October 18th, 2015

ocean witch, book witch

Book 98: The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

Book 98: The Fishermen.
Author: Chigozie Obioma, 2015.
Genre: Period Fiction. Africa. Family Drama.
Other Details: ebook. 304 pages.

Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990's Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his extended absence to skip school and go fishing. At the ominous, forbidden nearby river, they meet a dangerous local madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This was a well written, powerful tale of four brothers growing up in 1990s Nigeria. It is quite a tragic story though not devoid of hope and redemption.

While the novel is set almost entirely in the home town of the brothers it does encompass universal themes. It also explores the tension between the traditions of Nigeria and Christianity. In this it reminded me a little of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, which was also a highly acclaimed Nigerian début novel.

This was a contender for my second favourite for its ability to transport me to another culture along with the themes. The novel certainly was was the focus for a great deal of discussion in our Man Booker Shadowing Readers' Group as some of the aspects stirred quite strong responses.

Book #50: A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay

Number of pages: 512

This novel opens with private detective Cal Weaver, who also narrates most of the story, giving a lift to a girl called Claire. Claire is a friend of Cal's son Scott, who we find out later was a drug addict who died apparently as the result of an ecstasy overdose.

Shortly afterwards, Cal and Claire stop at a service station for a comfort break; Claire goes missing and Cal gets frantic, until he finds her back in the car; it seems that things have resolved themselves.

But there is just one thing wrong...

Cal quickly realises that this girl is not Claire, but a stranger who just looks almost identical. When he questions her, she demands he stop the car, and then storms off.

Inevitably, Claire soon becomes the subject of a missing persons case, setting off a tense thriller in which Cal attempts to find out both what happened to Claire and resolve the death of his son. This novel seems darker than previous Linwood Barclay novels I've read before, since it involves some bleak subject matter. As well as the theme of drug addiction, there is an implied rape.

I love the way that Linwood Barclay plays with the expectations of the audience and turns things completely on their head, and the only problem with this book was that I was expecting it to turn into something much more surprising than in actually was. Nevertheless, the way the mystery unravelled was enthralling and I was excited to see what happened next, with the only drawback being that when the characters started explaining what had really happened, I really had to start paying attention.

The book's first person narrative style was good, with a few flashbacks to Scott's childhood, which are effective at showing the father/son relationship that they shared. A few chapters break away from the first-person narration to the point of view of other characters in the third person. They are a bit weird, as you don't know whose point of view it is, and they almost gave me a sense of being a "fly on the wall". Later in the book, these are explained and it starts to make sense.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. My previous Linwood Barclay novel was Never Look Away, which I was disappointed by, and I still need to read the other titles he as written since that one. However, I found this one very enjoyable and want to keep reading his books.

Next book: The Autograph Man (Zadie Smith)
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