Kirsty Campbell and Aike Jansen kickstart our new book review feature as part of the Arts and Culture section. If you have read a particular novel/poem/drama that inspires you, or even one that you hate with a passion, send those raves & rants our way at email@example.com.
‘The Fishermen’ – Chigozie Obioma
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma is a unique tale that confronts universal themes in a simple and captivating manner. The story follows the paths of four tight-knit brothers through their boyhoods in 1980s-90s Nigeria. It depicts how fear can pull even the closest loved ones apart and how loss drives sane people into mania. Obioma forces the reader to re-evaluate the meaning of loyalty, revenge, truth and sacrifice by engaging in the perspective gained by the child-like innocence of the youngest brother of the novel. The narrative builds a complex, truthful mirror of the world by weaving together many simple strands of reflection, insight and story. Thus Obioma captures both the necessary intricacy and simplicity of the themes. Yet the novel is a work of art, as the beauty of imagery draws the reader into recent Nigeria and allows the reader to experience a mindset most likely uniquely different to his or her own. The Fishermen can be viewed as a modern take on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, as in both novels the language and setting reveal a different world to western readers, which the themes simultaneously transcend to leave you pondering for a long time to come. Exciting and thought-provoking until the very last page, this is a perfect book for any summer.
‘1Q84’ – Haruki Murakami
A book that, on the other hand, isn’t perfect for summer is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. That is, if you are hoping to get a lot done these last weeks before lectures and can’t have your eyes continually glued to the pages of a novel. If you have some time to spare though, please do yourself a favour and embark on this extraordinary journey through the magic realist world of 1Q84. Set in Tokyo in 1984, the novel moves through time and space, presenting the reader a dreamlike narrative of existential questions and fascinating stories, mixed in with a religious cult; magical, god-like creatures and true, true love.
Murakami’s usually very sparse style is slightly more descriptive in this novel, but it’s still incredible how little words he needs to create so many life-like characters in a tangible world. The story follows the lives of two solitary inhabitants of Tokyo, Tengo and Aomame, the connection between whom will slowly appear to you.
The three books that 1Q84 consists of make up approximately a 1000 pages, but even after all those were finished I wished there were more. The novel is confusing, exciting and strange, but mostly utterly captivating.