419, Will Ferguson


The stack of books I’ve read is two feet tall and my cat keeps giving me dirty looks for turning pages instead of petting him. Still, onward. Six more days to read seven more books.

This one – whoa. I stopped in the middle to text Matthew and tell him that I was blown away. To quote, “Shit, 419 is good.” And it is. I haven’t read anything else that was shortlisted for the 2012 Giller (though I’m about to read Inside – bring it on, Alix Ohlin), but I can see why it won.

419 could have been a pretty straightforward thriller, but it’s not. There are four separate narratives going on, and the intensity of the novel builds and builds until all of the characters weave their way together. The core of the narrative is the idea of the 419 scam. You know, “ATTENTION SIR, NIGERIAN PRINCE IN NEED OF AID, $25 MILLION IN BANK ACCOUNT, PLEASE HELP.” I used to get those all the time when I worked at the Students’ Union, because our spam filters sucked. Ferguson builds this whole narrative on the ripple effects of someone falling for those scams.

Ferguson’s Nigeria was also very real to me – my dad works in international oil, and I don’t like being reminded of the real dangers he never talks about. Those depictions could have fallen flat, but they didn’t. Juxtaposing Nigeria with Calgary, of all places, worked particularly well.

Some of the characters might be a bit underdeveloped, and that’s the biggest qualm I have with this book. You should read it. You should really, really read it.

Books read: 26


One response to “419, Will Ferguson

  1. Pingback: 419 falls short of expectations | Broken Penguins·

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