BOOK REVIEW: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma

by Babatunde Alaran.

Chigozie Obioma, is a stupendous storyteller whose narrations are vividly described to be a kind of realism. Sincerely, I love his clarity; and perhaps, his cleverness, when writing his prose. His debut novel, ‘’ The Fisherman’’ came to me, in such a remarkable definition of how to perceive African fiction. I read the novel with trenchant. It is witty; even, with real significance to events of childhood. He wrote the novel meticulously; even compassionately— to give himself the edgy to write another interesting prose which is one of my best oeuvre in contemporary African fiction.

His latest novel, ‘’ An Orchestra of Minorities’’ is like a theatrical story— that benignly talks about the Igbo cosmology. With the resentment of describing reality in the Igbo culture. This novel makes me to understand the impulse of culture and custom to someone’s belief. From the offal of this novel, I begin to understand that ‘’ CHI’’ is multitudinous. This spirit comes in tapestry to talk to the host; therefore, it talks to the protagonist— Chinonso.

This character is described to be a gentleman and a lover boy. He is a perfect destitute and poultry farmer in a staunch novelty. He is indeed a hardworking character as the novelist gives succinctly description about him. Interestingly, the first passages of this novel give a surreptitious fairy to the story because the protagonist doesn’t really understand his ‘’ CHI’’ and when I begin to read further, there is a revelation between his chi and destiny, which also brings in lieu to his precedence as he does with his farm business.

This novel brings the definition of love and all sort of solicitude because the novelist leaves me to a state of tenterhook when I continue reading; even at the point when Chinonso sees a beautiful lady attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Reading this chapters gives me corollary of what would be his relationship and the lady, whose name is Ndali. I begin to imagine the story. Meanwhile, writing fiction is circumspectly holding the readers’ thought. Thus, this novelist consciously refrains me; in a way that the story begins to have different impetus when Chinonso and Ndali becomes acquaintance. I feel hallucinated thereafter.

Chinonso begins to have affection for Ndali. Although, the novelist’s description is symmetrical when the two characters begin to love themselves. It is true love when I bury my bespectacled eye into this lengthy novel of 512 pages. So, it imbues me into the crescendo of life’s experience toward Chinonso when he visits Ndali’s parent. This imagery is deeply cinematic because the novelist uses decorative words to describe her parent’s house. Her father is a prominent man in the society.

However, what makes me to get relief for reading to the next page is the descriptiveness of Ndali’s action when her father cautiously shouts at Chinonso. I feel the action like me seeing Nollywood movie. This shows that Chigozie Obioma is a novelist who is mystified like late Chinua Achebe because— at every point in time, Chinonso’s ‘’CHI” speaks in proverbs. And sometime it brings turgid discernment to him. Whereupon, this story brings self-disparity immediately he leaves Ndali’s house. Being in love is like ounce to oneself, perhaps, it often makes someone to be disorderly to things round. This kind of scenario becomes disquiet for him not to lose Ndali.

Reading this novel makes me to understand how love works. That sometime love becomes a fresco and never distasteful. It makes effervescent to someone in love. But Chinonso’s love to Ndali makes him to decide to further his education. He feels the only thing that could make him marry her is for him to go back to school because she is a pharmacist. Her father has elucidated him that he can’t allow him to marry his daughter. So, this dissatisfaction has made him to make education his priority. Love always makes an eclectic decision for us to choose the right path. And this is what this novelist has incredibly written in this novel when Chinonso begins his education process to study in Cyprus.

His childhood school mate, Jamike Nwaoriji introduces him to the University in Cyprus, and helps him for the admission, but unfortunately, he swindles him, after he has sold his father’s house and his poultry to pay his tuition and accommodation to Cyprus. Meanwhile, it is still Jamike that helps him when he returns from Cyprus. Although, when he was in Cyprus, life was miserable to him. Reading this novel is somewhat life’s enchantment.

While in Cyprus, he was imprisoned for false rape allegation. During his incarceration, Ndali couldn’t hear from him. She thought maybe he was dead or married. But her husband reveals to Jamike who is later pastor.

Chinonso, at one point becomes vindictive to himself after he has written a letter to Ndali for her to read what his experience in Cyprus. Writing about a novel like this is vociferous because the novelist brings the story to life in Umuahia. And explicitly, Chinonso becomes feisty to himself since he has not got in touch to Ndali who is now married to someone else. Anytime he goes to her pharmacy, he thinks about the ephemeral of how he wastes his time in Cyprus because he wants to marry her. In this novel, one will get to understand what love is to someone who is perhaps gregarious; or sanguinary to things around him. His action is perceptible for Ndali.

Hence, the first time he enters her pharmacy he could not talk. He disguises himself to be sure she is the one. This novel makes me to understand that having a vanguard is precariously a move for someone with monstrous decision in life. Seriously, this novel has numerous phrases from the Igbo languages that bores readers who is not an Igbo; but, those phrases have conjectural definition to what is ‘’ An Orchestra of Minorities ‘’ in Igbo cosmology.

Well, Chinonso could not resist the love he has for Ndali. Even when he has sex with the lady who sells recharged card opposite Ndali’s pharmacy, he still feels the need of loving Ndali. All his experience is somewhat melodramatic to love making with her before travelling to Cyprus. I feel this novel is a story that needs to be read by everybody who thinks about the vignette of love and destiny. Indeed, Chinonso is perplexed. He feels bad to himself because he couldn’t accomplish his dream with Ndali.

Jamike tells him to forgo her because she is married. Therefore, the son with Ndali is Chinonso’s son. Jamike makes him to realize this after he speaks to her husband. Chinonso wants to collect his son. Sometime having a relationship is enticingly scrupulous due to uncertainties that affect our life. In the meantime, what I learn from Chinonso is that life is not an expectation of wish and desire. Even Ndali tells him ‘’ Nonso, you have destroyed yourself because of me’’

Lastly, this novel is scintillating written to address the normalcy of love in our society; and even, at this era we believe so much in distance relationship. The novelist has courteously craft these words to traverse through the readers’ mind. He is a fine writer who understands how to arrange his content coherently. Thus, he is akin to his style of speaking his narration in pages of the novel. This novel is recommended to everybody because it teaches us the theme of love.

Published by Adekunle Writes

Adekunle is the author of a poetry collection, 'Arise Nigeria'. A young writer, Adekunle is a correspondent at Church Times Newspaper and Contributing Editor for Interviews at OPEN: Journal of Arts and Letters. He's the recipient of Daily Trust Newspaper's Poet of the week, January 2019. Follow me on Instagram on Adewunmi

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