Monday, 22 February 2016

Man Booker Shortlist 2015/// Review: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.


Book: The Fishermen

Author: Chigozie Obioma

Pages: 300

Read On: Paperback copy

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2-3 days

Plot Summary: In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990's, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family. Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. 

When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of its characters and its readers. 

Dazzling and viscerally powerful, The Fishermen never leaves Akure but the story it tells has enormous universal appeal. Seen through the prism of one family's destiny, this is an essential novel about Africa with all of its contradictions—economic, political, and religious—and the epic beauty of its own culture. With this bold debut, Chigozie Obioma emerges as one of the most original new voices of modern African literature, echoing its older generation's masterful storytelling with a contemporary fearlessness and purpose. 

General Thoughts: This was another book on the Man Booker Shortlist from 2015 that I wanted to read. I love stories about families and African literature. This is the 5th book I've read that is set in Nigeria and I loved all of the books set in this country.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing was wonderful, evocative and and smooth and thoroughly engaging. I loved it! The writer does a fantastic job of making Nigeria in the 1990s come alive and the people and places and home seemed real and genuine.

2. Family stories are hands down my favourite things to read about. Families in all shapes and sizes and forms are always make for an intriguing read. This family was going through a few bumps when this book starts- the father gets a transfer and the family now has to learn to live without him. A seemingly small change, leads to big life-altering turns. Also we see this family go through so much more through the length of this book and it was always an engaging reading experience.

3. I love reading about siblings as well. The often complex world of siblings, the rivalry, the friendship and often competitiveness is something I always enjoy. I've read quite a few books about sisters and their bond but I don't quite remember reading about brothers. So this was a nice relationship to read about.

4. The book talks a lot of prophecy. The power of prophecy and what seemed to me a lot about the self-fulfilling prophecy. You can look at it in two ways. One, yes the madman was a prophet of some kind. Wise and with an ability to make astute predictions about the future. Or you could see that once someone predicts something sinister, the person about whom the prediction is made can either choose to believe it or not. Or you could dwell on it and sink on it. I loved reading about this. I also enjoy books that make you think and wonder which side (of any given situation) you want to pick.

5. The brother bond is shown so well. Not overly sentimental or cloying. Boisterous yet caring and full of affection.

6. I loved that the people in this book try so hard to set things right. In so many books, there is something going on and instead of just talking about it or intervening. This annoys me so much. But I loved that in this book, once the mother finds out about the prophecy she works so hard at trying to talk some sense into her eldest. As do the brothers, all of them try to talk and sort things out.

7. The book is almost like a fable. A cautionary tale. With elements of Greek tragedy. And all of this is done so well.

8. The story is told by Ben, the youngest of the four brothers. He tells the story both as a young child when the events happen and also when he is looking back when he is older. This adds a nice element to the story telling.

9. My favourite thing about the book has to be the theme of consequences and really how seemingly small and inconsequential things take on mammoth proportions due to our own actions and decisions.

10. This book will break your heart and even though it's fable-like quality might on occasion feel a little out there, overall all of it, the story and what happens could happen just as easily.

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. Even though Ben is our narrator and we see this world through his eyes, he remains a fairly hollow character. I felt like inspite of spending so much time with him, I didn't really get to know him at all.

2. Somewhere in the middle of the book, I felt my interest slipping a tiny bit. A lot of things were said and shown over and over again. Like the eldest two siblings fighting and bickering and hurting each other was shown far too many times.

3. There are also two instances of the brothers, all four of them, doing something notable and making it to the News. These two events were a little exaggerated and slightly OTT.

Rating: 4/5

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