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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Not quite hooked yet: The Fishermen

Just a few more notes on Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen - and, yes, it becomes pretty clear we're reading some kind of modern-day Biblical tale, as we soon learn that the oldest brother, Ike, punished by the absent father, is becoming the "bad" son - and that there will be rivalry between the good-son narrator, Ben, and the oldest brother (or maybe some other lines of demarcation among the 4 older bros.). I like that the novel continues to feel like a true narrative and how Obioma conveys the sense and spirit of growing up in an aspiring family amid the great poverty of a small Nigerian city in the 90s - the novel feels autobiographical, as most first novels do, but that may be illusory - perhaps there was no "bad" brother in O's family, but he makes the story line credible. In part he does so by also keeping the story line somewhat tepid. Ike is a a bad brother - but his misbehavior and alienation is anything but extreme - in fact not much more that typical alienated teenage angst with a little bit of juvenile pranks thrown in - stealing a rooster from a neighbor who has ratted him out and beheading it (the rooster, not the neighbor), burning a calendar that the family treasured because it had a photo of the brothers w/ a political leader, stalking out of the house w/out permission (he's 15), stuff like that. Would it be a stronger and more engaging novel if the stakes were higher - if he'd stabbed a neighbor rather than a rooster, burned down a shop or a church rather than an out-of-date wall calendar? Yes, I think it would - but then perhaps I'd believe less in the character. Obioma works methodically, building his plot, but he's in danger of dangling readers too long and losing them to more visceral and exciting past-times, like TV, like the Red Sox. Or maybe not.

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