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An Orchestra of Minorities

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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,558 ratings  ·  710 reviews
A contemporary twist on the Odyssey, An Orchestra of Minorities is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, he hurls two of his prized chickens off the bridge. The woman, Ndali, is stopped in her tracks.

Chinonso and Ndali fall in
...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published January 8th 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  3,558 ratings  ·  710 reviews


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Emily May
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: modern-lit, arc, 2018
Agbatta-Alumalu, the fathers of old say that without light, a person cannot sprout shadows. My host fell in love with this woman. She came as a strange, sudden light that caused shadows to spring from everything else.

Wow. How do I even begin to review this book? All words seem inadequate. It is exceptional. It is beautiful. And it is unlike anything I've ever read before.

It's challenging, too. I don't want to sell it to readers who won't like it. It's a clever and dense literary work, heavil
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Kevin Ansbro
"A story should glide like a yacht, not bump along like a supermarket trolley."
—Me

Having seen a profusion of rapturous reviews for this African tale, I had very high hopes. And what a gorgeous title too! I was beguiled and ready to be seduced. "Let me at it!" I cried.

Hurrr-rrr-chh! (A screech of brakes, or a needle skidding on vinyl).

Alas, I just didn't take to it.
I know I'm a fusspot, but I really didn’t warm to it. And, for that, I'm truly sorry.
The omniscient narrator (a guardian spirit)
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Manny
If the prey do not produce their version of the tale, the predators will always be the heroes in the story of the hunt, says the quotation which opens this unusual and beautiful novel; and indeed, we come to understand that the "minorities" in its title are the prey, so often voiceless, who are now precariously recovering their ability to bear witness. I like this attitude. I like to hear about people who have been trampled on by history but fought back. Recently, I have read Sofi Oksanen's When ...more
Fran
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Based upon Nigerian Igbo beliefs, each being has a "chi", a guardian spirit. A chi has gone through many cycles of reincarnation and is familiar with earthy challenges. In the present cycle of life, Chinonso Solomon Olisa is a host. His chi, the book's commentator, tries to intercede, to testify to Chukwu (Creator of All), that Nonso has committed a grave crime, but unknowingly.

Nonso was a man of silence. He felt total emptiness and perpetual loneliness. His father died leaving him in charge of
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Marchpane
Right from the start of An Orchestra of Minorities we know that the main character Nonso, a humble poultry farmer, has done something very bad but we don’t yet know what it is. His ‘chi’, a sort of guardian spirit, is interceding with the Igbo deity on Nonso’s behalf, and this chi narrates the tale of Nonso’s downfall like a courtroom lawyer stating his case for the defence. What gradually unfolds is a love story and a tragedy shot through with Igbo cosmology and tradition.

Nonso the chicken
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Meike
Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
I feel torn between the considerable merit of this tale about the loss of dignity and the fact that I had a very hard time finishing the book because of its repetitiveness and its excessive love for overly detailed descriptions: For what it has to say, this novel is at least 200 pages too long. Obioma tells the story of Chinonso, a young Nigerian poultry farmer, who falls in love with Ndali, a student of pharmacy. Ndali's family does not accept Chinonso b
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Alis
Feb 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Beautiful writing and interesting philosophy totally wasted on a book that doesn't think of women as people. Nothing but a litany of excuses for a man's violence being let loose on a woman he supposedly loves. Every terrible wrong in his life, of which she was not actor or creator, being brought to her door.

This is nature.

This is how a man is.

This is what a man does.

On & on & on not questioning, not pushing, not offering a different vision of the world. Sexual violence against the male protag
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Hannah Greendale
Anti-hero? Check!
Dramatic irony? Check!
Homer’s Odyssey? Not so much.
All who have been chained and beaten, whose lands have been plundered, whose civilizations have been destroyed, who have been silenced, raped, shamed, and killed. With all these people, he'd come to share a common fate. They were the minorities of this world whose only recourse was to join this universal orchestra in which all there was to do was cry and wail.
Gumble's Yard
Now shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize having been re-read following its longlisting.

As part of my re-read I came across two articles in the Millions by the author which I found very helpful for understanding the writing style that the author has deployed is and it’s very deliberate contrast in its expansive prose and layers of reality to what he sees as the minimalism and literalness that has come to dominate much Western literature. Both articles locate his writing firmly in a Nigerian trad
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Bam cooks the books ;-)
This is a beautifully written story, a love story, an odyssey, and ultimately a tragedy. Set in Umuahi, Nigeria and Cyprus, it is the life story of Chinonso Solomon Olisa, a young poultry farmer who falls in love with a beautiful young woman far above him in class. In order to marry her, he sells everything he owns so that he might get a college education but things go horribly wrong for him, one after another.

