This is one of those books. You know those ones I’m talking about. The ones you will either love immensely or despise right from the beginning. Turning the pages of the book one can see how the book can be dismissed as utter bullshit or believed as a good story. Both ways it makes for a good story, no one can take that away from Mr. Okri. As always, however, let us start, at the start.

In this book there’s a prince, and there’s a lady, who I don’t even know how I will begin to describe where she comes from so let her just call her a girl. In fact I doubt any of his characters are given names all through the whole book.  So, as I was saying, there’s this prince and a lady and they are soul mates and the story is basically about how they get to hook up. Think of the normal fairytale except not so normal, no fairies and a lot more complex and intricately woven.

The book takes you through an artists journey in life and shows you how the young reformers are normally embraced in a society that is clinging so desperately to their traditions and normal way of doing things even when those same traditions are the thing that are leading the community to its ultimate destruction. In fact, in its own way, the book opens your eyes to just how stupid and redundant some traditions can be while it shows you how cool some others are.

As a writer I must say that I was more affected by the book than most would or so I thought until it hit me that everyone in whatever they do creates one thing or another and I can honestly say that anyone who has gone through the creative process will be, at the very least, touched by some parts in the book. The heaviness on your hear when you are pregnant with a new poem (substitute poem with whatever you do). The Long periods of block that slowly eat at you, almost to the point of making you sick. The long dreamy pauses when you drift off into that world where you just do whatever you want to do and I could go on and on.

I think though that Okri sometimes has too much fun and goes off on a tangent where he seems to have lost himself in the world that he has created. At times like this you can see 2 or 3 pages straight of allusions. Sentences that start the same way and just allude the same situation to many different things so as to ensure you get the ‘feel’ of what he is talking about. I just think in a couple of the numerous chapters of the book this goes a tad bit overboard and even gets out of control.

How Okri picks his words is a difficult one to answer. The closest words to describe what Okri does is flowery and poetic. Yet eve that doesn’t completely capture what Ben Okri does. This is a writer who never misses out a single detail. Everything is described to the last letter then described in another way just in case you didn’t completely understand what he meant when he described it the first time. This can be overbearing at times but it works wonders when it comes to planting plots. You find yourself missing the tiniest detail on page five and wondering how it was picked up on page 63. That’s probably how he wanted it to play out though. I think that is why today’s excerpt best covers Okri’s signature, his descriptions. This is at some stage in the middle of the book and it speaks for itself:

He watched her as, in the forest, she spoke to the birds. To spiders in their webs, she sang a song, laughing. She whispered girlishly into the trunks of trees. And, alone, she sometimes threw her hands up and exulted in the rich bank of green above her and the cool shade of the trees. Often she would pick up a snail and move it from the path. She would speak to it, urging the snail to be more careful where it strayed.

Maybe before the review is over it will be best to tell you about the magic. Yes, you read right, magic. The book is full of magic and rituals and stuff. Not magic like harry potter, magic like Paulo Coelho. This, of course, makes for all the more interesting twists in the book.  To top it all off this book is definitely a page turner if you have the valiance to get through the first fifteen chapters (100 pages) as the laying of the plot kind of drags but once you are engrossed it will take a great deal to pull you away from it. Think of it as an acquired taste, like coffee….. or beer.

About The Author

Poet and novelist Ben Okri was born in 1959 in Minna, Northern Nigeria, to an Igbo mother and Urhobo father. He grew up in London before returning toNigeriawith his family in 1968. Much of his early fiction explores the political violence that he witnessed at first hand during the civil war inNigeria. He left the country when a grant from the Nigerian government enabled him to read Comparative Literature at Essex University in England.

In 1991 Okri was awarded the Booker Prize for Fiction for his novel The Famished Road (1991). Set in a Nigerian village, this is the first in a trilogy of novels which tell the story of Azaro, a spirit child. Azaro’s narrative is continued in Songs of Enchantment (1993) and Infinite Riches (1998). Other recent fiction includes Astonishing the Gods (1995) and Dangerous Love (1996), which was awarded the Premio Palmi (Italy) in 2000. His latest novels are In Arcadia (2002) and Starbook (2007).

 Starbook is available on Amazon

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