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The Fishermen

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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  6,148 Ratings  ·  1,001 Reviews
In a Nigerian town in the mid 1990's, four brothers encounter a madman whose mystic prophecy of violence threatens the core of their close-knit family. Told from the point of view of nine year old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, The Fishermen is the story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990s Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their strict father has to tr ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 14th 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
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Goodreads Picks For Tournament of Books 2016
29th out of 275 books — 1,191 voters
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Man Booker 2015 Long List
3rd out of 13 books — 150 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Nicole~
4.5 stars
The madman has entered our house with violence
Defiling our sacred grounds
Claiming the single truth of the universe
Bending down our high priests with iron
Ah! yes the children,
Who walked on our Forefathers’ graves
Shall be stricken with madness.
They shall grow the fangs of the lizard
They shall devour each other before our eyes
And by ancient command
It is forbidden to stop them!
- poem by Mazisi Kunene,
the epigraph to The Fishermen

Chigozie Obioma's talent as a powerful storytell
...more
Dianne
Sep 26, 2015 Dianne rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
Oh, how I loved the end of this book! It made my heart soar.

Really, really well done debut novel that is worthy of the Man Booker shortlisting. It is a family drama with overtones of a Greek tragedy. The story is narrated by Ben, both as a 10-year old child and an adult man looking back. Ben is the 4th son of a tightly knit Nigerian family that begins to unravel when the disciplinarian father takes a job at the Nigerian Central Bank in another city. Without the father's watchful eyes on them, th
...more
Thepocobookreader


This review has been long overdue. I read The Fishermen some time ago following a brilliant review by the African Book Addict before the Booker long list was announced and I jumped right into the novel, with no inkling that it would fast become one of my favourite books of the year.
Written from the perspective of younger brother Benjamin, the novel follows the lives of four Nigerian brothers from a close knit family, their prophetic encounter with a madman and the devastating effect that one mom
...more
Maxwell
Aug 02, 2015 Maxwell rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, man-booker, 2015
The Fishermen tells the story of a family in ruins after a madman's prophesy drives one brother to be plagued with fear. Obioma utilizes a lot of mythological and folkloric story-telling techniques, especially drawing on the natural world. It reads much like a parable, and I can't help but think that certain parts, especially the title, are direct biblical allusions.

I'll admit I wasn't a big fan of the first half of this story. It seems disjointed and focused on setting up the atmosphere of the
...more
Darkowaa
Jul 28, 2015 Darkowaa rated it it was amazing
!!! http://africanbookaddict.com/2015/07/...
I'm just floored right now. This is a dark, haunting, tragic, heart-wrenching BUT amazing story of 4 brothers and their family and a madman - Abulu. Right when you think things get better and the craziness plateaus, something pops up! I feel like I know/knew Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben - their love and brotherhood are so dear to me, I don't know why. Chigozie Obioma wrote about these boys in such a tender way that had me ALLLLL in my feelings. I felt
...more
Emer (ALittleHaze)
“The things my brother read shaped him; they became his visions. He believed in them. I have now come to know that what one believes often becomes permanent, and what becomes permanent can be indestructible”


When I looked at the list of nominees for the Man Booker Prize last year this was the book that jumped out at me. I was immediately intrigued by the premise and what I found on reading this book was a different kind of story-telling than I am used to… and I liked it!!


The book tells the sto
...more
Ameriie
Sep 03, 2015 Ameriie rated it it was amazing
I loved this story from the start. The first quarter of the novel had me chuckling and nodding my head in recognition at the family dynamics, especially when it comes to strict Education! Education! parents. Chigozie's imagery and metaphors are superb, and something in the prose and unfolding of events gives the story a magical realism bent, though everything is plausible.

