There’s something strange about the Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England. Grand and cavernous with hidden passages and buried secrets, it’s been home to four generations of Silver women—Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who has lived in the house with her twin brother, Eliot, ever since their father converted it to a bed-and-breakfast. The Silver women have always had a strong connection, a pull over one another that reaches across time and space, and when Lily, Miranda’s mother, passes away suddenly while on a trip abroad, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed. At once an unforgettable mystery and a meditation on race, nationality, and family legacies, White is for Witching is a boldly original, terrifying, and elegant novel by a prodigious talent.
Title: White is for Witching | Author: Helen Oyeyemi |
Publisher: Riverhead Books | Pub. Date: 2009-06-23 | Pages: 304 | ISBN13: 9781594633072 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Triggers: Eating Disorders | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: self-purchased
White is for Witching Review
I’m really not sure where to start with this review. I finished this book quite a while ago, and I’m still not at all certain of what I read. What I do know though is that I absolutely loved it, despite often having no clue what the hell was going on.
This book gave me some serious Haunting of Hill House vibes. From the potentially haunted (or maybe possessed would be more apt here? There’s definitely some fuckery about) house, to the disorienting feel of the story which left me wondering what was actually going on on nearly every page, I definitely felt the call-back to Jackson’s classic. But while the tone was similar, the plot and story are wholly unique and unlike anything I’ve ever read before. This book isn’t your typical horror novel. There are no monsters, no gore, no violence. Just a slow-burning and all-encompassing sense of absolute dread as the plot unfolds.
Oyeyemi is without a doubt an incredibly talented writer. The language and prose of this novel are flawless, and it’s an absolutely gorgeous read. In this book, she weaves a beautiful, confusing web that leaves the reader wondering what is actually happening, and what is merely a trick of the unreliable narrators. This novel touches on a ton of sensitive subjects, with eating disorders and racism being the two major ones that play into the plot. Oyeyemi does this deftly, without feeling like she’s beating the reader over the head with the topics but still handling them in an interesting, important way. Watching Miranda struggle with her pica, trying and failing to overcome it for her family over and over, was truly heartbreaking and one of the scariest parts of this book.
This is a gorgeous horror novel that deals with some uncomfortable subjects in an unconventional but truly engaging way. It might not be what you immediately imagine when you think “horror,” but this haunting novel had my hackles up more than once. If you’re looking for a horror novel to really savour and enjoy slowly, you won’t go wrong with picking this one up.
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Sam joined the Coolthulhu Crew in December 2018. She reviews science fiction and horror for the site and is our resident Canadian.