While I appreciated the topic and the complexity of the storytelling in 419 by Will Ferguson, I have to say that I had a hard time immersing myself in the narrative. I found the characters on the shallow side and the multiple story lines disjointed. Perhaps it was because I did not connect with many of the characters.
I understood the main character’s need for vengeance but I didn’t believe that she could follow through with what she did. I didn’t think that her character had the chops to even dream up of the revenge scheme.
The scenes in Nigeria were intense but lacked vibrancy. Last fall, I read Lawrence Hill’s The Illegal and in that novel, Hill successfully breathed life into a foreign country – as a reader, I felt immersed in the sounds, smells, and life of the setting. This is where Ferguson fall short. What’s most surprising to me is that Will Ferguson won the prestigious Giller Prize for this novel. Maybe someone in my book club will be able to enlighten me on how that happened.
That said, my favourite scenes were the ones that took place in Nigeria. Since Will Ferguson is a well-known travel writer, it makes sense that the best scenes in the novel are the ones that are place abroad.
This book was good but fell short of my expectations.