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Book Review: The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Image of African man standing near a chicken.Summary:
Alois used to work for the Ministry, but he felt stifled and quit. Now he steals chickens.  One night the white owner of one of the large, walled-in houses he steals from stops him. He wants him to get a letter for him. A letter from Gabriel, a revolutionary leader who has been long-thought to be dead.  Alois accepts for the money, but soon finds his whole world changing around him.

Review:
This book was a gift from a one-time friend who also enjoys African lit.  She enjoyed it and thought I would, but remember that problem I mentioned in my last review where I don’t seem to like books other people recommend to me?  Yeah. Still a problem.  I do enjoy African lit, and I thought when I saw the cover and heard the title that this book would be more of a social justicey kind of plot.  But it’s actually quite a bit of a political thriller, and I personally don’t like those.  Putting that element aside, though, I am still able to review the quality of the book.

The plot takes the less common method of looking at political upheavals and developments through the eyes of an average person dragged into the situation.  There are a few chapters that show us the president’s perspective, but primarily things are seen through Alois’s eyes.  I think this is what made it readable to me, because honestly who cares about politicians?  It’s the everyman that is interesting.  The plot is also interesting in that it looks at both a past revolution and a present-day coup.  That makes it more unique in the world of political thrillers.

The writing can only be described as flowery.  For example:

In truth he saw her everywhere, but you couldn’t say to a woman, not one who was meant to be just your friend, “Here, I have brought you this tree because its branches moved as you do” or “see here this bucket, when the water falls from it I hear your voice. (page 104)

Pretty much the entire book has that kind of meandering, highly descriptive cadence.  I know that works for lots of readers.  It’s just not personally something I enjoy, and I did find it odd in a political thriller.

One thing that bothered me is that it’s never entirely clear what country in Africa this is.  I think it might be a fictional country in the southern region of Africa.  The author herself lived in Ghana for a time so perhaps the idea was inspired by Ghanaian culture, but not based on anything factual in Ghana.  In a book like this, a political thriller, I prefer real countries. Or at least a clearly defined country.  That might bother other readers less though.

Overall then, there are some aspects of this political thriller that make it unique in the genre.  It examines both a past revolution and a current coup through the eyes of a non-political youth who was not alive for the previous revolution.  The writing is surprisingly flowery for the genre, so fans should be aware of that difference going in.  Recommended to fans of political thrillers looking for something different.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Counts For:
Specific country? Uncertain. Southern region of Africa. Australian author who has lived in Ghana.

Africa Reading Challenge! (Hosted by Kinna Reads)

January 19, 2012 7 comments

Map of AfricaI’m super-excited to get to participate in a reading challenge this year that I heard rumblings about and was announced this week.  The Africa Reading Challenge!  Hosted by Kinna Reads.

According to Kinna, the rules are:

Challenge Period
January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012

Region
The entire African continent, including its island-states, which are often overlooked. Please refer to this Wikipedia “list of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa”. Pre-colonial empires and regions are also included.

Reading Goal
5 books.  That’s it.  There will be no other levels.  Of course, participants are encouraged to read more than 5 books.  Eligible books include those which are written by African writers, or take place in Africa, or are concerned with Africans and with historical and contemporary African issues. Note that at least 3 books must be written by African writers.

Why this challenge?
Getting to know Kinna and Amy in 2011 connected me to African lit and showed me the uniqueness of it.  I enjoyed reading it, so of course I want to read more!  Plus, participating in this challenge will hopefully call attention to this whole other world of books that is so frequently ignored in the book blogging world.  Also, reading is how I travel, and I just love visiting Africa through a writer’s eyes.

My (tentative) reading list:

  1. Music and Dance Traditions of Ghana: History, Performance and Teaching by Paschal Yao Younge (current tbr pile) Ghana
  2. Yellow-Yellow by Kaine Agary (current tbr pile) Nigeria
  3. The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard (current tbr pile) Ghana
  4. The Rabbi’s Cat 2 by Joann Sfar (current tbr pile) Algeria
  5. His Treasure (Men of Valor) by Kiru Taye (current tbr pile) Nigeria
  6. The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (wishlist) Sierra Leone
  7. Twenty Chickens for a Saddle: The Story of an African Childhood by Robyn Scott (wishlist) South Africa and Zimbabwe
  8. Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery by Michael Stanley (wishlist) Botswana
  9. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (wishlist) Egypt
  10. The African American Odyssey of John Kizell: The Life and Times of a South Carolina Slave Who Returned to Fight the Slave Trade in His African Homeland by Kevin G. Lowther (wishlist) Sierra Leone
  11. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (wishlist) Nigeria
  12. King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village by Peggielene Bartels (wishlist) Ghana

I’m hoping to read all of these, but obviously the only ones set in stone are the ones I own.  Suggestions, both from my list and not, are welcome!  I’m excited by the new variety this challenge will bring to my blog and also for the camaraderie innate in reading challenges.  It’s gonna be a fun year. 🙂