Friday, April 18, 2014

Fairy Tales

The first line of Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird could have been “Once upon a time”. A fairy-tale quality permeates the story, a modern twist on the Brothers Grimm. A young girl named Boy lives in New York with a violent father who makes his living as a rat-catcher, using techniques that would horrify the Pied Piper. She runs away to the small New England town of Flax Hill, where she marries a man with a beautiful little daughter named Snow. After the birth of her own child Bird, Boy becomes something of an evil stepmother, and the story becomes a distorted version of “Snow White”, complete with banishment, mirrors, and difficult questions about who is the fairest of them all.

Oyeyemi's style retains the rhythm of a fable, but, especially in the portions where Boy is the narrator, it captures the complex, layered voice of a modern observer, facing issues that are still unresolved in modern society.