‘419’ by Will Ferguson


Guest Post by Dirk Booy:

Most of us have received an email from nowhere promising great riches if we just help someone get through a tough situation. Usually it appeals to our sense of justice, offers a financial incentive, and suggests that a life is in danger if we do not help. The stories are so unbelievable that we simply hit the delete key and wonder who would get suckered into such a scam. ‘419’ explores what happens when someone actually does reply.

Will Ferguson’s book, winner of the 2012 Giller prize, is titled after the Nigerian criminal code, number 419, specifically written to control fraud like email scams. The story tells of how an elderly man responds to such a scam and is eventually ruined by his tormenters. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes look at how such scams operate and why people respond. In the end, it’s a tale of how a family fights back and tries to reverse the damage caused by the scam – both to their family as well as others indirectly involved.

I found it original and captivating. Ferguson weaves a story that takes place in Canada and Nigeria involving different families and shows how a simple email scam can affect so many people. I found his descriptions of Nigeria to be real and authentic. Although the plot and style are somewhat cumbersome, the originality of the story makes it well worth the read.

2 responses to “‘419’ by Will Ferguson

  1. I received the book for Christmas… look forward to reading it even more now. n

  2. I read it last month and was led to it by Toronto Reads and also the fact the setting was an African country. I have been to Uganda, Ethiopia and Cameroon but did not experience the corruption. I can relate to the emails as I have received numerous similar ones. It reveals the terrible conditions inflicted by the west, especially big oil and mining but also how ” locals” are corrupt and have little regard in the main for fellow Nigerians.

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