The Famished Road

Ben Okri


This book should have been right up my alley: magical realism, Booker Prize winner, African folklore; it has it all. Yet somehow it just didn’t do it for me. A young African boy, Azaro, is continually being kidnapped by spirits, but it doesn’t seem to hurt him, and he easily escapes. His parents try to scratch out a living. His mum earns a pittance as a street vendor, and his dad carries heavy sacks as a day laborer. His dad also is an unsuccessful prize fighter. The first time any of this is described is entertaining, but by the third or fourth time, it is merely repetitive. Nothing new is added. At the end of the book all the character are unchanged.

I read it in my quest to read all the Booker Prize winners, and I wish they had chosen Paddy Doyle’s The Van instead.