The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma


Book 42: I finished this earlier today and did so with tears in my eyes. None rolled, but they were there. I found it moving, at the end, and also found that it seemed perfectly paced, the last quarter of the book. I felt doom, I felt apprehension and I felt admiration.

It’s a fine novel, fascinating the way the family uses different languages, how linguistics can be connected to culture and custom and even emotions. English used for certain contexts, the local language for others. I remember teaching English to overseas students, here in Melbourne. One Chinese young man said that he and his mother used English to say ‘I love you’. They never used Mandarin. That somehow speaking in English was freer and allowed for emotions in a way that Chinese didn’t. I remember feeling sad about that, that it was somehow a limiting thing, but over the years I’ve realised how fantastically lucky people are who have more than one language in their lives. People can feel differently when they use another language, and can possibly be a different person, or pick and choose and expand. This is something not possible for me with my school-girl French, my almost non-existent Japanese and my best-but-still-shit Turkish.

I recommend this book. I don’t know if it’ll win the Booker but how lovely if it does. It’s a story with a lot of heart in it, beautifully written, and with excitement too. One part, towards the end, I was tense reading it and I haven’t felt that for a long time with a book.

Here’s Lisa Hill’s review at ANZLitLovers. She liked it too.

[Books 40 & 41 were Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and Susan Johnson’s The Landing, both published by my publisher, Allen & Unwin. I’m not going to review them, for obvious reasons, other than to say I really enjoyed both, and the places each took me (and a particular relief after Mr Franzen). I also really loved meeting Susan at her launch earlier this week at Corrie Perkins’s My Bookshop in Toorak, and I’m looking forward to meeting Charlotte at a workshop later in the year, over a weekend.

Susan is a complete babe, and mentioned me in her speech which was entirely gorgeous and embarrassing. What a generous woman. Then, while signing her book for me, insisted I sign mine for her! Went and got a copy off the shelf and put it in front of me. It was her night and there she was, encouraging a new author and a making a fuss of me. Introducing me. Mentioning me by name in her speech. It was unexpected and a little overwhelming and I will never forget the kindness and encouragement.]

5 thoughts on “The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma

  1. How lovely, Jenny! It’s awesome when you’re treated in a special way by someone you admire and respect. Susan Johnson sounds like a great person 😀

    1. I hope you enjoy it. And as we now know, it didn’t win the Booker… I don’t think it was high on the bookie’s lists… Do you plan to read the winner, the Marlon James one? It sounds interesting to me. I have A Little Life to take away with me next week. Have been saving it.

      1. I plan to read Marlon James too. Those are the two on the shortlist that caught my eye.
        I did read some of A Little Life but then decided to stop. I have only read wonderful reviews about it but I kept getting three of the four main characters confused (ah! reading in bursts while my toddler sleeps!) and then I felt it was turning into a misery memoir and I don’t like reading upsetting things since having said toddler.
        I can see why all the reviews are so positive so I hope you will enjoy it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s