What makes this story so unusual is that it is narrated by Chinonso's 'chi' or guardia
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Richard Derus
Oct 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I liked The Fishermen in 2015. I like this book as well. I am, however, at a loss to comprehend how this religious tract with its absolutely inescapable christian last act can be Booker-worthy. I liked the Igbo chi-narrator, a daemon for for fans of His Dark Materials as a reference point:
She rattled a string of cowries and performed the ritual of authentication to ensure I was not an evil spirit pretending to be a chi:

‘What are the seven keys to the throne room of Chukwu?’ she said.

— Seven shel
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Brenda - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
An Orchestra of Minorities is a very original story and very different from anything I have read. It’s a rich, complex tale about love, sacrifice and misfortune. The story is narrated by our main character Chinonso’s Chi, a guardian spirit. The Chi guides him and us through the story. The Chi presence, warm kindness and concern give the story a heartwarming feel through the heartbreaking parts in the story.

An Orchestra of Minorities is a complex and beautifully emotionally written story yet chal
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Perry
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Symphony of the thousand natural shocks [t]hat flesh is heir to. "Hamlet"*

This is a superbly written, expertly structured, often captivating, One Hundred Eighty Proof Tragedy, Through and Through, for which it may suffer in GR ratings. Which is too bad, because it is an intelligent and particularly unique, heart-bruising novel which will make each longlist and likely be shortlisted later this year.

Describing the story in much detail may well trash the tragedian effects, but I think it's okay to
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Hugh
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019

This is my ninth book from this year's Booker longlist, and perhaps the most difficult to assess objectively. Obioma's starting point for the novel is ambitious - using the Odyssey to provide the narrative framework for a novel about modern Nigeria, and using an Igbo spirit to narrate the story.

The Igbo spirit world has been explored extensively in two other novels I have read in the last couple of years, firstly Ben Okri's Booker winner The Famished Road an
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Jessica Woodbury
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, authors-of-color
I kept half-joking as I read this book that I was bracing myself for the surely terrible things that were to come. I read THE FISHERMEN, a beautiful gut-punch of a book, and while I didn't approach Obioma's second novel with trepidation I did approach with caution. Sure enough, this is another book where some pretty terrible things happen. (FYI avoid the marketing copy on this one, yes including the Goodreads summary, which on its own takes you through like 60% of the plot.)

In style, at least, t
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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
First book from the Booker 2019 shortlist finished! Unfortunately, I hated it. Verbose and trying way too hard to be tragic and dramatic. Also, the author often seemed more concerned with demonstrating Igbo mythology than creating sympathetic characters. Finally, any comparisons to The Odyssey are really missing the mark. There was some lovely prose in places, but it was often hard to find among the weeds.
Trudie
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booker-19
I am going to assume this novel is an exposé of toxic masculinity rather than the alternative read : one that is asking me to sympathise with this man's actions.

The fact that I remain unsure after 512 pages, concerns me.

A more spoiler intensive summary :(view spoiler)
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Lou
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Orchestra of Minorities, Man Booker Shortlisted Chigozie Obioma's second novel, is a powerful cry for justice from main character Chinonso. From the first page right through to the last I was utterly riveted and read the entire book in a single intense sitting. Beautifully written and wholly absorbing, it is a successful contemporary twist on Homer's Odyssey and shows how masterful Obioma is when he can take familiar tropes and put a completely different spin on them; his own unique spin.

This
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Victoria Iyene
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the most powerful and inventive book I have read in my life. The only possible comparison to the breadth and power of this book is Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. The symphonic power, the radiance of the language, and the invention of an entire cosmos is simply, for lack of a better word, astounding.

The novel is in its entirety a confession by a spirit--a personal god in the Igbo culture (I'm Nigerian, and from the East but not from the Igbo tribe). This god is embodied in
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Scarlet
"By that time, already, his life as he once knew it had separated from him like an ill-fated shadow hewn from its bearer and thrown over the cliff into a bottomless pit of oblivion, and even through all these years, he could still hear its dark voice screaming as it continued its fall."


