[Saman Booker 2019] Chigozie Obioma – AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES

Aaaaaand here’s my 15-minute review!

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Start date: 5 August
End date: 13 August
Total reading time: 5 hours 3 minutes (in 7 days)

Initial impressions:
Wow, what a voice! Loved the depictions of Igbo and Nigerian culture – was really fascinated and wanted to know more!

What I liked:

  • The narrative POV: the story is told by the protagonist’s ‘chi’ or guardian spirit, who’s pleading on behalf of the protagonist to Igbo deities
  • The Igbo cosmology
  • The layered storytelling and pace – the narrator’s long-winded narratives really convey the character’s concept of time
  • The wonderfully rich and detailed setting!
  • The post-colonial tensions – so haunting and sad (in a good way)

What I disliked:

  • The protagonist. I understand he’s a product of his culture, but some of his actions and decisions are just not okay. I realise I’m coming at this from a rather Westernised perspective, but I was very uncomfortable with how he treats women
  • Subsequently, I got impatient with the narrator/chi’s loquacious story-telling, and especially its defence of the protagonist. I would love this type of narration to be applied to Ndali, the main female character
  • Generally the toxic masculinity. Again, I understand the novel intends to represent a culture and people not often found in Anglophone literature, but all the pleading and excusing of the characters’ behaviours made me mad and sad (in a bad way)

Overall:
Alas, while I know what I would’ve like this book to be, I also accept there was no alternative way of telling this particular type of story. I did enjoy the immersive experience of the novel, and I suspect it’ll be one of the more memorable titles from the Saman Booker 2019.

Personal rating: 4/5
Personal shortlist: Likely
Personal winner: Unlikely

Professional rating: 4/5
Booker shortlist: Likely
Booker winner: Possibly

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