The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma


This review has been long overdue. I read The Fishermen some time ago following this brilliant review by the African Book Addict before the Booker long list was announced and I jumped right into the novel, with no inkling that it would fast become one of my favourite books of the year.
Written from the perspective of younger brother Benjamin, the novel follows the lives of four Nigerian brothers from a close knit family, their prophetic encounter with a madman and the devastating effect that one moment can generate. This notion of external forces wreaking havoc and destroying the great potential of the family is perhaps an allegory for Nigeria, the resource rich nation whose own story could be very different were it not for the ravages of foreign colonialism and  internal corruption. But I digress. Whilst there is indeed an undercurrent of political discontent in the story, it is buried deep beneath a beautiful, engaging and intimate portrayal of a family in crisis. Obioma’s evocation of the minutiae of life and the foibles of this family are understated yet powerful, compelling the reader to fully imbibe the story. The language is simple, terse and simultaneously emotive, multifaceted and highly efficacious. The narrative, which switches between adult Benjamin and Benjamin as a child feels cathartic, brimmed with animalistic and esoteric allusions that serve as innocent, child -like signifiers of the imminent tragedy. This book is everything and more that I want in a novel, it left my head in that brilliant post good- book head –fog for about a week and my only complaint would be that Obioma doesn’t have another novel for me to read! With humble nods to the great Achebe throughout the book, Obioma looks set to follow the success of his literary forefather with this brilliant debut. And he certainly gets my vote for the Man Booker!