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2015 Man Booker Longlist: The Fishermen


We have officially moved into the second half of the long list with this next review. Thus far, we’ve only had two real standouts: A Little Life (reviewed by Jen) and The Illuminations (reviewed by Book Worm). Find out if this next one makes the cut.

The Fishermen by Obioma
Published in: 2015
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it here: The Fishermen

Four brothers, Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Benjamin, discover a love of fishing and start making regular trips to a river that is considered a place of ill luck. Unbeknownst to their mother, they keep up these fishing trips for 6 weeks, calling themselves “the fishermen. Their trips come to an end after the local madman with the power of predicting the future predicts that the eldest brother Ikenna will be killed by one of his brothers. From that point forward, we follow the disintegration of the family unit through a series of tragic events.

I wanted to love this, I really did. I read a fair amount of African Literature and in the last year have read several books by Nigerian authors (Chimimanda Adichie is one of my current favorite authors). I liked this book, I just didn’t love it. Perhaps my review is colored by the fact that I had just finished A Little Life by Yanigahara — a book I found profoundly emotional and one that left a big impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, The Fishermen is a good book and Obioma is a skilled author who will likely have much continued success in his career. It just didn’t have the same emotional impact on me as did some other books I have read. I felt somewhat disconnected from the characters and this impacted my ability to really connect with the story on an emotional level — intellectually I felt horrified and very sad for the family.

Family saga/dramas seem to be the theme this year in Longlist books. You have The Green Road – family drama in Ireland, Billy Clegg’s Did you Ever Have a Family, A Spool of Blue Thread, and The Fisherman. One major criteria that we (book worm and I ) use to determine our ranking is originality. Unfortunately, while I did enjoy the book, I didn’t find the premise particularly original since the main storyline in the Fisherman is family tragedy/drama but this time set in Nigeria. However, I concede that what makes it more original and interesting, than some of the other family sagas on the list is that the family’s disintegration is a metaphor for events in Nigeria. Yet, despite how clever the novel was, it still lags behind other Nigerian works I have read (e.g. Half of a Yellow Sun).

I should mention that The Fishermen gets glowing reviews across the board (see The New York Times Review or the Guardian review) and I seem to be the exception. As I have mentioned, I liked the book and in my star rating, I would give it 3.75/5 stars, possibly 4 stars.  Obioma does a really nice job in blending narrative styles and there are some parts that make you feel like you are sitting around a fire listening to a folktale.

Is it worth reading? Yes, I think you should try the book for yourself. It’s good. It wasn’t my favorite but I think it’s an interesting novel that you should read. Here are my ratings for it:

Available in English 1/1
Published in the UK: 1/1
Originality: 5/8
Character Complexity: 4/5
Writing Quality: 5/5
Total: 16/20

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here:The Fishermen

Here is our ranking of books to date:

  1.  Little Life: (based on Jen’s rating) & The Illuminations (based on Book Worm’s Rating): 18/20
  2. The Fishermen (based on Jen’s rating): 16/20
  3. Lila: 15/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  4. A Spool of Blue Thread: 14/20 (based on book worm’s rating)
  5. The Green Road (joint rating) & Satin Island (book worm’s rating): 13/20

Next up… Joint review of The Chimes.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. From what I have read of the reviews, it seems to have more in common with Adichie’s early work Purple Hibiscus, which was stunning, but not as sophisticated as her later works, which are breathtaking – wasn’t Half a Yellow Sun good??

    Liked by 1 person

    September 8, 2015
    • Half a yellow sun is one of my favorite books from recent years. I did like purple hibiscus quite a bit too.


      September 8, 2015
  2. Oh, I was waiting for more reviews on The Fishermen since out of all the books on the Booker Longlist, I was most excited for this and A Little Life. It does sound like Obioma will improve later on in his writing career so I may have to hold off on this one.

    Must have missed your review on A Little Life though. Will go check it out. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    September 8, 2015
    • I think the hyperlink will take you to the review of a little life. I wouldn’t necessarily hold off. I seem to be the exception since most people have loved the book.


      September 8, 2015
      • I need to hold off for personal reasons anyway. Too many unread books on my shelves. But I do want one book from the Booker list. I might do the predictable and buy the winner but A Little Life has intrigued me too.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 8, 2015
  3. I finished this today. I felt somewhat disconnected from the characters and this impacted my ability to really connect with the story on an emotional level sums it up for me, too. I had to work hard to find a connection. It’s a good book, but not an amazing one.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 6, 2016

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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