The Famished Road – Ben Okri

the-famished-roadREAD FOR BOOKCLUB
Chosen by Becks

In this 1991 Booker winner, the narrator, Azaro, is a spirit child struggling between the tensions of the living and the temptations of the carefree spirit kingdom.

➤ “Set in an unnamed city in Nigeria, this novel employs a unique narrative style incorporating the spirit world with the ‘real’ world, which some classify as magical realism. This book exploits the belief in the co-existence of the spiritual and material worlds that is a defining aspect of traditional African life. An enchanting book at first but after a while the fantasy scenes began to repeat themselves. Very quickly things stopped feeling strange or astonishing and I felt like I was going over the same ground again and again. This is a book in which hardly anything occurs. 

“Described as having ‘dreamlike’ prose, for me it was a nightmare that tested my patience. Magical realism is perhaps not the genre for me!” – Becks

➤ “The Famished Road is an enthralling title and one which not only draws the reader from the outset but sums up the content well, especially the themes of travelling and hunger. The main character Azaro is a spirit child not only travelling between reality and the allure of the spirit world but also life as a son in an improvised community; while characters hunger for many things, food, power, money, independence (literally of one’s self, metaphorically of English meddling).

“The plot is original and particularly interesting once the father and son’s relationship strengthens. However, it’s robustness is often drowned out by Azuro’s many visions and interactions with spirits. While they do support the plot they did distract me with their length and complexity.

“I am a fan of magical realism but this was a step further than the magical realism I am used to. However, it is a unique story/concept and I know I will not forget it in a hurry.” – Rachel

➤ “The premise of the spirit child in The Famished Road drew me right in at the start and I was looking forward to reading this book, however the long drawn out and often incomprehensible dreams or spirit journeys became a bit tedious. The Famished Road is a book full of misery that somehow failed to make me sad as the characters situation all seemed a bit distant with no real emotional connection for me.  Some of the characters were well defined and I particularly liked the father and Madame Koto.  Not a book I would recommend to a friend!” – Jo

Published 1991
Anchor Books
512 pages

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