Book Review: The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard
Alois used to work for the Ministry, but he felt stifled and quit. Now he steals chickens. One night the white owner of one of the large, walled-in houses he steals from stops him. He wants him to get a letter for him. A letter from Gabriel, a revolutionary leader who has been long-thought to be dead. Alois accepts for the money, but soon finds his whole world changing around him.
This book was a gift from a one-time friend who also enjoys African lit. She enjoyed it and thought I would, but remember that problem I mentioned in my last review where I don’t seem to like books other people recommend to me? Yeah. Still a problem. I do enjoy African lit, and I thought when I saw the cover and heard the title that this book would be more of a social justicey kind of plot. But it’s actually quite a bit of a political thriller, and I personally don’t like those. Putting that element aside, though, I am still able to review the quality of the book.
The plot takes the less common method of looking at political upheavals and developments through the eyes of an average person dragged into the situation. There are a few chapters that show us the president’s perspective, but primarily things are seen through Alois’s eyes. I think this is what made it readable to me, because honestly who cares about politicians? It’s the everyman that is interesting. The plot is also interesting in that it looks at both a past revolution and a present-day coup. That makes it more unique in the world of political thrillers.
The writing can only be described as flowery. For example:
In truth he saw her everywhere, but you couldn’t say to a woman, not one who was meant to be just your friend, “Here, I have brought you this tree because its branches moved as you do” or “see here this bucket, when the water falls from it I hear your voice. (page 104)
Pretty much the entire book has that kind of meandering, highly descriptive cadence. I know that works for lots of readers. It’s just not personally something I enjoy, and I did find it odd in a political thriller.
One thing that bothered me is that it’s never entirely clear what country in Africa this is. I think it might be a fictional country in the southern region of Africa. The author herself lived in Ghana for a time so perhaps the idea was inspired by Ghanaian culture, but not based on anything factual in Ghana. In a book like this, a political thriller, I prefer real countries. Or at least a clearly defined country. That might bother other readers less though.
Overall then, there are some aspects of this political thriller that make it unique in the genre. It examines both a past revolution and a current coup through the eyes of a non-political youth who was not alive for the previous revolution. The writing is surprisingly flowery for the genre, so fans should be aware of that difference going in. Recommended to fans of political thrillers looking for something different.
3 out of 5 stars