The Famished Road by Ben Okri

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The Famished Road by Ben Okri

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Ekaterina Rodyunina
Reviewed by Ekaterina Rodyunina
Summary: Booker prize-winning example of magical realism. Powerful and imaginative narrative of the adventures of a spirit-child in the world of men. Marmite for the soul - love it or hate it, there's no in between.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099535126

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After eternities in the ever beautiful and kind spirits world, Azaro the spirit child decides to be born, and to be born for good - not wander between the world of spirits and the living, as he used to, not pain his parents by the sudden deaths time after time, but to break an oath to his fellow spirits and settle. His parents are happy, he is content and curious, but the spirit world does not let Azaro go easily. Azaro is haunted by ghosts, while his parents are haunted by poverty, and both struggle for survival and relative security.

The book's style is very distinctive. It's a first person narrative from Azaro, but if you expect any sort of clarity from the spirit-born child, you might be sorely disappointed. Azaro's world - whether it is pure imagination or in fact truly the unknown spirit universe - is described with painstakingly precise details, but they are completely random. See the following excerpt as an example of author's style:

There were beings everywhere in the darkness and the spirits were each of them a sun. They radiated a brilliant copper illumination hard to the eyes. I saw a tiger with silver wings and the teeth of a bull. I saw dogs with tales of snakes and bronze paws. I saw cats with legs of women, midgets with bright red bumps on their heads.

If this style does it for you, you will love the book. Loads and loads of people did. See, I know they did because I googled it. The reason I googled it was because I disliked the book very much. Frankly I thought that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas made more sense than that and the characters there were on drugs.

However a lot of people have found this book life-changing and brilliantly written and intensely poetic. Do give it a try, it might be just the book for you. If you feel it is not however - do not struggle like I did and do not finish the book in vain hope to see some explanation in the end, there's no revelation involved.

For more Booker worthy magical realism, why not check out Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie - I loved it and wholeheartedly recommend it. You might enjoy The Ascent of Isaac Steward by Mike French. We thought it... odd.

I would like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

Booklists.jpg The Famished Road by Ben Okri is in the Booker Prize Winners.

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