My book review of 419

419, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Parts of the book were interesting. The author had done a lot of research into Nigeria and those sections were probably the most engaging. There were two elements that ruined the book. First was the fact it is based on the whole “I am a Nigerian businessman who would like to transfer money” scam. This is so well known, and used in so many jokes for such a long time, that the notion an educated Canadian retired teacher could be taken in by it is just not believable. I kept thinking “come on, it’s spam and a well known deceit”.

The second issue is that Laura, the mild mannered copy editor, is a pretty boring character. Yet we are supposed to imagine she undertakes a huge and dangerous adventure. This is also not believable. And in her adventure she does some nasty things that make her even less sympathetic. The Nigerian parts of the story are compelling but the majority of the novel is just not believable. Also, there is such an overall tone of dread and foreboding that I did not enjoy reading this. The end is is kind of predictable I guess, but also a let down. But I guess it is the only way the various loose ends can get resolved.

After reading the book I am mainly let wondering if the police inspector will get a cat? Or did he get one?

I am surprised this won the Giller prize, but so did Bloodletting, another mediocre book (although I think Bloodletting was better than 419). The Giller seems to go to writers for political reasons, more than for quality of writing.

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