Book Review

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

essentially a review of my new meds

Maybe this wasn’t a great book for me to be reading at this time, as it plays with ideas of sanity and normalcy and right now I am I am I am playing with ideas of sanity and normalcy in my own head, too.

I’m on new meds and they’re stronger, but I think they’re working.

Well, they’re working in that I’m feeling feelings again but they’re not working in that they’re making day-to-day life harder rather than easier.

e.g.: A dickhead boomer got “all up in my face” at work earlier and I told him off, demanded he apologise or leave. I felt flooded with intense fucking adrenaline, an intensity of feeling that, though ultimately one rooted in fear, was painfully pleasurable.

By that I mean it was pleasurable but I didn’t want it to be. Also, I think I have a friend at work now and I think the manic post-argument adrenaline high I was skipping on was a little scary for them. Maybe not scary but certainly troubling.

This is something I worry about a lot now – and by “now” I mean “for the last two weeks” – due to these meds preventing me from feeling just a cold dead nothing, my personality is seeping out from time to time in the workplace, especially now that I’m being overworked so much that I don’t really have any time in the week where I’m not at work and able to exist as a person rather than as an employee. I should aim for professionalism at work, and professionalism is code for an absence of the self, unless ones self is the kind of hierarchy-obsessed normie whose opinions, interests and personal life are all achingly mainstream. Not just mainstream, but middle of the road. Professionalism only fails to encourage the absence of ones character if ones character is inherently characterless. Those who live lives in the beige middle of this beige world (or the people who can pretend to without weeping) are the only ones who benefit from workplace culture. If my new meds are meant to make the world better to live in, they’re fucking useless. At least on the old ones I wasn’t really in my life. Eurgh.

I had to stop walking on my way home from work today to lean against the railing in front of a Francophone high school and cry. When I walked through the door of my tiny flat, I fell to the floor, still in my boots and coat, and pulled my dog into my arms and wept some more. I cried and cried. I cry and cry. 

I feel anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger anger and regret.

Whenever I alter my meds I find myself yearning to end up in a fight. I want the peril and the pain and the fucking sense of physicality and opportunity that comes with both.

I wish I didn’t feel so angry but I do feel so angry.

I wish I didn’t feel so sad. But I do.


The Icarus Girl is, too be honest, too long.

There are long stretches where the plot doesn’t advance and the characters repeat actions and encounters that Oyeyemi has already used to evoke who they are. The plot is inspired by Nigerian folklore: it is about an eight year old girl, Jessamy, who visits her mother’s hometown in Nigeria and while there meets a strange, magical girl who is like her, but a version of her who is more impulsive and reckless, more violent and cruel and selfish, but [at least at first] much happier and much more alone despite – and this is key – being much less lonely. Once Jessamy and her mother are back in the London Suburbs with Jessamy’s white, depressed, father, the new friend reappears. 

This girl – Titiola or TillyTilly or Tilly – may be the malevolent, unappeased spirit of Jessamy’s stillborn twin; she may be the malevolent, unappeased spirit of a different living person’s stillborn twin or – perhaps – she may be a very malevolent, very unappeased spirit of a more powerful entity entirely who is masquerading as the malevolent, unappeased spirit of a stillborn twin. Whatever is TillyTilly’s true origin, even though no one but Jessamy can see her, she is real, she is sinister and she is seeking something from Jessamy that is far from safe.

There’s lots in the novel – before it becomes clear that TillyTilly is not a figment of Jessamy’s imagination – about emotional repression and psychological projection. Jessamy evokes TillyTilly as an excuse, her mother and her psychiatrist reason, for her destructive and aggressive actions. She is an an alter ego able to behave closer to the real intentions of the child: much like the character of Paul Simmons in my unpublished partyboy novel and the character of Jesus in my unpublished novel about John the Baptist (where Jesus is an autobiographical foil).

As the book goes on, though, TillyTilly turns out to be a symbolic projection rather than a literal one: she is “really there”, mean and magical, rather than a manifestation of Jessamy’s mean and magical thoughts.

The Icarus Girl was ok, as a novel, but very much not “my kind of thing”. I don’t really like supernatural things, certainly not supernatural things where the reality of the supernatural explanation is a plot point. Have magic, sure, I shout to the unread genre texts on my bookshelves, but if you do have magic don’t try and make me guess if you have magic or not. 

Sorry, this is a mess.

As are most of these posts recently. I don’t feel right.

I’m feeling lots of feelings at the moment, but none of them feel very… useful.

None of them are very good is 10 years old! Celebrate by sharing this post – or others – with friends (if you have any), family (if you have any), lovers (which I presume you have because this website isn’t for children), or by donating to the site via the below link so that I can maybe take a day off work some time and enjoy being alive for a few hours.

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