Really, the story is presented as a fable, with nearly each chapter named after an animal and beginning with who that animal
...more
helen the bookowl
Aug 06, 2016 helen the bookowl rated it really liked it
For some reason, it took me a long time to finish this book even though it's relatively short. But when I did read in it, I loved it! I think I just needed to process it, because this is a really heavy story that, however, starts very abruptly and makes you question the purpose of this narrative in the beginning.
The Fishermen are a bunch of brothers who live in Nigeria and who are very connected. They seem to really grow up over the course of one year, and what starts out as a bittersweet, amus
...more
somuchreading
Nov 28, 2015 somuchreading rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-now
Με τους Ψαράδες ήμουν περίεργος. Ήμουν περίεργος από την πρώτη στιγμή που άκουσα για το βιβλίο, πριν δω πως ήταν υποψήφιο για τα Man Booker Prize και Guardian First Book Award, πριν μάθω πως θα κυκλοφορούσε σύντομα από το Μεταίχμιο και πριν το βρω σε πολλές από τις λίστες με τα καλύτερα βιβλία του 2015 που ήδη κυκλοφορούν.

Το μυθιστόρημα είναι ένα απλό, εύκολο ανάγνωσμα ενός νεαρού συγγραφέα. Παραμύθια, θρύλοι και παραδόσεις της Νιγηρίας δανείζουν στοιχεία τους σε μια τραγική ιστορία που στην αρχ
...more
Jen Campbell
Aug 24, 2015 Jen Campbell rated it really liked it
Video review to follow :)
Book Riot Community
This book is astonishing. When I decided to give The Fishermen a try, I honestly didn’t really expect to make it past the first few pages (it’s not the sort of plot I usually get excited about). But then all of a sudden I was halfway through and could barely catch my breath. There’s just so much that’s fascinating, surprising, and exhilarating about the book. The narrator is an observant but not excessively precocious nine-year-old. The story follows the disintegration of a family in small-city ...more
Jessica Woodbury
I heard raves about this book for months before I finally got to it. And despite having heard so much about it, I knew pretty much nothing except the setup. No one told me what came next. Which, admittedly, is how I prefer it. But it's worth noting at this point that this is a book that would be the most heartwrenching of the year were it not for the fact that A Little Life was also a 2015 release. If you're one of those people who can't read novels where bad things happen to children (and I ...more
Nnedi
Aug 22, 2015 Nnedi rated it it was amazing
Oh yeah, definitely a must read. This was good good Igbo village storytelling. If anyone's work should be compared to Chinua Achebe, it's this one. But it's also got its own unique voice. There were times when it meandered a bit too much for my taste; sometimes there were details that felt included in order to pull the voice away from the point-of-view of a ten year old (these felt heavy-handed and often out of place)... but these moments didn't keep me from continuing. It's not a perfect novel ...more
Richard Vialet
Jan 11, 2016 Richard Vialet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of coming of age tales
This elegant coming-of-age novel is told from the point of view of Benjamin Agwu, a 10-year old boy growing up in the small Nigerian village of Akure. He bears witness to the breakdown of his family and his three older brothers Ikenna, Boja, and Obembe, after an encounter with Abulu the Madman, who's foreboding prophecy changes everything.

Debut author Chigozie Obioma shows true talent with imagery and smooth prose, giving the story a storybook, fable quality which Lends weight to the retrospecti
...more
Barbara
May 01, 2015 Barbara rated it it was amazing
I won this book in a goodreads.com giveaway...thank you!
This was one of the most amazing books I have ever read. Kirkus Reviews described it best: "The talented Obioma exhibits a richly nuanced understanding of culture and character.... A powerful, haunting tale of grief, healing, and sibling loyalty."
I used my hands to turn the pages but then my heart took over and I was totally engrossed in this incredible book and I don't think I will ever forget Ikenna, Boja, Obe, or Ben. I highly recommend
...more
Erika
May 05, 2016 Erika rated it it was ok
This novel was selected for my book club, but I actually skipped the meeting since I didn’t want to heap negativity on other people who may have liked it.

