Book Review: ‘The Fishermen’ by Chigozie Obioma
Title: The Fishermen
Author: Chigozie Obioma
Publishing Date: April 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
“I have now come to know that what one believes often becomes permanent,
and what becomes permanent can be indestructible.”
The Fishermen is a dark and harrowing story of four brothers whose lives were altered tragically after hearing a prophecy. Set in the small town of Akure, southern Nigeria, the story is told through the eyes of Benjamin the youngest of the four. As the story unfolds, we see how one incident can have a ripple effect on many lives.
As Obioma chronicles the lives of these four boys, he uses a lot of folkloric story-telling techniques. His descriptions are quite vivid and they bring to the reader’s mind images that are strange yet amazing. His use of language is powerful and it’s no surprise that this was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2015.
The backdrop of this tragic story paints a picture of the cultural and political landscape of Nigeria in the mid-90s. It is interesting to see his description of a society that is suspended between the modern and the antiquated.
“Although Christianity had almost cleanly swept through Igbo land,
crumbs and pieces of the African traditional religion had eluded the broom.”
This book was a difficult read for me and I skipped several lines (even whole paragraphs at times) in order to get to the end. This wasn’t due to poor writing or storytelling – far from it. It was rather due to the excellent use of language and imagery that illustrated some revolting scenes that I sometimes couldn’t handle. His words added depth to the narrative, but detailed and graphic descriptions of excrement, filth, and dead bodies were sometimes a bit much for me.
Despite this, the narrative was so intriguing and the plot held tightly until the very end that I just couldn’t stop reading. The story draws the reader in and causes you to invest in it. I often found myself willing the characters to do something different from their proposed intentions, and asking myself numerous “what if” questions. As you read it, you question aspects of society as well as explore the fragility of human nature and the power of our mind.
I highly recommend this one, but do tread carefully if you don’t have a stomach for the heavier stuff.
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