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419 Paperback – 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 163 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pintail; 7/28/13 edition (2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143188720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143188728
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luanne Ollivier TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I think of Canadian author Will Ferguson, it is his travel memoirs that immediately spring to mind. That and his rich sense of humour (He has won The Leacock Medal for Humour numerous times.)

419 takes us in a completely different direction....

We've all received them. In fact Barrister Salvadore Gallarto sent me one this morning. Can I help him with repatriating 8.5 million euros? It's a simple matter really. I'm sure that every reader has had one of these land in our inbox. And we promptly trash them. But what if you didn't?

Laura Curtis is heartbroken when her elderly father Henry is killed in an auto accident. But on further investigation, it appears he deliberately left the road. Why would he do such a thing? Further digging by the local Calgary police on his computer uncovers the truth - he had become embroiled in a 419 scam...."I can help...." (419 is the Nigerian criminal code for "obtaining money or goods under false pretenses.)

On the other side of the world in Nigeria, we follow the story of Winston - a 419 scammer. And Amina - a young pregnant woman walking her way across the country, escaping from something. And Nnamdi, a young man from the depths of the Niger Delta.

In the beginning, I wondered how these disparate stories would tie together, but Ferguson deftly weaves an absolutely riveting plot. The criminal underbelly of Nigeria is presented in all of it's seediness. But really, it is the story of Nnamdi that captured me the most. His story is given the most page space and he is the character I felt I 'knew' the most. The effect of the oil industry on a country and its' people is disheartening. The death of her father changes Laura as well.
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Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed in this book. It was the winner of the 2012 Giller Prize and that in itself is usually an indication that the book will be great. I have read all the previous Giller Prize wining books, and found some genuine gems in there as well as some above-average stories. I'd say about 5 or 6 continue to stand out in my memory. This book didn't even really register with me. The writing is very good and some of the characterizations are pretty good (Ironsi-Igobia is a wonderfully evil character and Warren, Lauren's high-flying brother is very realistic). I found all the side stories in the book just thoroughly confused me and they didn't seem to belong in the main story at all. And the ending just left me cold. A lot of the book didn't seem to make much sense to me, and I don't really feel that Laura, the main protagonist ever became anywhere near real. She seemed more like a caricature to me. Mr. Ferguson's writing skills are exemplary and his descriptions of the various locales were realistic and believable. That is why I have given the book a 3. Without those things it would have been a 2 for me. The book is trans-global-from Calgary to various parts of Nigeria and back again. It makes you realize as you read how small our world has become. I found the descriptions of the 419 boys chilling, and what they do and how many lives that they ruin is astounding. I'm sorry Giller judges, I think a mistake has been made with your selection this time. It's not often that I shut the covers on a book and wonder why I bothered to take the time to read it. And it's not often that I have felt betrayed at the end of a book either. I felt a sense of betrayal and waste when I finished this book. I was quite disappointed. I enjoyed "The Imposter Bride" so much more. It would have been a much better choice for this award I think.
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Format: Hardcover
Will Ferguson's book thoughtfully connects disparate threads: the tar sands of Canada, the legacy of colonialism, Nigerian email scams, the first world and the developing world, wrapping them into something of a mystery, one told at a very personal level despite the broad sweep of history that serves as an implicit backdrop.

The father of Ferguson's protagonist becomes entangled in an email scam, and in the aftermath she leaves the sterility of her life, a small apartment over an enclosed mall in a large city in Alberta, and heads out into the messy world, almost without feeling, for a purpose that isn't truly revealed until the closing pages.

Ferguson's descriptions are lush and vivid, and range from the cold of Alberta to the dank mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta. He clearly has done his homework, populating his narrative with cultural and historical references that make his story come to life.

And he raises questions for which there are no easy answers: about the nature of revenge. About the basic injustice of life, with some condemned to a medieval existence in the slums of Lagos, while others live in air conditioned comfort. About the global oil industry, and its impact on the environment and on governments. About whether thugs shaking down a tanker truck full of stolen oil on a Nigerian highway can be compared to tax collectors. About whether "turnabout is fair play" - with email scammers taking back that which was taken during the age of slave trading. And most disturbing of all, about whether places like Lagos - steeped in misery, corruption, disease and crime - represent the future. And yet, despite the grimness, Ferguson's book leaves us with hope, that the goodness of humanity might persevere through adversity.

Exotic locations, thoughtful questions without easy answers and excellent writing add up to a good read for those who like their novels to serve as more than simply light entertainment.
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