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Booker Prize 2019 Longlist: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma




Book 7 Read and rated by panellists Book Worm, Nicole & Tracy

Synopsis from the Booker Prize website: Umuahia, Nigeria. Chinonso, a young poultry farmer, sees a woman attempting to jump to her death from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his most prized chickens into the water below to demonstrate the severity of the fall. The woman, Ndali, is moved by his sacrifice.

Bonded by this strange night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family, and when they officially object to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a small college in Cyprus. Once in Cyprus, he discovers that all is not what it seems. Furious at a world that continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further and further away from his dream, from Ndali and the place he called home. Partly based on a true story, An Orchestra of Minorities is also a contemporary twist on Homer’s Odyssey. In the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about the tension between destiny and determination.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is another book that causes me conflict I really enjoyed the beginning where Chinonso is a simple chicken farmer doing his best to get on in the world, I loved the farm setting and his relationship with his chickens, I enjoyed watching his relationship with Ndali develop and how his  conflict with her family changed both their lives, I loved the way the narrative was told by Chinonso’s guardian spirit but once we hit parts 2 and 3 everything went downhill not only for Chinoso but for me as a reader as well.

By the end of the book I was just waiting for the final disaster to happen so that it could be over and done with. Chinoso developed in character from a fine young man it would be a pleasure to meet to a hate filled, revenge driven, horrible human. Yes this transformation was the whole point of the book and the story was telling the reader how given the right set of circumstances this could have happened to anyone but really did everything have to be so bleak? Where was the redemption?

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment:1 /2
Total: 14/20

Nicole’s Thoughts: OMG this book was such a colossal bummer.  I don’t need my books to have happy endings, I don’t need my books full of lightness and humor, but for the love of all that is holy, could one good thing happen?  I can’t wipe this from my consciousness fast enough.  And that’s going to be hard because I listened to it, and it was long.

The writing was very good and there were probably a lot of deep themes which I completely missed because I couldn’t focus on anything other than the path of destruction.  And the overuse of the word “mommy” (Not sure how it was spelled, but assuming that way.)

It took me half the book to care about what happened next, and it only lasted until about 3/4 of the way through. I would have given up if not for the Booker.  Is this worthy of the nomination?  Maybe. But does good writing (and perhaps, begrudgingly, good story telling) make up for leaving the reader in the fetal position?   The story wasn’t particularly original (reminding me of Stoner and to some degree Wuthering Heights, and probably The Odyssey which I have not read but which was mentioned a lot at the end), and the characters just weren’t likable.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 2.5/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 12.5/20

Tracy’s Thoughts: I love a good retelling, and this was of the Odyssey- Greek myths  with Nigerian folklore thrown in?  Yes please.

The story was good, but it just felt detached. I don’t know if it was the narrator of the story itself, or the narrator of the audiobook that I listened to. I wish I had read the book for this one.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 14.5/20

The Man Who Saw Everything 18.2
Lanny 15.92
Frankissstein 15.2
My Sister, the Serial Killer 14.6
An Orchestra of Minorities 13.66
Lost Children Archive 13.3
The Wall 11.57

What are your thoughts on this one will it make the short list?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. pbtanita #

    Wow, this one ranked a bit higher than I expected given all the reviews I’ve read about it – – with a 10:1 ratio against . . .honestly, that’s why I shunted it to the end of my list and so hope it doesn’t make the shortlist, lol.


    August 20, 2019
  2. you are NOT missing anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 20, 2019
  3. Reblogged this on The Sardonic Reviewer.


    August 20, 2019

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