Oyinkan Braithwaite – My Sister, the Serial Killer

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Oyinkan Braithwaite  – My Sister, the Serial Killer

Korede and her sister Ayoola live in Lagos together with their mother since their father dies. Korede, who works at a hospital as a nurse, is a decent, but rather plain young woman whereas Ayoola always has all the looks on her. Even though the sisters couldn’t hardly be more different, they are sister after all so when Ayoola calls her, it is without any question that Korede shows up with some bleach to wipe away the mess of another murder. They have done it before and will also succeed this time. Why does she have to kill all her boyfriends? Korede wonders but since none of the was really important to her, she remains secret and the sister she is supposed to be. But when Ayoola starts dating to one man Korede really likes, things become a bit more complicated.

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is a hilarious read full of absurd situations and fantastic characters. The author, who graduated in Creative Writing and was a 2016 finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, surely knows how to create outstanding characters and how to combine humour with an actually very serious topic. What I appreciated most is how she, on the surface, wrote a funny story that, beneath, offers so much crucial and grave issues. What it all comes down to after all is the well-known fact that blood is thicker than water and that without any question, you know which side you have to be on.

Ayoola is a serial killer – absurd as it may sound, the title is absolutely clear about it and after the opening scene, you know all about her killings. Yet, this is one of the least interesting aspects, much more remarkable is the sisters’ relationship: jealousy, love, anger, hatred, support – the full spectrum of emotions. Of course, it is Korede that the reader commiserates, she is obviously the good girls that nobody notices, neither their parents nor the men. I wondered if Ayoola suffered from some kind of mental illness, she somehow does not really seem to realise what she does, but she definitely is rather egocentric and not very considerate when it comes to other people’s feelings.

“My sister, the Serial Killer” is a black comedy that should not be taken too seriously I guess. It is a great read that I utterly enjoyed. I am absolutely looking forward to reading more from the author.

Christina Dalcher – Vox

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Christina Dalcher – Vox

Woman – the root of all evil. Therefore, under the new POTUS, women are confined to the house, forbidden to work, thy only have to care for their husbands and children, and most importantly, they aren’t allowed to speak more than one hundred words a day. “Bracelet” is what they call the device which counts their words and sends electronic shocks in case they exceed the set number. Dr. Jean McClelland, once a successful and renowned scientist, sees her life limited in a major way and she regrets all the marches she hasn’t taken part in, the petitions she hasn’t signed and the signs she has misinterpreted. When the president’s brother has an almost fatal accident, the most capable doctor is needed, thus Jean unexpectedly comes into the position of possibly setting conditions and finding a way out of her once beloved home country.

In many respects, this dystopia is highly disturbing. Not just because of what is narrated and imagining what happens there, but because you can easily reckon how such a situation might become a reality. Even though we believe to live in a world where men and women are equal and where women have gained their place in work and society, a group of men feeling deprived of their rights of superiority and therefore doing everything to turn back the time, is simple to picture.

I had heard a lot about Christina Dalcher’s novel and quite often, if too many people praise a book I become increasingly reluctant of agreeing. Yet, in this case, I totally consent to the majority of readers. The plot is very well developed, the characters seem absolutely authentic to me and the author’s style of writing is captivating. I especially appreciated how Jean’s eldest son is brainwashed, not for the fact itself, but as a convincing illustration of how easily people can fall prey to false prophets and walk right in the trap. Dalcher gets to the core with her protagonist, she has to make decisions that nobody wants to make and each reader has to answer for him- or herself which side they would be on and, first and foremost, what they do in reality to prevent such developments from happening.

Caroline O’Donoghue – Promising Young Women

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Caroline O’Donoghue – Promising Young Women

Jane Peters is a 16-year-old women working in marketing. She mainly does secretarial tasks, nothing too demanding and far from the fancy marketing stuff she had expected. It is her private website where she provides advice as agony aunt “Jolly Politely” that keeps her mood up since she spilt with her boyfriend. When she attracts the attention of her boss Clem, an unexpected chance opens up and she can win a new and important customer for her company. Yet, Clem is not only interested in her professionally and thus an uncontrollable spiral of dependence is set in motion.

Caroline O’Donoghue’s debut novel promised a new side of the old man-woman, power-dependence topic with a witty and strong minded female protagonist who is capable of breaking through old walls and securing herself a place in a man’s world. However, this isn’t what I found in the novel and admittedly I am a bit disappointed.

First if all, the characters are full of clichés and quite foreseeable. Jane as well as her colleagues are rather naive and slightly stupid when it comes to relationships and interpersonal dynamics. Why don’t they see the obvious thing in front of them and why are they eagerly abused? That you are not full of self-confidence when you are young and new in the job and quickly impressed by male conduct is understandable, but running into the trap in front of you isn’t necessary either. Likewise, the male characters are also rather one-dimensional and predictable in their behaviour.

Thus, the whole story becomes a bit stereotypical and lacks individuality and originality. What I could expect from a really important and ground-breaking novel would also be a completely different ending, this was a quite disappointing, the message cannot actually be to look out for a more female adequate job where you don’t meet those bullying men.

The style of writing, however, is something I really liked, it is funny and often amusing and full of puns. Caroline O’Donoghue is witty and creative and the light-heartedness with which Jane comments on the postings on her website are not just funny but also very clever and true. Sadly, she herself does not act accordingly. All in all, there was more in the story from a feminist point of view, as it is, it is somehow nice, but without the impact it might have had.