An Orchestra of Minorities is an ambitious foray into Igbo cosmology, a tiny portion of which I was introduced to by Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart almost two years earlier. Simultaneously alien in its sett
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Kathleen
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Booker Prize Shortlist 2019. Obioma has written a dark book about love, loss, and destiny that is unrelentingly depressing. Some suggest that this is partly based on Homer’s “Odyssey”, but the tale feels more like the Biblical story of Job to me. The successful chicken farmer, Chinonso, saves the life of Ndali when she tries to kill herself by leaping off a bridge. This impulsive man falls in love with her and seeks to improve himself so that he is considered worthy by her family by selling his ...more
Ilana
Well that was rather stupendous. A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, you might quite aptly say. I was bowled over by his debut novel The Fishermen too; whatever Obioma cooks up next, I’ll be waiting for it eagerly.
Krista
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Oh God! Nonso, they are! It is like a coordinated song, the kind they sing during burial ceremonies. Like a choir. And what they are singing is a song of sorrow. Just listen, Nonso.” She stood silent for a moment, then she stepped back a bit and snapped her fingers. “It is true what your father said. It is an orchestra of minorities.”

An Orchestra of Minorities is a remarkable book: in the tradition of Things Fall Apart, it tells a Nigerian's story in a blend of Igbo and Western European tec
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Ken
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
UPDATE AFTER READING THE ACTUAL ARC:

After trying for so long, I finally got my hands on the novel!! As anyone who has seen my posts know, I loved THE FISHERMEN and believe Obioma is probably one of the top 5 greatest writers writing right now. He is doing what no one else is doing, and were this writer European or American, he would be better celebrated. I'm trying to develop a career around studying the works of this great writer.

An Orchestra of Minorities is a cosmic novel, magic realist, but
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Read By RodKelly
An orchestra of minorities is that which comprises the voices of the flightless; wings- clipped and rendered inutile with the shame of poverty, of great loss, of inconceivable trauma. They, who exist on a perpetually lateral plane of suffering and affliction. And bound to such a fate, what can the litany do but become a metamorph of rage and madness? In Chigozie Obioma’s second, brilliant novel, his themes are explored through a distinctly male lens; it is a sprawling, oracular tale, modelled on ...more
·Karen·
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, nigeria
EPIC

Stunning in its ambition, majestic in its execution, spectacular in its breadth.

Ijango-Ijango, over many sojourns in the human world, I have heard the venerable fathers, in their kaleidoscopic profundity, say that no matter the weight of grief, nothing can compel the eyes to shed tears of blood

The weight of grief.

Chinonso is weeping blood.

This is powerful stuff: heart-stopping, breath-taking, pulse-quickening. Time stood still until I'd finished.





Neil
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, 2019-booker
“I have seen it many times”

This is a phrase the narrator of the book repeats again and again as he watches the behaviour and choices of human beings. Our narrator is a guardian spirit - chi - of a young poultry farmer, Chinonso, in Nigeria.

I’ll back track slightly. The book opens with two pages of diagrams explaining Igbo cosmology. Because whilst. as the book blurb explains, this story can be seen as a “contemporary twist on Homer’s Odyssey”, it is, at the same time, a book grounded in Igbo cos
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Doug
Aug 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with his previous Booker shortlisted novel, The Fishermen, I can't really say I 'enjoyed' this, since like its predecessor, it is almost unrelentingly depressing, and (with the possible exception of Les Misérables), I just don't LIKE books in which the protagonist is continuously hounded by horrible injustices. And although again there are some striking passages and some interesting cosmology about the Igbo religion, there is also a preponderance of vivid descriptions of bodily fluids and exc ...more
Shane
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I will say first up that An Orchestra of Minorities is well written though I did find it at times painfully long winded. I enjoyed the Igbo culture and language. I enjoyed the start of the book and the burgeoning love story between Chinonso and Ndali.

But the more I think about it after finishing it recently, the more I dislike this book and its protagonist.

Sold as 'a re-imagining of The Odyssey' I can't help but feel that heroes should be held up to better than 8th century BC standards.

Firstly
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Daniel Chaikin
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(My first on the 2019 Booker lists)

I was taken in early. Chinonso, a young Nigerian chicken farmer, sees a young woman looking over the edge of a bridge. He stops his truck, grabs a couple chickens, runs over to the woman and tells her not to jump, and, to illustrate why not, tosses his two chickens over. Then he drives off. We're left wondering about this young man who seems so gallant and cruel at the same time, and the odd and innocent way he created some kind of intimacy out of nothing of th
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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 ...more

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“They were the minorities of this world whose only recourse was to join this universal orchestra in which all there was to do was cry and wail.” 5 likes
“Even in his most extroverted moment, a man is concealed from others. For he cannot be fully known.” 4 likes
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