiled around twelve pages crammed full of notes. I planned to get them all down here somehow, but I'm simply breathless by the ride this book has taken me on. I suppose I'll squeeze in a small paragraph I took to writing out in full, as I think it sums up how I feel about this book quite neatly: Reading White is for Witching is a lot like experiencing a spiral staircase. You never know if your foot will find the security of a step--it will mess with your perception until you're not quite sure if you're ascending or descending; moving forwards or backwards, left or right, until you find yourself in no place at all, but everywhere at the same time. It helped very much that I read this while we were driving to a remote village and temple in Massachusetts, which definitely enhanced the spookiness. The characters are all complex yet untrustworthy, the narration a labyrinth of semi coming-of-age and political allegory. The pages are terrifying. The house's narration still haunts me at night. I'm not over this story. Rating: 4.5

  • Bee (Heart Full of Books)
    2019-03-06 07:52

    I seriously did not get on with the writing style - I couldn't get to grips with the changing perspectives most of so spend the first few pages of every section like 'is this her brother, Ore or the house itself??' Wasn't expecting an F/F romance though, so that was the saving grace!

  • Sarah
    2019-03-12 08:56

    This book was made for me - I loved reading it so, so much. Oyeyemi excels at leaving the perfect number of clues to scintillate. The names of a few authors in Miranda's book case, from which we all draw conclusions about who she is; a black cloth coat with a watercolor lining she feels compelled to sew (why?); the chalk she eats, intricate pastries baked with deadly fruit, a doll drenched in rose water. The book drew me in with beautiful, tactile puzzle pieces that never quite form a cohesive shape. What's missing is what makes people so interesting - the mysterious piece that stays out of reach. The book has flaws which would have been much more important had I not enjoyed the writing so much. The characters are intriguing, the multiple POVs are handled skillfully, and the witchiness is superb. It would have been a solid five stars, except that all of the creepy foreboding really, really doesn't come to anything. As with Mr. Fox, I was left wanting to know a whole lot more. Even so. Reading Oyeyemi tickles my mind in almost the same way that reading Nabokov does. Did I really just compare a modern gothic horror novel written by a 23-year-old to Nabokov? Yep, going there.

  • Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
    2019-03-18 09:58

    So I just finished this book, and I would really love it if someone explained it to me! :) Erika's Amazon Link

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    2019-03-18 08:39

    Twins Miranda and Eliot Silver move into their grandmother Anna Good's large, strange old house in Dover, England, with their parents, Luc Dufresne and Lily Silver, after GrandAnna dies. Luc, a Frenchman, opens a bed and breakfast in the big, unruly house, while Lily, a photojournalist, goes off on assignments. It is when Lily is in Haiti after the earthquakes that she is shot in the street, leaving Miranda and Eliot motherless. Miranda has an even deeper problem, though: she has pica, just like the other Silver women who lived (and died, or vanished) in this house. She eats chalk, and plastic spatulas, and as she becomes dangerously thin she begins to vanish. Moving away to attend Cambridge University, where she meets her new friend, Ore, does not help, and by Christmas she is told to defer until she gets her health back.It is when she returns from Cambridge, and Eliot returns from (supposedly) South Africa, and Ore visits, that the house makes a more determined claim on the latest Silver woman. Ore, ethnically Nigerian but adopted from her depressed single mother by very white, working-middle class parents, sees things are not right with the house, and when Miranda disappears, she knows that the house has her.Finally I have read one of Nigerian-born Helen Oyeyemi's books - I have four; she's one of those authors I collect because her stories sound so fascinating, and then struggle to find the time to read, so I'm well pleased to have experienced her storytelling style and know that I don't regret my impulsive book-buying habit. There's just a touch of horror to this deliciously Gothic novel, but to call it a horror story could be misleading (I'm partly thinking of a definition of horror that I read recently in Alain de Botton's The News, as "a meaningless narration of revolting events" (p.193), which I quite liked). White is for Witching is spooky and, at times, downright menacing; this atmosphere pervades the novel, which ends as it begins: with Miranda's disappearance.(Surprisingly this didn't occur to me at the time but does now: Miranda seems to be a ill-omened name for young women who disappear mysteriously a la Picnic at Hanging Rock.)This house isn't haunted: it's alive and pulses with possessive energy. Other reviewers have called it a vampire house, but I'm not sure that really captures it. It chases out the migrant housekeepers and feeds cursed red apples in the dead cold of winter to those who see more than they should. Even Luc, through his dreams, feels the house wants to get rid of him. It is a house for witches, these Silver women plagued with pica, as the house itself tells us:Anna Good you are long gone now, except when I resurrect you to play in my puppet show, but you forgive since when I make you appear it is not really you, and besides you know that my reasons are sound. Anna Good it was not your pica that made you into a witch. I will tell you the truth because you are no trouble to me at all. Indeed you are a mother of mine, you gave me a kind of life, mine, the kind of alive that I am.Anna Good there was another woman, long before you, but related. This woman was thought an animal. Her way was to slash at her flesh with the blind, frenzies concentration that a starved person might use to get at food that is buried. Her way was to drink off her blood, then bite and suck at the bobbled stubs of her meat. Her appetite was only for herself. This woman was deemed mad and then turned out and after that she was not spoken of. I do not know the year, or even how I know this. (p.24)The house is just one of several narrators: Eliot, Miranda, Ore. The relationship between Eliot and Miranda is close and sometimes symbiotic, but as young adults there is something else there. Miranda applies to Cambridge because Eliot has, but she gets in and he doesn't. Instead, he leaves for a year in South Africa to work on a newspaper. There is the suspicion, at the end, that he never actually went, that he stalked Miranda instead and not for innocent reasons. (Incest or something like it is implied.) Yet this account is just as unreliable as most of the narrators - only Ore seems relatively normal, warm-blooded, human and thus reliable in that way we have of moving closer to warm-blooded mammals instead of cold-blooded reptiles. Speaking of warm, temperature is another atmospheric element used by Oyeyemi to create a feast for the senses.While the narrative is mostly clear and comprehensible, from the beginning it seems freed from the usual constraints and embodies an ambiguous supernatural, non-linear spiral, echoing the intangible magic of the house and the curse that seems to be upon the Silver women. Yet it is not really a curse, more of an obsessive motherly love that the house has for them, wanting to take them back into its womb - such as the space under the floor where GrandAnna liked to sleep (a hidey-hole left over from the war) or under/within its skin, as it absorbed Lily's young mother who wanted to leave for good. (So, not so much a vampire as a cannibal.) Yet for all its unstructured, seemingly scattered narrative, the story is easy to follow and easy to get lost in, in the best possible way. The imagery conjured by Oyeyemi is vivid, and as more details are revealed the tension only winds tighter.Ultimately you're left with a sense of pity for the Silver women, devoured by their house and trapped within it: these lonely, lost women with their unnatural appetites. The weird and disturbing house and Miranda's story are situated against a backdrop of British immigration and detention issues, family dynamics, eating disorders and love. It begs the question: why try to keep these others out (of the country), when there's so much wrong already within it? Other interesting ideas and analogies come to mind, but enough: I want to leave you with plenty to discover for yourself. A hauntingly beautiful story about those things outside our control that can so easily devour us, and a family legacy that literally does.

