Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laura's Review - The Famished Road

OK, listen carefully people. The next time I pick up a book written in the magical realism style, please stop me!

Magical realism just doesn't do anything for me. And The Famished Road is 500 pages of dreams, ghosts, cats that appear out of nowhere, and unusual people who behave in strange and mystical ways. It's the story of Azaro, a "spirit child," who remains in contact with the spirit world after his birth. Azaro's family is clearly struggling to earn a living, make ends meet, feed and clothe themselves, etc.

The book started off strong with this opening sentence:
In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry. (p. 3)
Well, that's just beautiful. And there are many passages like that. But, as I mentioned, there are also dreams, ghosts, cats that appear out of nowhere, and unusual people who behave in strange and mystical ways. This book is full of allegory and cultural references that I just couldn't grasp. Some reviews (notably Trevor's on The Complete Booker) cited the value of facilitated classroom discussion. That might have helped me overcome the whole magical realism thing. As it was, I read only the first 71 pages and decided there were better ways to spend my time.

My original review can be found here.


  1. Oddly enough, now you have intrigued me with your description. Sometimes it's fun to read something I don't understand. :-)

  2. As J. G. said, you've really intrigued me. I'm a big fan of magical realism and so now, you've tempted me to go find out a lot more about this book.


  3. JG and SS, I'm laughing at you being enticed by a bad review! But I do hope you enjoy the book. Come back and tell us about it here!

  4. I feel your pain. I tried to read this a long time ago and wanted to like it so much, but I just couldn't. I ended up selling it. Oy. the funny part is, I forgot the name and bought it again (actually Bookmooched it) when I joined The Complete Booker challenge. When it arrived, I recognized it instantly from the cover art and I was like, D'oh!

  5. @Marie, that's pretty funny. At least you can offer it up for mooching again, and use the credit to get something you'll (hopefully) like better!

  6. I completely agree with you! I had this book sitting on my desk at work for a while. One day when I had 10 minutes to spare I read the first few pages and thought it sounded wonderful - yes, that first line is magical. I didn't continue but thought I'd "save it" for later. Looking forward to reading it I took it on a weeklong beach holiday and just as well. As there wasn't much else to do and it was the only book I brought with me I had no choice but to labour along through it.

    But I'm not sure I'd write off all magical realism based on this book. I'm halfway through Midnight's Children and really enjoying it.

    1. Kat, how awful to be stuck with a book like this on holiday! Oddly enough I liked Midnight's Children, which I read a couple years before The Famished Road. But I wasn't wild about it. I've steered clear of magical realism since reading (or rather, attempting to read) this book.