Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Worlds Without End Blog

WoGF Review: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi Posted at 2:20 PM by Kristine N.


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeKristine N. (krizzaro) is a climate scientist and mom to two children. She’s been reading SF and fantasy as long as she can remember and hopes to instill the same love for fine literature in her impressionable offspring. While omnivorous in her reading, she has a particular fondness for dystopia, epic fantasy, and anything written by Connie Willis, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Neal Stephenson. Kristine blogs about reading at writing on her site Library Creature.

White is for Witching

WARNING: There is a SPOILER after the fold.  If you have not read this book and don’t want a plot point revealed, do not read beyond the second paragraph.

I am not into literary novels. For that reason alone, I probably should have avoided this book. White is for Witching is a very literary read, which translates into beautifully written but meandering, lacking in plot, and full of characters who aren’t necessarily interesting or sympathetic. In fact, the most sympathetic characters are the minor characters.

The story (such as it is) follows Miri and her twin brother, Elliot, who are mourning after the death of their mother, Lily. Miri, who had pica to begin with, totally loses it after her mother’s death and basically starves herself stupid. Very stupid. Not stupid enough to keep her out of Cambridge (?!?!), but stupid nonetheless. I suppose the book could be seen as the chronicle of a mentally unbalanced woman killing herself through starvation and dragging loved ones down with her. It’s not a very pleasant arc, and the inciting incident isn’t quite satisfactory, but again, it’s literary fiction. Things don’t apparently have to make sense here. They often don’t.

Read the rest of this entry »

WoGF Review: Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi Posted at 6:30 PM by Charles Dee Mitchell


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeGuest blogger and WWEnd Uber User, Charles Dee Mitchell, has contributed a great many book reviews to WWEnd including his blog series Philip K. Dickathon and The Horror! The Horror! He can also be found on his own blog

Mr. FoxWhen I finished Helen Oyeyemi‘s novel, Mr. Fox, I immediately turned back to the opening chapter. It wasn’t that I had so enjoyed it that I planned to read the whole thing over. I was just trying, although it had been only a matter of a couple of days, to remember how on earth this thing had begun.

In the first chapter, Mr. St. John Fox, who despite his high-flown name appears to be the successful author of violent potboilers, receives a visit from Mary Foxe. When he hears her come in, he assumes at first it must be his wife Daphne, a woman we will learn later spends much of her time in her room, depressed and suicidal. Mr. Fox has not seen Mary for six or seven years. He tells her he loves her. They have a brief, odd conversation which ends when Mary says, “You don’t love me. You love that.” She bares her breasts, lifts her dress up over her crotch, pulls her hair, and slaps herself on the face.

How could I have forgotten such an opening? In my defense I can only say that a lot happens in Oyeyemi’s brief novel. In the next pages, Mary appears as an importunate fan and fledgling writer vying for Mr. Fox’s attention in an exchange of letters dated 1936. There is another narrative thread involving Mr. Fox and Daphne. There are interpolated stories, apparently the work of Mr. Fox, although a couple may be Mary’s and some may appear just for effect. And Mary, by the way, is not a real human being. She is Mr. Fox’s muse, a constant cause of Daphne’s jealousy, at least until they get to know one another toward the end of the novel.

Read the rest of this entry »

WoGF Review: Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi Posted at 2:35 PM by Shannon Fay


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeShannon Fay (Sai) is an assistant bookstore manager and freelance writer. Since she doesn’t get enough of books at work she’s become a book club addict, joining practically every one that comes her way. Her dream is to get all the book clubs she’s involved with reading the same book so as to save herself some time and stress. Visit her website at

Mr. FoxI would not classify  Mr. Fox as fantasy. In fact, I would say it’s unclassifiable. I suppose that if you wanted to grab it, pin it down and examine it under glass and label it you could call it ‘slip-stream fiction,’ but why would you want to do that? Butterflies are so much prettier in the air then they are framed on a wall.

The book centers on a love triangle between Mr. Fox, his wife Daphne, and the mysterious Mary Foxe, Fox’s muse who may or may not just be a fiction of his imagination. As the book goes along, Mary seems to become more and more real, but really it’s just a trick that the author it playing on the reader. Mary is as ‘real’ as St. John Fox and Daphne Fox- no matter what might be going on in the narrative they are all characters in the same book and therefore all on the same standing.

Even though I said I didn’t have any desire to put a label on Mr. Fox I can’t help but get my two-cents in: The book is an interesting piece of meta-fiction. The book moves in and out of various narratives, sliding from the main story into Fox’s short stories and back, all while re-casting the various characters in different roles. It can be a hard book to hold on to, and it is not recommended reading when you have the flu or just before you go to sleep, lest you get confused between what you read and what you dreamed. The book (I hesitate to say ‘the plot’ as that doesn’t seem applicable here) doesn’t move forward but instead shuffles back and to the side, twisting and turning like a foxtrot. The various threads make you question what is real, but the point isn’t figuring out what ‘really’ happened so much as realizing that all the narratives are all equal. They are all stories, all lies, and all true.

Helen OyeyemiMr. Fox has a lot to say about the relationship between men and women and the violence they visit on each other, both in the real world and in fiction. I thought the examples Oyeyemi wove into her work were interesting but I also didn’t feel like she reached a satisfying conclusion. Early on Mary seems determined to dissuade Fox from writing his vaguely misogynistic potboilers, but at the end of the book he’s still cheerily working away on his ‘serial killer accountant’ novel. But he does seem to be treating the women in his life better, which perhaps was Mary’s true goal all along.

Mr. Fox is an enjoyable mind trip. Its fluid structure takes a bit of patience and can cause a bit of frustration, but it’s the good kind of frustration.