By Irenosen Okojie
ISBN 978 1 909762 31 2, first published in 2015, buy it on Amazon.
I picked up Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie at an airport’s Waterstones. When I read the blurb that began with a simple introduction: ‘After the sudden death of her mother, London photographer Joy struggles to pull the threads of her life back together…’ I thought that it would be a lazy holiday read, something typical to enjoy while I was lounging around the beach. Well I was definitely wrong about that.
I didn’t finish Butterfly Fish on holiday, and it remained on my bed side table untouched for a couple of weeks whilst I sought some kind of normality. Now that it’s finished and I’ve finally turned the last page I can say that I read Butterfly Fish out of curiosity. What I thought would be a mindless read had turned into something I was compelled to do, I had no control. I had to finish.
The book is split into three different parts, and different perspectives. Beginning in London today with Joy we are slowly introduced to Adesua, in nineteenth century Benin, a simple young woman who enjoyed hunting, and finally Queenie who travelled to London in 1970 in search of her father.
When reading it was hard to know what was real. Joy’s mental torment and anguish is splayed onto the page in fits and bursts, and as the book progresses the writing continues to reveal her fragile state of mind.
‘From the corner of my eye, I spotted the green man leave a set of traffic lights to rescue a broken beam of light landed outside a betting shop.’
There were also moments that truly captivated me, exquisitely written and full of emotion.
‘…the sun God stepped out, stuffing bits of shredded, stolen moonbeam where he could. His golden rays searing through the thickened air and cutting it into slices he opened his mouth wide to swallow their cries.’
I’m glad that I persevered through all of the book. One part completely threw me off guard and left me slack-jawed sitting on the bus. The final revelation is still haunting me. It was sick, and it was twisted, and it was something that I had never expected.
You should definitely read Butterfly Fish because it’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before.