After deciding not to get married and go directly to their honeymoon, Otto and Xavier Shin took their pet meerkat on a strange and elegant train called "Lucky Day". So far, so weird.
This is the bizarre setting of Helen Oyeyemi's seventh novel "Peaces." The queen of magic realism quickly started working, adding a few layers of weirdness.
For most of the novel, our hero is fighting confusing things and talking to Pinteresque. By the last third, the strands converge, forming a pleasant but troublesome conclusion.
Obviously, there may be some more sinister factors at work here-less Darjeeling Ltd. and more murders on the Orient Express. Does Ava Kapoor, the only full-time resident on the train, need to be rescued? Who else is on the boat? Who is really responsible for bringing them together?
Trains—seemingly endless, with greenhouses, postal sorting rooms, steam rooms, and bazaar spaces—provide plenty of opportunities for fantasy adventures. But unlike the Vicious House in Oyeyemi's 2009 Gothic story "White is for Witching", the background of Peaces is not a character in itself. Instead, the memories of the passengers and the strange coincidence when they traveled form the lattice structure of Oyemi's story.
In these memories, a character stands out: Přemsyl Stojaspal, a person Ava Kapoor has never met, even when looking directly at him. Since 2005's disturbing debut, "The Icarus Girl Oyeyemi" (The Icarus Girl Oyeyemi), her unique ingenuity has made her work so fascinating. The mystery of Přem, and how he is "invisible", hints at some disturbing things about identity and existence.
As an artist, Přem creates pure white canvases, in which every viewer will see a different image. Likewise, his strange pain that is invisible to a person may have many different meanings for each reader.
The relationship between Otto and Xavier is the touchstone of reality in the strange. They are easily attracted to each other, their brisk and joking conversations, and occasional insecurity, together constitute a sweet portrayal of not exactly newlyweds. This helps raise the stakes for a book, and its fantastic quality makes it difficult for people to accept any sense of danger-we don't want anything bad to happen to our lovebird hero.
We have never received direct answers to all the questions it raises, but "Peace" is a satisfying book, and its core mystery is constructed well enough to trigger thinking rather than frustration. It's fun, creative and tempting-Oyeyemi fans will find a lot of things they like.
Helen Oyemi's "Peace" is published by Faber & Faber and costs £14.99
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