The Fishermen [1]

Author:

Chigozie Obioma

Title:

The Fishermen [1]

Publisher:

Pushkin Press

Nataka Books Reviews: 

The Fishermen [1]

The perfect book blending folklore, history, prose crafted sparingly for effect,  compact in the use of sentences giving the existing ones more meaning, poetry and above all a unique story that keeps moving forward and is relatable. A brilliant debut !


The tussle between ancient beliefs and myths, modern religions arriving in the region and the impact on local lives is what is explored at a grand level in this novel. On the ground, the family unit, what binds it together, and what stretched villages and communies to limits with consequences is explored. Through the single character and single story Obioma paints a panoramic view of societies.


--Review by Nataka Books

Nataka Books Full Review: 

The Fishermen [1]

The perfect book blending folklore, history, prose crafted sparingly for effect,  compact in the use of sentences giving the existing ones more meaning, poetry and above all a unique story that keeps moving forward and is relatable. A brilliant debut !


Four brothers, Ikenna, Bojanonimeokpu, Obembe and the youngest in the group who narrates the story, Benjamin, take to fishing on the Omi-Ala river and play around their village as boys do. Their escapades alone and the writing of Obioma of the boys relationship to their devoted mother suffices for content in this magical book. There are other layers.


Their father has to move away from home for work, returning every fortnight which is symptomatic of the arrival of change in Akure, Nigeria, and the role of father in the family created by  his absence. 


Esssentially, the mother has to immediately become both mother and father whilst the father sends money home. Obioma writes, "Mother was falconer: the one who stood on the hills and watched, trying to starve off whatever ills she perceived was coming to her children. She owned copies of our minds in pockets of her own mind and so could easily sniff troubles early in the forming, the same way sailors discern the forming foetus of a coming storm."


Where the father was once there to enforce discipline even from presence alone, the oldest boy senses the gap and dives straight through it. Tradegy strikes in their fishing trip and it changes the whole family forever.


The last time we read a book that required re-reding of the beautiful sentences multiple times was with Chimamanda Adichie,  Chinua Achebe or Osmane Sembene, to name but three. Chigozie Obioma clearly crafts each sentences for maximum impact and uses his words sparingly. It is very clear he is interested in more than conveying meaning and crafting a story.


Of the village madman who places a curse on the boys, Obioma writes, " His brain, Obembe said, dissolved into blood after the near fatal accident that left him insane. Obembe, through whom I came to an understanding of most things, knew Abulu's history..." Each boy learns from the older sibling and so on.


Being part-time father does not work. "You will each receive your Guerdon on your bare flesh, the way you came into this sinful world. I sweat and suffer to send you to school to receive a Western Education as civilized men, but you choose instead to be fishermen, Fish-a-men !" the father is indignant when we finds out about the boys' fishing trips. Is it too late?


The tussle between ancient beliefs and myths, modern religions arriving in the region and the impact on local lives is what is explored at a grand level in this novel. On the ground, the family unit, what binds it together, and what stretched villages and communies to limits with consequences is explored. Through the single character and single story Obioma paints a panoramic view of societies.


--Review by Nataka Books