I tried. This book was bonkers (not in a good way) and I started getting bored but pushed through to finish it last night and reward myself with Great British Bake Off. I don’t know what to say except that sometimes too much magical realism can ruin a story. I couldn’t follow a lot of what was going on and then just gave up and kept hoping that things made more sense as I went along. They did not. I think the shifting timelines didn’t help matters either since then I would go wait what is happening now. I think there needed to be more written cues about what was going on and what time period we were in. I am now wondering about reading her other book I picked for Halloween Bingo this year.
“Gingerbread” is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. The story follows Harriet who is quite gifted at making gingerbread. In fact, her daughter Perdita loved her gingerbread so much it almost killed her when she refused anything except for that. It also happens that other people feel differently when they eat Harriet’s gingerbread too. After Perdita does something (no spoilers), Harriet decides to tell her daughter about her homeland (a fictional place called Druhastrana) and the traditions that the country had and her memories of the people she met. We also have Harriet’s mother, Margot in the mix and we hear a lot about Harriet’s grandmother and her power to make gingerbread.
I never got a handle on characters. Sorry. I wish I could say I even liked or hated the characters. Instead I felt indifferent. I never got a connection to anyone. I did think the story-line about Perdita being bullied was interesting, there was too much other stuff going on for me to really care.
The secondary characters were all over the place. We keep reading references to Harriet’s childhood friend Gretel Kercheval, but it’s so long before we get scenes with these two and then I was let down.
The writing felt very choppy to me. Another reviewer said that the book feels off when we go back to Harriet’s youth and it does. I felt so confused and thought that Oyeyemi trying to tell this as one long bedtime story didn’t work. Probably because we pop back and forth into the present here and there. Also, the way that people spoke to each other didn’t seem authentic at all and the whole book needed a tighter edit. The flow was bad too. I can’t say anything more than that. Everything started to feel like a struggle and I wanted to finish the book as soon as possible.
I think in the end that if we had only had a light sprinkling of magical realism with the story focused on the fairy tale slightly it would have worked much better.
That ending was a mess. I maybe went well that was a total waste of my time. I am only giving this book two stars because there were flashes of something great here and there, but just felt letdown in the end.