Firstly, I’d like to thank Lara for gifting me a copy of this book about three months ago. I found out about the book on Instagram. Bookstagram is the plug for new books! You’re welcome. I was excited about reading it because I read Chigozie’s debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ and I liked it. If I remember correctly, I gave it 4 stars!
Author – Chigozie Obioma
Pages – 516 pages
Published by Parrésia Publishers Ltd
ISBN – 9789785659504
Umuahia, Nigeria. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, sees a woman attempting to jump to her death from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his most prized chickens into the water below to demonstrate the severity of the fall. The woman, Ndali, is moved by his sacrifice.
Bonded by this strange night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family, and when her parents object to the union because Chinonso is uneducated, Cells most of his possessions to attend university in Cyprus. Once in Cyprus, Chinonso discovers that all is not what it seems. Furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further and further away from his dream, from Ndali and the place he called home.
In this contemporary twist on Milton, Dante and Homer written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about the tension between destiny and determination.
Before I start this review, let me just put it out there that this book has been shortlisted for the Booker prize this year. The only book by an African author on the list. The winner of this year’s Booker Prize will be announced on the 14th October 2019.
As a Nigerian, I am immensely proud of him but if we are keeping it one hundred, I’m a bit shocked it was picked in the first place and I’ll tell you why.
Let’s get right into it shall we?
I tried to read this book twice before I finally finished it. I abandoned it after the first chapter but decided to pick it up again, then abandoned it after the second chapter. Once I got past the first 50 pages, it started to get a little better. It’s a big book so prepare your mind for long journey.
Chinonso is basically a sad man living a sad life. Both parents are dead, he’s not speaking to his only sibling because she went and got married and then moved to Lagos. He lives alone with his chickens till he fell in love with Ndali and it started to look like things might be better for him but his ‘village people’ had the upper hand because he kept going from one mess to the other.
So the book started off with Chinonso’s chi which is basically like his spirit intervening on his behalf to the gods in the spirit world. I found that bit fascinating (I mean, the idea of having a spirit and said spirit having the ability to sorta influence your decisions. The idea that your spirit watches over you and sometimes sees you about to make a bad decision but all it can do is try to persuade you not to. This is a concept that is not entirely unfamiliar to Nigerians.) until I realised his Chi literally won’t shut up and certainly won’t stop distracting us. His Chi was supposed to narrate the story of Chinonso’s life and tell us why he is the way he is and sort of justify the things he did but he spent half the time reminding us what his job was and basically tried to push the blame away from himself. I honestly would’ve preferred reading directly from Chinonso’s POV.
Also, I was very frustrated by the main character – Chinonso and I could sense how confused the author was writing about him. He first started off making us believe chinonso was naive and clueless then went ahead to show us how mentally unstable he was while still trying so hard to justify his silly actions. I wasn’t even sure if the author wanted us to sympathise with Chinonso because all I felt was disgust with a tinge of irritation.
Furthermore, I think Ndali’s character could have been better developed. I mean surely, there was more to her than her relationship and what she did for Chinonso. Like, C’mon!
I also found that it was a very repetitive and unnecessarily long book IMO, this book had no business being 516 pages. It was obvious he was trying to add fillers and that made it super exhausting to read.
I was frustrated and disappointed because I actually really like the plot but it wasn’t engaging enough for me.
Chigozie does have a unique style of writing which I reckon some people really love. I find his stories intriguing and different which is a very good thing. I wish he put more effort into making his stories richer and engaging.
Ratings – 3 stars
I know it seems like the cons are more than the pros but I’m coming from a place of disappointment because I had such high hopes. I will recommend this if you’re into books leave you a bit frustrated.
I would also like to state that some pages were missing and some were not numbered accordingly. I’m not sure who to blame for that but it threw me off a bit. They definitely need to do better!
If you’ve read this? Did you enjoy it?
Also, I’m currently reading two books with similar themes and I’m loving them. Follow me on Instagram to read mini reviews that don’t make it on here !