“Agbatta-Alumalu, the fathers of old say that without light, a person cannot sprout shadows. My host fell in love with this woman. She came as a strange, sudden light that caused shadows to spring from everything else.”
Leggy: An Orchestra of Minorities. Do you know I went into this book without reading a single thing about it? Not even the plot. I kept wanting to but never got around to it.
Taynement: Shouldn’t be a surprise but same for me. I just kept seeing it everywhere and a friend asked me if I’d read it because he was enjoying it.
Leggy: How was your reading experience?
Taynement: Very interesting. I sent you a screenshot of the very beginning and I prepared myself for a bumpy ride. This was going to be one of those wordy Nigerian authors. It was a rollercoaster. I got in a groove and started getting into the story line. Then I started looking at my clock and the book just wouldn’t end and then it did and I was relieved.
Leggy: I did this book on both audio and kindle. My audio experience didn’t last very long because the reader completely butchered the Igbo language. I was cringing so bad and it kept taking me out of the story. I’m Igbo and speak Igbo fluently and if you are like me, I do not recommend the audio version but if you don’t understand Igbo I think it was well done. I had to return to kindle for my sanity. This was a bumpy reading experience for me because I was cringing from both the characters and yes, the book just went on and on, mummy.
Taynement: While I always admire Nigerian writers who are unapologetic and write straight Nigerian languages and slang, this was on another level. The illiteracy of the main character was … something else. I mean he called his girlfriend “mummy” and where anyone would say “yea” or “sure”, he would say “that is so, mummy”
Leggy: Girl. I couldn’t imagine what Ndali saw in him. He was so uncouth, he couldn’t speak fluent English, he wasn’t particularly clean. There was nothing he had going for him.
Taynement: And I don’t know how realistic that was, considering Nigerians as we know are as shallow as they come. And she was from an affluent family. Like travel overseas affluent. I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Leggy: And she was beautiful. It’s not like she was ugly and managing. She was beautiful, in Pharmacy school and struggling to marry someone like Nonso? It just didn’t make any sense to me. I guess it’s because he saved her life. That probably clouded her judgment.
Taynement: Yeah I thought about that but I don’t think I’m sold on that. There’s grateful then there’s this intense relationship they had. Going back a bit, I did like the setup of his character. It was a chore to get through but I think it was needed. Letting us know his childhood, relationship with women, his dad, how he ended up as a farmer etc and the Igbo cosmology. What did you think about that?
Leggy: That “Chi” had wayyy tooo much to say. I was exhausted. He would go on so many different tangents
Taynement: I got to a point where I was skimming. But I liked the many names he had for the gods
Leggy: Yup, but I was really impressed that he didn’t refer to “ekwensu” as the devil. He said he was the god of trickery and I was like okay, this man researched for this book. That’s what he’s supposed to be in the Igbo cosmology. But God, I was tired. And you know I did some of this book on audio so I couldn’t skim those parts.
Taynement: He did! You know I like to read acknowledgements and he mentioned how he did research especially through his dad.
Leggy: What did you think of the events that occurred before he left for Cyprus that’s the main reason I was like what kind of illiterate character is this? I could see the scam coming from a 1000 miles away.
Taynement: It was a lot and all the more made me question what kind of love is this? Is jazz* involved?
(* slang for African magic)
Leggy: As in, selling his house just to go to college because even if it wasn’t a scam
and it was all legit, who the fuck does that?
Taynement: I think everything he did to go to Cyprus was so questionable. To the point, I wondered if he was mentally challenged.
Leggy It was insane and if I was Ndali, that is the point I would have left him. He didn’t talk to her about any of the decisions he made.
Leggy: He just made them, thinking he was doing them for her. She didn’t approve of them even when he told her.
Taynement: Yea this book was a lot now that I think about it.
Leggy: A lot! That was why I was so frustrated and hated the character after he came back from Cyprus. Because Ndali didn’t ask him to do any of the things he did. But somehow he felt that she owed him.
Taynement: I actually didn’t see the events in Cyprus coming. I thought it was going a different direction and he would see the light and betray Ndali.
Leggy: I knew he would end up where he ended up. That’s how all these stories go. Immediately he met the white woman and she talked about her marriage, I knew what was going to go down.
Taynement: On a random note there was so much mention of urine in this book.
Taynement: And it was called urine
Leggy: So muchhhhhhhh. In so many different ways
Taynement: I really would like to know why the writer wanted to go the really “bush” route
Leggy: Because how else would he have ended up in Cyprus under those circumstances? I think any other person wouldn’t have put themselves in that position
Taynement: No, I mean in general. Even down to his description of stuff in the book. Like when he described the diarrhea it was sooo bush. And sometimes with no warning or context
Leggy: He wanted it to be “authentic”. What did you think about Ndali as a character? Did she feel real to you?
Taynement: She did until you asked me this question and now I could see how she could have been a figment of imagination
Leggy: She didn’t seem real to me at all. When they had sex and she was telling him that they’re now one, I was cringing so bad. Her entire character seemed not grounded in reality. For such a young and smart girl, she seemed so desperate to get married
Taynement: Hmm I didn’t get the sense she was desperate to be married just more be connected to someone. Which is on par, considering she was going to kill herself over a breakup when they first met
Leggy: What did you think of the events with his friend Jamike? I got tired of the back and forth and wondered why Jamike stuck to it
Taynement: I don’t think I really have any thoughts on him. He wanted to be a martyr and I think by then I was ready for the book to end.
Taynement: Overall I think the book is very hit or miss. I can see why people would hate it or love it. As always I wondered how non Nigerians would view this book. Especially since in this case, there was heavy illiteracy in this. For me, the story had my attention and I appreciated the knowledge on Igbo cosmology in the book, but at the same time it was kind of a chore to read. It was such a descriptive book. Everything was written with all the details and for a squeamish person it grossed me out a bit. Whether it was describing diarrhea, rotten food or bodily functions it was like yeah okay we get it
*A quick google search and it seems Americans love it and it was a Man Booker Prize finalist. Those that don’t, seem to think it was sexist and Ndali was just a figure head and most of her perspective was not included*
Leggy: Oh absolutely. This was a very easy read but I couldn’t wait for it to finish
Taynement: Really? Definitely didn’t think it easy
Leggy: The suspension the author set up with the chi situation was quite well done because I couldn’t wait to find out exactly what Nonso had done. I really liked the last few pages of the book. It was well written and I liked how it ended. Would you recommend this book to anyone?
Taynement: Hmm. Nah, I don’t think so. Not sure I’d know how to sell it
Leggy: Wow. Really? I definitely would if they’re looking to read more African authors. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll write next. I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads.
Taynement: Don’t necessarily think this book made me interested in his past or future works.
Leggy: Wow Really?
Taynement: Yea. I didn’t hate it but I just don’t think it would be top on the list of books to recommend
Leggy: Honestly, most people who like Nollywood would think it was okay. I’d say if you like really dramatic Nollywood movies, you’d probably like this
Taynement: Hmm. I don’t know. Watching is not the same as reading and the Chi was verrrry wordy.
Leggy & Taynement