But here, no one is stuck in a room with me so I’ll let it rip.

The Fishermen takes place in Nigeria in the mid-90s. It’s the story of four brothers in a small village who sneak out to the river—a place they are forbidden to go—and fish. One day, a terrifying, mentally ill man foretells that the oldest one will be killed by one of the others. T
...more
Chrissie
Jan 04, 2016 Chrissie rated it liked it
After chapter 10:

The Fishermen is a difficult read. I had been warned but didn't take the warning seriously. Stupid me. What is described is revolting - vomit, excrement, penises, rivers of blood. Sex, mystical beliefs, political riots - all in a jumble. Maybe this is what modern authors write nowadays given that we live in a world of such violence. There better be a good point to the book for presenting such content. Disjointed and confusing, but from time to time there is a beautiful sentence
...more
Liz Janet
May 03, 2016 Liz Janet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
A story about a Nigerian family in the 1990s, as it gets plagued by the "prophesy" of a madman about the death of a brother at the hands of another, which ultimately leads to the demise of their bond and much more. I see this work as a myth, one of those that have yet to find the form they truly are and must first be shaped by the many voices that spread via word of mouth.

Apart from the obvious biblical vibe I got reading this, it also felt a bit like Chinua Achebe. I know, I know, I cannot com
...more
David Dacosta
Aug 09, 2015 David Dacosta rated it liked it
Chigozie Obioma is another in a long line of talented African writers. As a fellow author, the artistry of his phrasing had me pondering how many rewrites it must have taken him to produce this stylized final product. The Fishermen skillfully examines the delicate dynamics of an African family living in Nigeria during the 1990s. Benjamin, the fourth of six children, narrates the story. His once stable household suddenly begins to unravel when his father must relocate to a distant township to ...more
richard
Mar 22, 2015 richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this astonishing masterpiece from a globe-trotting Nigerian writer whom I first heard about many years ago on a visit to the Turkish section of Cyprus Island. It begins with perhaps the most convincing punchline in modern literature: "We were fishermen." With that sentence, which at once introduces the reader to the world about to be experienced and also portends the tragedy to come, The Fishermen spins its tale like the webs do in one of the chapters "The Spiders."

The spin begins with the fa
...more
Rebecca Foster
From a young Nigerian debut novelist comes a haunting tale of sibling rivalry and revenge. With sectarian riots afoot, the four oldest Agwu boys decide to make money by skipping school and fishing in the Omi-Ala River. Things get more complicated when Abulu, the local madman, issues a prophecy that seems bound to divide the brothers. The first quarter of the novel, especially, is drenched in foreshadowing (not always subtle, nor do the plot turns often rise above the predictable). Rich with ...more
Sophie
Feb 24, 2016 Sophie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Η παραμυθιακή διάσταση και το αναπότρεπτο στοιχείο της τραγωδίας κυριαρχούν, ενώ η γραφή, γλαφυρή και απλή, ζωντανεύει τα τεκταινόμενα, μεταφέρει τον αναγνώστη στη Νιγηρία του 1990· στη Νιγηρία που ισορροπεί ανάμεσα στο ιδανικό του δυτικού πολιτισμού και στην κουλτούρα των αφρικανικών φυλών.

Παρότι δε δίνεται ιδιαίτερη υπόσταση στους χαρακτήρες, που επιδερμικά αναλύονται, με αποτέλεσμα να συμπάσχει ο αναγνώστης μόνο μέσω προβολής του εαυτού του, και παρόλο που δε μοιάζουν αληθινοί, άλλος ένας δεί
...more
Jessica
Jun 10, 2015 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I haven’t been the most active of reviewers lately because I’ve been planning a wedding and honeymoon, received a promotion that meant working both jobs until a new “old me” is hired, and I haven’t read anything that has grabbed me with the kind of intensity that I need to sit down in spite of all that other stuff and tell people they have to read it. But now I’m trying to get back into the swing of things here. Forgive me if I'm a bit rusty.

