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Butterfly Fish

Irenosen Okojie

352 pages
Jacaranda Books Art Music

Winner of the Betty Trask Award 2016.

"A novel of epic proportions... I fully expect to see Butterfly Fish on many an award nomination list." - Yvette 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

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.

Author Bio

Irenosen Okojie MBE is a British-Nigerian writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won the 2016 Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular was shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize, the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Her novel Nudibranch was featured in Vanity Fair, and was championed by Margaret Atwood as a wild, recommended read and selected as one of the best books of the year in the Guardian and Observer Review by Bernardine Evaristo and Diana Evans.

Irenosen has been a judge for The Society of Authors, The London Short Story Prize, The Royal Society Of Literature, the Berlin Writing Prize, Henley Literary Festival and Mslexia Short Story Competition. She was a judge for the 2020 BBC National Short Story Award and the 2021 Gordon Burn Prize. She is currently a judge for the Women's Prize 2022 Discoveries development programme, the International Dylan Thomas Prize and The British Book Awards. She has moderated panels for The Testaments tour, the Southbank Centre, Africa Writes, English PEN, Birmingham Literature Festival, Writing on The Wall Festival in conversation with Marlon James and others. She was the first Writer in Residence for Words of Colour, and was awarded an MBE for Services to Literature in 2021.