I continued my summer of reading literary thrillers with Will Fergusen’s 419. I was late to the party on this one, with folks suggesting I read it for years. Something about it made me resistant to reading, and it wasn’t until it was the *only* book to have come in to the library from my list of requests that I gave in and picked it up. That 419 is terrific only (once again) proves that I am ridiculous for following my arbitrary whims when it comes to book covers and gut feelings. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Nigeria
419: A gripping exploration of economic inequality (without it feeling like a book about economic inequality)
“How was it possible to miss something you no longer wanted?” (Adichie, 7-8) asks our protagonist, Ifemelu, of herself in the opening pages of the (brilliant) Americanah by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie (also author of the brilliant Half of a Yellow Sun). In asking the question Ifemelu sets up the parallel plot threads that cycle through the story: love lost-found-lost-found-lost and immigration arrival-settle-resettle-departure-arrival-settle-resettle. More specifically she’s asking the question about a recent breakup – a question that – for this reader at least – resonates. In any case, throughout the story we witness Ifemelu grapple with determining what she wants, where she wants to be, what she wants to be doing, who she wants to be – and the ways she can, and cannot, make these decisions (and the ways these decisions are restricted by overt forces/characters or by the less direct, but no less powerful, figures (because they do often have personified characters) of race, class and gender. Continue reading
I really do love historical fiction. I’ve imagined and theorized why I love it in other places, so let me just say here that I love it a whole lot as a genre. And so when a great book in my favourite genre comes along, there’s naught to do but enjoy the experience of encountering a historical story turned fiction as history.
*Half of a Yellow Sun* follows a (loosely constituted) family of five as Nigeria separates into Biafra and the attendant starvation, war crimes and crisis of identities that attended the separation and then reunification. It’s embarrassing (but also revealing) to realize how little I knew of the history of the region and the conflict, and a testament to the strength of the novel and the genre that I left the book feeling as though I know more, but also that I really must know much more – need to find out much more.
I should note a dissatisfaction in the narrative voice. The narrative moves through third person limited narration in the different chapters as the reader is invited to experience the conflict through different gendered, class and national points of view. The purpose of this shift and its effect are well executed, but the voices themselves miss the unique quality that make them distinct “voices,” rather they read as a single authorial voice attempting to thread the particular character. So I praise the intent and the effect of the different perspectives, but suggest that the different perspectives themselves could have been (much) better developed.