Book Review: What Is Yours Is Not Yours: by Helen Oyeyemi (Kindle Edition)

Posted: March 11, 2018 in Books

what is yours is not yours

Books and Roses:

A baby girl named Montse, is left at a monastery door.  She has a key around her neck.  Years later, Montse works as a clothes launderer with a woman with a similar key around her neck.  Is there a relationship between the two keys?  Is there a relationship between the two women?

Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten Her Tea:

A guy named Ched asks his friend to housesit while he goes off to do his military sevice.   The house sitter has a boyfriend with two kids, Dayang, who is serious, and Aisha, who has a crush on a German pop star named Matyas Fust.   Matyas gets involved in a scandal.  Is the scandal true?  Does Aisha stay loyal to Matyas?

Is Your Blood As Red As This?  No

A girl named Radha meets an older woman named Myrna, at a party, and becomes a puppeteer like Myrna is, to impress Myrna.  Does Myrna return Radha’s feelings?  Is Radha’s puppetry career a success?


A man named Arkady lives in a country run by a dictator. To protest the dictator’s rule, and to pay off his growing debt, Arkady and his friend Giancomo plan to kidnap the dictator’s daughter and hold her for ransom.  How does the kidnapping plot go?


Jill Ackerman and her husband Jacob experiment with something called the Presence, which is supposed to bring a spiritual presence into the life of the person who tries it.  Jill volunteers, does a presence enter her life?

A Brief History of The Homely Wench Society 

Dayang Sharif is a college student at Cambridge University, and she wants to join a club called the Homely Wench Society.  This club is a counterweight to the all-men’s Bettencourt Society which is seen as chauvinistic, and generally hostile to women. One day Dayang meets Hercules Demetriou, who’s a member of the Bettencourt Society but doesn’t tell her. Does Dayang join the Homely Wench Club, does she find out the truth about Hercules?

Dorninca and the St Martin’s Day Goose:

Dornica goes up to the top of Mount Radhost in the Czech Republic to visit a statue of a wolf.  The wolf statue talks to Dornica and says he wants someone to eat, and despite Dornica’s red hood, he passes on her and says he wants someone younger.  What does Dornica do to satiate the wolf statue’s hunger?


Freddy Barrendorf Checks In

Everybody expects Freddy Barrendorf to follow in his father’s footsteps, and become a hotel maintenance man, does Freddy follow in his dad’s footsteps?

If A Book Is Locked, There’s probably a good reason for it, don’t you Think?

New employee Eva sends tongues wagging at her new job, with her New York sense of style and cool manner.  Tongues are wagging for a different reason as rumors circulate about Eva and a married man.  Then, one of the employees finds Eva’s diary, does she open it and confirm the rumors or return it to Eva?


What Is Yours Is Not Yours is a collection of short stories.  Ms. Oyeyemi is fond of literary flourishes, large words, symbolism, recurring characters, recurring themes and tangential subplots.  These are all things critics and literary agents adore, but it may alienate the average reader.  For example, she gets so enamored of a tangential portion of the story in  Sorry Doesn’t Sweeten The Tea, that she forgets the main story entirely.

Books And Roses is a pretty good story, but again there is so much of a backstory and so much exposition, that it makes for difficult reading.  Reading a book should not be a chore, and some of this book seems like work and not pleasure.  There are other stories that get so caught up in the technicalities of the task she is describing, that the point of the story is lost.  A story about puppetry might be interesting, but not the way she wrote it.

Sometimes the recurring themes of books and keys and locks seem to be forced into the story, just to keep the thematic consistency going.  And most of the characters show up in different stories, for example Dayang shows up in at least two stories if not more, Aisha shows up in multiple stories, and it’s maddening.  They just seem to make cameos in other stores, for no reason, another frustrating flourish.

There are good stories in this collection, A Brief History of The Homely Wench Society is good story, simple, direct, to the point. And the characters have a definite point of view.  In fact, I’d say more than half of the stories are very good, but even in the stories I liked, the endings are weak or abrupt or don’t match the tone of the story that came before it.  I’ve read her work before, Mr. Fox, and I had the same complaint, it was too metaphorical, too symbolic, almost like a bedtime story with some deeper meaning.

Ms. Oyeyemi is talented, but her writing is too lyrical, she needs to tell a story in more prosaic language, beginning middle and end.  Sometimes, the simplest way to tell a story is the best way.

Short stories, not for short attention spans.

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