*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Little, Brown and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: GUARDIAN MUST READ BOOKS OF 2019
AFRICAN BOOK ADDICT MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS 2019
Nudibranch is Irenosen Okojie’s second collection of short stories, a follow up to Speak Gargantular which was shortlisted for the 2016 Jhalak Prize and 2017 Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
The collection focuses on offbeat characters caught up in extraordinary situations – a mysterious woman of the sea in search of love arrives on an island inhabited by eunuchs; dimensional-hopping monks navigating a season of silence face a bloody reckoning in the ruins of an abbey; an aspiring journalist returning from a failed excursion in Sydney becomes what she eats and a darker, Orwellian future is imagined where oddly detached children arrive in cycles and prove to be dangerous in unfamiliar surroundings.
Irenosen Okojie was a recipient of the 2016 Betty Trask Award and in 2015, the Evening Standard named her as one of top debut novelists of the summer for her novel, Butterfly Fish. Her writing has been featured in the Guardian and Observer and has been lauded by the likes of fellow writers such as Rupert Thompson, Ben Okri and Michele Roberts.
Nudibranch is a collection of short stories featuring magic realism and focused around the theme of metamorphosis, transformation, the change from one state to another.
Here is the weird and the wonderful, where a woman can turn into liquorice, monks commit time-travelling murder, eunuchs mate with a sea goddess and monsters go paintballing.
The style of the stories is more like blank verse poetry than prose, and the content reads like someone recording their dreams (and nightmares) in a single stream-of-consciousness flood; capturing not only the surreal contents of their dreamscape, but the exact tone and atmosphere of that illogical, yet immersive, realm.
As such, this is not easy reading by any means, but it is oddly compelling in its strong portrayal of the intense insanity of the human spirit unbound. Irenosen Okojie paints a maelstrom of emotions and experiences, unable to be contained by mere miraculous meat suits; reaching for something beyond mere human boundaries and rules. The other is explored and admired in these tales of magical horror and horrific magic, glorying in all that is strange in thought and feeling.
If you are looking for something quick and sensical, then these are not the stories for you. If you want to swim in exceedingly weird tides of word-waves and surf beyond the boundaries of reason and reality, then these strange tales may be just what you need.
The eunuchs have clouds in their mouths; their motions are erratic, as though they’ll fall into the fire one by one backwards. They soften each other’s injuries with white puffs of breath. They are burning the clothes they arrived in. The sound of fire races to meet bright molluscs in a space that expands and shrinks as things unfold. The carrier pigeons squawk, producing a din that sounds like black rain falling at an angle on the heads of stillborns, like a crow beak tapping against the entrance of Kiru’s cold womb, like the screeching from going blind temporarily travelling through a tortoise shell in the sky, then falling into the water with shell markings that cause flurries, breaches and an undulating silence. They mimic the sound of a lung sinking, chasing an echo thinking it can catch it.
– Irenosen Okojie, ‘Nudibranch’ in Nudibranch
Find more from Irenosen Okojie at her website here, or follow her on Twitter and Goodreads.
Nudibranch is available on Amazon right now!