The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
Publisher: Cassava Republic Press
Release Date: December 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction
Find It: Jumia
Nine-year-old Benjamin is the youngest of four brothers. They live in the rocky hills of Akure. When their civil servant father transfers to another town. The boys begin misbehaving: smashing windows, severing chicken heads and playing truant to follow M.K.O Abiola’s campaign trail. For six weeks they take to fishing in the forbidden Omi-Ala river. There they run into Abulu, a filthy yet visionary madman whose pronouncement of the murder of the eldest boy, Ikenna places a dark and fearful cloud over the brothers. If the prophecy is true, which of them will be the murderer? Abulu’s words have devastating yet redemptive consequences for the family. As guilt and sadness binds the brothers, while their parents sink into despair.
With this remarkable and almost biblical parable set in the Abacha years of 1990s Nigeria, Chigozie Obioma announces his presence as a powerful new voice in Nigerian fiction.
4 young boys, with minimal adult supervision, decide to take on the noble profession of fishing. In a town steeped in superstition, magic and the reasonable fear of it, What could go wrong?
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma tells the story of 4 brothers, Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben, who have the misfortune of listening to a prophecy from the local seer/madman predicting impending fratricide.
Narrated by 9-year-old Ben, the story takes us through the gradual deterioration of the brothers’ relationship and the aftermath of getting a glimpse into the “future”.
As an aside, I believe in prophecies and I also believe you should go running in the other direction if anyone offers to tell you about your future. One question I kept asking myself while reading The Fishermen was “If the boys hadn’t heard the prophecy, would it have come true?” because it seems to me the only reason it came to pass was that they heard it. This phenomenon is what made Harry Potter Voldemort’s nemesis btw but I digress.
While writing this review, the question was “What’s stayed with me?”. Here I am reviewing a book I read more than a month ago and the answer is “Not Much”.
While I was reading this book, I didn’t want to put it down. It was engaging, tragic yet beautiful and full of suspense. Not enough to jump to the end to find out what happened, I can’t be the only one who does this, but enough to hold my attention to the end.
I also appreciated the fact that Chigozie Obioma wasn’t skirting around the effect/fallout from the tragedies which occurred in The Fishermen. This was a big problem for me in Binti which saw the glossing over the massacre of school children.
The Fishermen had children getting murdered, children committing unspeakable atrocities. You see that but still appreciate their motives, their fears and that they’re still just children.
I could have had more to say about the plot, characters and the writing if this review was 4 weeks early. However, the truth is when all is said & done, The Fishermen didn’t leave much of an impression. Now, this could be due to 2 reasons:
1. I’m just not that into it.
2. I need a second read to appreciate it.
Since I’m an eternal optimist, this book is going on my “To read again someday”pile.