Author; Chigozie Obioma (Nigerian)
Publisher/Year of Publication; Little Brown and Company, April 2015
Number of Pages; 295 (hard copy)
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015
The Fishermen follows the lives of four brothers and their family through friendship, disobedience, prophecy, misunderstanding, anger, fight and death that one single experience created. A mentally ill man prophesies death on one of the brothers when they go fishing in a forbidden river and it is the beginning of the end for all of them.
This wasn’t a bad book, however it is not one of the best books I’ve read. There were a few in conclusives and general errors, especially in translated words from Yoruba to English, which while may not be a serious issue, reduced it’s selling points for me. I have a fairly good grip on my spoken Yoruba and so it was very noticeable, anyone else though can read through without these sentiments.
It’s a story of the evil that suspicion and fear can cause. It is actually quite a sad story in that all it took for all of it to come crashing down was one day. One experience. One prophesy. It however ends with a hint of hope; a tiny ray of light. It is not much, but it is enough to hold on to.
It goes from low to high; mistrust and anger forming the bulk of it, then it peaks when there is death, suicide and attempted murder. The horror festers over the pages of the book, becoming the crux of it, and all of it’s characters come undone from one and the same experience. I must say that the writer did a good job telling the story of what would later happen to the boys with minimal or next to nothing suspicion on the part of the reader considering the fact that the experience that made things fall apart was obvious early enough in the book. It is largely a sad story as I remember putting the book down a few times just to recover, as the experience (prophesy) caused havoc on the protagonist family one by one.
There is a strong undertone of friendship in the brotherhood of Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben, even though the prophesy leaves their lives in such a mess.
One of it’s highlights for me is that it is set in Akure. The story never leaves Akure, it is good enough, and doesn’t need another city like London or New York to validate it.
It also reads like folklore, with many references to poems and songs.
Narrated by Ben, the younger of the four brothers as a young boy then later as an adult, it emphasises the importance of the presence of a father in the lives of children. It suggests that if perhaps the boys had a present father, the effects of what happened at the forbidden river may have been completely different.
Some of it’s lows for me was the writer trying to be uncharacteristically deep. Like trying so hard to pay homage to Chinua Achebe and his novel Things Fall Apart.
Also in the sense that he tried to work a certain speciality into every character, naming them and building their characters out of attributes of animals, mostly birds. While I have seen that style being praised as a good literary effort, it came to me as trying too hard, to tie things up, to give his characters substance and to give the perhaps false impression that a lot of psychological effort went into making the book. Which isn’t doubtful, considering the fact that it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for 2015. Many critics have opined that had Hanya not released her book “A Little Life” in the same year, The Fishermen would have easily been the most heart wrenching book of the year 2015.
I love the simplicity of the language and story telling. And even in it’s simplicity, it is emotive, capturing, such that you keep turning the page because Chigozie Obioma in this debut novel holds you spell bound through the pages.