I got a copy of this book early this year as soon as it hit the stands in Nigeria and I was excited to read. Unfortunately, it was not the experience I expected. It has taken me over six months to finally complete it. I am not sure why I was determined to finish reading this book. Maybe because it was recently shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize or maybe I was just curious to know how the story ended.
‘An Orchestra of Minorities’ is a story about Chinonso, a poultry farmer whose path crosses with beautiful Ndali who is far above his reach. Cupid does his thing and they fall in love but Ndali’s family doesn’t accept Nonso. In a bid to get Ndali by all means, he sells all his possessions and travels to Turkey to get an education/a better life to be qualified to have her. Chinonso’s experiences in this foreign land and his later return back home constitutes the main part of this story. The story is narrated by Chinonso’s ‘Chi’ – his guardian spirit to the gods who will eventually judge Chinonso.
The first 100 pages or so were interesting to read. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of a ‘Chi’ giving an account of a story, seeing the world from his eyes. There were also streaks of humor at different points which lightened the story and I liked but at some point, the story went flat and I struggled till the end of the book.
The author is one I would call a typical literary writer who beautifully weaves words in a somewhat poetic and intentionally descriptive manner and this is usually nice to read but in this case it seemed like there was too much of it and that spoilt it for me. It made me feel like the heart of the story got lost in this sea or ocean of words, adages and lamentations. The flash backs too many to keep track of and the analogies sometimes confusing. The end was the worst for me as it made me loose every single strand of sympathy I had left for the main character which I thought wasn’t fair.
I really wanted to love this book based on the author’s reputation and accolades but unfortunately it didn’t do it for me. However, if you are a fan of core literary literature or mythology, you may find it to your taste. The author’s first novel ‘The Fishermen’ is still on my TBT and I hope I will get to read it soon and maybe May have a different opinion.
Rating: 3 Stars
Published: January 8th, 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Purchase @ www.amazon.com/anorchestraofminorities
The Author: Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. His debut novel, The Fishermen, is winner of the inaugural FT/Oppenheimer Award for Fiction, the NAACP Image Awards for Debut Literary Work, and the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (Los Angeles Times Book Prizes); and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize 2015, as well as for several other prizes in the US and UK. Obioma was named one of Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2015. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages and adapted into stage. He is an assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His second novel, An Orchestra of Minorities, will be published in Spring 2019 by Little, Brown and Co.