A fragile outsider living in London, Joy struggles to pull the threads of her life back together after her mother's sudden death. As family secrets come to light, she unearths the ties between her mother, grandfather, the wife of the king, a fearsome warrior, and a brass head's pivotal connection to them all.
Betty Trask Award winner 2016.
A stunning debut from the author of Speak Gigantular.
A fragile outsider living in London, Joy struggles to pull the threads of her life back together after her mother's sudden death. Emptiness consumes her and, needing to fill the gaps of her loss, she finds she is drawn to a unique artefact inherited from her mother - a warrior's head cast in brass that belonged to a king in eighteenth century Benin, Nigeria.
Joy is haunted by a beautiful young woman who appears in her photographs, familiar yet beguilingly distinct, the woman trails her wherever she goes. Joy begins to dream of a different time, a different place. She feels an inexplicable pull towards this mysterious female, and a past revealing itself through clues is scattered in her path. As family secrets come to light, she unearths the ties between her mother, grandfather, the wife of the king, a fearsome warrior, and the brass head's pivotal connection to them all.
Haunting and compelling, Butterfly Fish is a richly told story of love and hope; of family secrets, power, political upheaval, loss and coming undone.
'a novel of epic proportions... I fully expect to see Butterfly Fish on many an award nomination list.' Yvvette Edwards
'A stunningly well-written book, juggling different timescales with great skill. Benin itself is vividly imagined in a historical narrative that runs in parallel with the contemporary London one. It is a wonderful novel." Simon Brett OBE
'A wonderful, richly drawn novel, cleverly juxtaposing scenes from everyday London with African folklore and mysticism.' Joanne Harris
Butterfly Fish is a novel of epic proportions... From sentence to sentence, Okojie conjures up acutely observed, beautifully-worded metaphors that resonate and delight... I fully expect to see Butterfly Fish on many an award nomination list. It is a fascinating read, and one I highly recommend. - Yvette Edwards (author of A Cupboard Full of Coats, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and The Mother), Words of Colour
Her West African heritage is richly spun into her novel Butterfly Fish... The tale is peppered with moments of magical surrealism: a glass bottle shattering on a South London street to release two tiny scurrying figures into the night; a butterfly fish bursts into a local pool and belches a portentous brass key... The lyrical prose brings poignancy to the familiar London landscape. - Samuel Fishwick, Evening Standard
Vital, vivid, witty, truthful... - Maggie Gee, The Observer
Irenosen Okojie is a Nigerian British writer. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, the Observer, the Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. Nudibranch, her second collection was longlisted for the Jhalak Prize, the story Grace Jones won the 2020 AKO Caine Prize. A fellow and Vice Chair of The Royal Society of Literature, she is the co-presenter of the BBC's Novels That Shaped Our World podcast, Turn Up For The Books. She was awarded an MBE For Services to Literature in 2021.