  • Ab
    2019-03-20 08:51

    I've had this book sitting next to my computer for days now. Every time I go to write a review of it, I put it off because I'm afraid I won't be able to do it justice. This. Book. Was. Amazing. Oyeyemi is a MASTERFUL writer! Every time I read her, her prose gets more intriguing and absolutely beautiful! I LOVED "Icarus Girl," while "The Opposite House" wasn't as good, but this book . . . I want to read it again IMMEDIATELY!Before explaining the story, I tabbed the book all over noting great imagery and descriptions, so I'll include some here:"Why do people go to these places, these places that are not for them? It must be that they believe in their night vision. They believe themselves able to draw images up out of the dark.But black wells only yield black water." (p. 8)"Our new house had two big brown grids of windows with a row of brick in between each grid. No windows for the attic. From the outside the windows didn't look as if they could be opened, they didn't look as if they werw there to let air or light in, they were funny square eyes, friendly, tired." (p. 14)"The only criticism she would have accepted was that she was giving patriarchy precedence over the female consciousness explored in the Gothic. But since that criticism wasn't offered, she stood her ground. She didn't remember her interviewers after the fact of her interviews -- the professors didn't have features, they were learnedness dressed up as people and housed in armchairs." (p. 50)And there's so much more, I just can't explain it in pieces, just read the whole thing!!So the story is about a family living in an old house in Dover -- fraternal twins Miri (Miranda) and Eliot, Luc (father), Lily (mother, deceased only a year ago while shooting photographs in Haiti). The chapters alternate their points of view: Miranda, Eliot, and the House. The House is the most intriguing (I even feel compelled to capitalize "House"). Sade is a housekeeper who has Yoruban superstitions and mysticism surrounding her, and replaces a Russian famiy after they've fled the house, saying no one should stay there. Did I mention it's a bed and breakfast? Miri has pica, which is a disease where one hungers -- HUNGERS -- for inedible things to eat. She loves chalk and plastic. Everyone is . . . well, odd. Odd in a totally intriguing and mystifying way. Odd in a way that keeps you wanting to find out more about them. The fact that the House is a narrator is FANTASTIC! Thus enters the 'creepy' factor, because the house feels protective over the women of the family, going back three generations. Apparently it houses GrandAnna (the twins' great grandmother), Jennifer (twins' grandmother, thought to have run away from Lily at a young age, but the house claims it kept her in a maze of unknown floors and rooms), and now Lily (twins' mother). And now it wants Miri, to protect her and care for her. You simply have to read it to get the full effect. There are some wonderful stylistic details that Oyeyemi uses for the first time in her books, like one word to transition between one narrator or moment to a completely new on, both using the same word! She reminds me a bit of Toni Morrison and how she wrote in "Beloved," which I found creepy and wonderful. But she keeps her own style and her own artistic sense as well.