The Fishermen

Chigozie Obioma

The Fishermen
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The Fishermen

Chigozie Obioma

In a small town in western Nigeria, four young brothers - the youngest is nine, the oldest fifteen - use their strict father’s absence from home to go fishing at a forbidden local river.

The encounter a dangerous local madman who predicts that the oldest brother will be killed by another. This prophesy breaks their strong bond, and unleashes a tragic chain of events of almost mythic proportions.

Passionate and bold, The Fishermen is a breathtakingly beautiful novel, firmly rooted in the best of African storytelling.

With this powerful debut, Chigozie Obioma emerges as one of the most original new voices in world literature.

‘Obioma writes with gorgeous restraint reminiscent of the intricate prose in a Tolstoy novella. Every sentence delivers a precise and heartfelt blow. Hardly anyone writing today is delivering this level of intricacy, lyricism and control. Add to that, the urgency and importance of his message. It just doesn’t get better than this. Get used to the name: Obioma is here to stay.’ Alexandra Fuller, award-winning author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

‘Obioma’s remarkable fiction is at once urgently, vividly immediate, yet simultaneously charged with the elemental power of myth.’ Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

‘Awesome in the true sense of the word: crackling with life, freighted with death, vertiginous both in its style and in the elemental power of its story. Few novels deserve to be called 'mythic’, but Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen is certainly one of them. A truly magnificent debut.‘ Eleanor Catton, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries

'Myth, madness and magic - this is an urgent book full of blood and beauty.’ Omar Musa, author of Here Come the Dogs


Chigozie Obioma’s debut novel, The Fishermen, is an outstanding addition to African literature. Fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun – will relish it’s distinct Nigerian placement. The sibling bond is tight between the four brothers in this story. It is a bond fortified through triumph and adversity. The narrator is Benjamin, the youngest of the brothers. Through his accounts we learn of the brothers’ fortuitous meeting with a Nigerian presidential aspirant and of the boys’ daring escape from a violent political coup that threatens their hometown. Political instability, economic hardship and corruption are rife, but life is modestly privileged for these brothers.

Their father holds lofty dreams for them. Bestowing gratuitous praise upon them, he believes his sons will distinguish themselves with professional careers and will continue their upward mobility by migrating to Canada. As the family’s patriarch, he is a strict disciplinarian. His sons live in fear and awe of him but when he is transferred to a different city for work the boys’ new-found freedom has them considering their own dreams.

With their father’s absence, parental control is lost. Their mother, subservient in a traditional household, feels powerless to influence her sons. The tendency of both parents to speak in parables confusing their sons is yet another concern. Misinterpretation, albeit comical, creates a disconnect and a gulf opens up into which dangerous missteps are taken.

When a local madman makes an ill-omened prophecy, the alliance of brotherhood is broken and fear and mistrust set brother-against-brother. As tragedy strikes, the family recoils in shock and fails to recognise a plot brewing that will bring even greater heartache for all.

Natalie Platten works as a bookseller at Readings Malvern.

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