Rooted very deeply in African folk stories, The Fisher
...more
Alex
Jan 26, 2016 Alex rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa, 2016
Nigeria is a hotbed of literature: Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe are from there, as well as recent hotshots like Chimamanda Adichie and now Chigozie Obioma, whose debut novel The Fishermen was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. And for good reason: it's brilliant.

It tells the story of four brothers who battle fate, or a crazy guy, or Western influence - in an interview Obioma calls the book in part metaphorical, mad "prophet" Abulu representing outsider predictions of what young Nigeria will
...more
Alan Chen
Jul 07, 2016 Alan Chen rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
This book is heart wrenching and is so beautiful. Set in 90s Nigeria and the political turmoil that the nation is embroiled in while mixing the traditional folk elements that still dominate the thinking of those who live in Akure, a small village. Story is told from the perspective of Ben, the youngest of the 4 older brothers in a large family. Ikenna, Boja, Obembe and Ben are inseparable. They do everything together and watch out/take care of each other. When the madman of the village, Abula, ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I had put this book on hold, but when it was named as a finalist (shortlist) for the Man Booker Prize, I went ahead and finished it. I think it got better after I went back to it. I liked the amount of cultural elements added (the differences in languages spoken in Nigeria and how Yoruba-speakers were the outsiders, the use of mythology, the meeting of traditional religion with Christianity.) I like that while moving to Canada is mentioned as an imagined escape, this isn't a novel about ...more
Petra
Jan 13, 2016 Petra rated it really liked it
A really good debut novel. A wonderful story of country, family, bonds and togetherness.
At first, I was skeptical....but then I was completely sucked in. The tragedies of this family, interwoven with the difficulties of the country, came together in a touching, haunting, mystical yet realistic manner. This is a country sitting on the edge of modernization, with all it's uncertainties, clinging to the past and the excitement at moving forward. Chigozie Obiama managed to instill all of these elem
...more
Holly
Sep 05, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it
With the release of the 2015 Man Booker Longlist I thought it was about time I read this one, which has been on my to-read list for a while. It is the tale of four brothers growing up in Nigeria who are confronted with a prophecy that threatens to tear their family apart. Infused with fairy tale and folklore, this explores family dynamics as well as the idea of fate and predestination. This is probably one of the most accessible novels that has been longlisted, and I can definitely recommend it.
Amanda Curtin
Mar 02, 2015 Amanda Curtin rated it it was amazing
A powerful debut novel heralding the arrival of a unique voice. I will never forget this family, this place, this constellation of brothers who declared themselves The Fishermen; nor the gathering dread with which I read Benjamin's recounting of events that would hurtle his family into tragedy. Highly recommended. Guest post by Chigozie here: http://amandacurtin.com/2015/02/23/2-...
Ace
Nov 20, 2015 Ace rated it it was amazing
So beautifully written.

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The World's Liter...: "The Fishermen" by Chigozie Obioma 53 33 Oct 29, 2016 09:03AM  
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African-American ...: The Fishermen: December New Author GR: 28 46 Dec 29, 2015 09:03AM  
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Chigozie Obioma was born in Akure, Nigeria. He was an OMI fellow at Ledig House, New York, and has won Hopwood Awards for fiction and poetry. His fiction has appeared in Virginia Quarterly review and Transition. He has lived in Nigeria, Cyprus, and Turkey and currently lives in the United States where he is a Helen Zell Fellow in creative writing at the University of Michigan.
More about Chigozie Obioma...

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“Hatred is a leech: The thing that sticks to a person's skin; that feeds off them and drains the sap out of one's spirit. It changes a person, and does not leave until it has sucked the last drop of peace from them.” 16 likes
“The things my brother read shaped him; they became his visions. He believed in them. I have now come to know that what one believes often becomes permanent, and what becomes permanent can be indestructible. This was the case with my brother.” 11 likes
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