Friday, March 16, 2012

Athena K's Review - The Famished Road

I too am playing catch up - I have been reading but I took a break from blogging for a month or two.  So I'll be adding things from my list over the nnxt week or so!

Reading The Famished Road was like experiencing a dream.  The characters, scenery, setting and action seemed constantly fluid entities, capable of changing shape and status at any given time.  While I found this reading experience to be new and profoundly different, and at first fantastic and engaging, Ben Okri was unable to maintain my interest in this dream for such a prolonged novel.

Partly because it was so dreamlike, I found myself frustrated by the fact that there was very little conventional "plot." Story lines sprung up from nowhere, and melted away almost as quickly.  Characters changed from good to evil depending on the mood of the narrator; events of major importance and symbolism are never carried through to their completion; and cycles are repeated with very little apparent consciousness or learning from past experience.  I looked  for the meaning behind apparently symbolic characters (e.g., the photographer, Madame Koto, the blind man, the beggar girl) but I could not fit the pieces together.

Reading this makes it sound like I really didn't enjoy the book.  In fact, for the first 2/3 I was very engaged and fascinated by the complex dream narration of Azaro, our child narrator.  Azaro's story is one of poverty, struggle, corruption and human sacrifice in a Nigerian town.  His themes include the constant battle between life and death, rich and poor, and good and evil. However, once it became apparent that despite reaching a climax of sorts, the novel was pressing on in its aimless meander through spirit world adventures, I lost interest. The only real problem for me was it was too long.

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