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White is for Witching: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 23, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, June 23, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Oyeyemi delivers her third passionate and unusual book, a neo-gothic tale revolving around Miranda and Eliot Silver, fraternal twins of Haitian descent raised in a British house haunted by generations of afflicted, displaced family members, including their mother. Miranda suffers from pica, an affliction that causes her to eat nonedible items, which is passed down to her via the specters from her childhood that now punctuate her nightmares. As the novel progresses, the increasingly violent nature of this bizarre, insatiable hunger reveals itself to be the ironclad grip of the dead over the living or of mother over daughter. The book is structured around multiple voices—including that of the house itself—that bleed into one another. Appealing from page one, the story, like the house, becomes extremely foreboding, as the house is storing its collapse and can only be as good as those who inhabit it. The house's protective, selfish voice carries a child's vision of loss: in the absence of a mother, feelings of anger, betrayal and bodily desire replace the sensation of connection. Unconventional, intoxicating and deeply disquieting. (June)
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From Booklist

Oyeyemi’s third mystical novel weaves a tale of four generations of women and the house in Dover, England, they’ve inhabited—a vengeful, Gothic edifice that has always rejected strangers. The latest occupants are twins Miranda and Eliot, who were 16 when their mother, Lily, died and when their father, Luc, converted the house into a B&B. Miranda’s grief is “far far bigger than her.” She develops pica, an eating disorder, eschewing her father’s cooking and binging on hidden caches of chalk and plastic. After Miranda is discharged from a clinic, Eliot grapples with his brotherly responsibilities, telling Lily’s ghost, “She won’t forget or recover, she is inconsolable.” Lily’s mentally ill mother and grandmother still “inhabit” the house—each understanding that “we absolutely cannot have anyone else.” Oyeyemi’s style is as engimatic as her plot, with juxtaposition of past and present and abrupt changes in narrator, from third to first person, Eliot to Miranda, Lily to her mother. In all, a challenging read laced with thought-provoking story lines that end, like Miranda’s fate, mysteriously. --Deborah Donovan

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,156,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kelly (Fantasy Literature) VINE VOICE on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
_White Is for Witching_ blends gothic horror, racial politics, and the older, bloodier sort of fairy tales into a deeply unsettling novel. The story opens with a passage intentionally reminiscent of "Snow White," describing the mysterious imprisonment? disappearance? death? of the heroine, Miranda Silver. From there, we move backward in time, to the point when the events leading to Miranda's fate began.

The story is told from several points of view, all of them seeing events from different perspectives, all of them possibly unreliable narrators. Miranda herself, her brother Eliot, her lover Ore, and her ancestral home all have their own versions to tell as the plot unfolds.

The house looms as the center of Miranda's tale. Menacing and xenophobic, it desires control over the people it considers its own, and means harm toward those it sees as foreign. The house and its ghosts want to make Miranda a vessel for their hatred. Miranda struggles against the house's domination, a battle that threatens to destroy her mental health and possibly her life.

Oyeyemi's prose is haunting and poetic. I hesitate to use the word "beautiful," as that might give a false impression of "pleasantness." Oyeyemi depicts nightmares, not pretty dreams. She has a knack for describing ordinary things in a way that makes them suddenly horrific, and when she describes horrific things, she does it in a subtle, oblique way that feels like you're looking at something so unspeakable that you can only look with your peripheral vision.

_White Is for Witching_ works as a novel of the supernatural, and it also works as an allegory. I hesitate to even mention the A-word, for fear of driving away readers who've been burned by preachy authors. Oyeyemi doesn't preach, however. There's a message, but it never overshadows the plot and characters. It's just that you can see an extra dimension to the story if you look through the lens of allegory.
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Format: Hardcover
...all by the author of The Icarus Girl? Count me in. White is for Witching is the story of a family, and a house, distorted by the loss of a mother and a hidden history of trauma, xenophobia, and insanity. Miranda Silver blames herself for her mother's death, and struggles with pica, a disorder that compels her to eat chalk and plastic. (I thought it might well be a pun on the "consumptive" heroine, in addition to hinting at Miri's eventual realization of even worse appetites, and reflecting the novel's motifs of misdirected desire and destruction from the inside out.) Her twin brother Eliot and bottled-up father Luc are too paralyzed by their own obsessions and griefs to do more than watch Miri on her slow course to destruction. In short, every character is an emotional closed circuit, furiously retracing the same neuroses without outlet or resolution. This includes, of course, the possessive and apparently sentient house, which has born witness to several generations of tortured Silver women.

I read the first half of the book with mostly detached fascination. Everyone is so icily clever and dysfunctional that I couldn't really care about them, and as in The Icarus Girl, Oyeyemi's prose sometimes verges on mannered. Paragraphs drift into prose-poetic fragments, and overlapping phrases signal transitions between narrating characters; I found the latter a particularly heavy-handed stylistic device. Similarly, many of the haunted-house tableaux - Miri's waking dreams of streets lined with "pale people," for example - are presented with an arranged, glassy nightmarishness, an alienating hyper-aestheticization. What saved the book for me from feeling (if you'll forgive the pun) too lifeless was Oyeyemi's dense, playful layering of Gothic and folkloric tropes.
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Format: Hardcover
A gifted young writer, Oyeyemi is a master of imagery. This novel is no exception, overflowing with startling images that range from the lush to the disturbing. A small family moves to Dover, where the father fulfills his dream: a bed and breakfast. It is Lily Silver's ancestral home, one animated by its own dark history; Luc Dufresne, Lily's husband, is enchanted all the same. The couple's young twins, Eliot and Miranda, quickly adapt to their new environment, enchanted by the woods and the many-storied house. The particular magic of their twin world is fully realized, the reflection of self in the other, an extraordinary beauty times two. If Luc remains outside the magic circle of wife and children, he does not complain. He cooks marvelous meals while Lily travels, capturing the souls of strangers with her camera.

One terrible night when the twins are sixteen, Eliot urges Miranda to remember Lily's every detail, not to fall asleep. That night Lily is killed in Port-Au-Prince. Miranda is bereft. Everything changes, a perfect world distorted by Lily's death. Afflicted with pica, a condition that compels sufferers to ingest the inedible- in her case, chalk- Miranda's disorder accelerates, the girl half in this world, half in another. Eliot bears his own grief and guilt, but as Miri drifts into a dark place that grows larger as her body diminishes, the bindings of twinship unravel. He cannot save Miranda.
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