419, by Will Ferguson (2012)

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Interest Level: Adult
Four One NineThis book was in my hands when the announcement came it had won the 2012 Giller Award. They call it a dark novel. No kidding. I’m still depressed, two days after finishing it. I am honestly having trouble giving my opinion on this one. It was riveting (good), troubling (often good), and shocking (always good). But it was also unsettling – at the heart of this Canadian novel is the Nigerian email scam, a fraud that costs a man his life, leaving his family – particularly his daughter Laura – reeling from the aftereffects. We also follow the lives of three other people in Nigeria, a land that is at once harsh and welcoming, beautiful and heartbreaking. Ferguson weaves a story with multiple threads, ultimately creating a tapestry that slowly reveals a whole picture. He has done meticulous research, and gently involves the unwitting reader into the story, one that is at times achingly painful to read, occasionally funny, and often piercingly exquisite in its descriptions of Nigeria’s history, land, people and culture. Did I like it? Not sure. The ending completely surprised me, and I’m not certain if the deaths are meant to cancel each other out? A sort of payback? It doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it shouldn’t, and that’s why it’s an award winner. But still, I’m left feeling a little poorer for having read it and had my illusions revealed for what they are.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13171072-419

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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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