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A provocative debut novel by a brilliant young Nigerian writer, tackling politics, class, and power as a group of friends come of age in Lagos. Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends in his neighborhood. They discover Lagos together as teenagers whose differing ideologies come to the fore over ev A provocative debut novel by a brilliant young Nigerian writer, tackling politics, class, and power as a group of friends come of age in Lagos. Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends in his neighborhood. They discover Lagos together as teenagers whose differing ideologies come to the fore over everything from film to football, Fela Kuti to God, sex to politics. They remain close-knit until Ihechi’s girlfriend, is killed in an anti-government riot. Exiled by his concerned mother, Ihechi moves in with his uncle’s family, where he struggles to find himself outside his former circle of friends. Ihechi eventually finds success by leveraging his connection with a notorious prostitution linchpin and political heavyweight, and earning favor among the ruling elite. But just as Ihechi is about to make his final ascent into the elite political class, he encounters his childhood friends and experiences a crisis of conscience that forces him to question his motives and who he wants to be. Nnamdi Ehirim's debut novel, Prince of Monkeys is a lyrical, reflective glimpse into Nigerian life, religion, and politics at the end of the twentieth century.


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A provocative debut novel by a brilliant young Nigerian writer, tackling politics, class, and power as a group of friends come of age in Lagos. Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends in his neighborhood. They discover Lagos together as teenagers whose differing ideologies come to the fore over ev A provocative debut novel by a brilliant young Nigerian writer, tackling politics, class, and power as a group of friends come of age in Lagos. Growing up in middle-class Lagos, Nigeria during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ihechi forms a band of close friends in his neighborhood. They discover Lagos together as teenagers whose differing ideologies come to the fore over everything from film to football, Fela Kuti to God, sex to politics. They remain close-knit until Ihechi’s girlfriend, is killed in an anti-government riot. Exiled by his concerned mother, Ihechi moves in with his uncle’s family, where he struggles to find himself outside his former circle of friends. Ihechi eventually finds success by leveraging his connection with a notorious prostitution linchpin and political heavyweight, and earning favor among the ruling elite. But just as Ihechi is about to make his final ascent into the elite political class, he encounters his childhood friends and experiences a crisis of conscience that forces him to question his motives and who he wants to be. Nnamdi Ehirim's debut novel, Prince of Monkeys is a lyrical, reflective glimpse into Nigerian life, religion, and politics at the end of the twentieth century.

30 review for Prince of Monkeys

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mihiret

    This is an interesting, complex novel of contemporary Nigeria. Our narrator, Ihechi, often doesn't know what to make of his country (or any other aspect of his life), but he does a good job of describing the competing world views, religions, politics, and expectations he and his close friends face. Even the timeline of the novel is fractured and hard to put together, as Ihechi tries to figure out how he, his friends, and his country are imprisoned and try to work a way out (the novel begins with This is an interesting, complex novel of contemporary Nigeria. Our narrator, Ihechi, often doesn't know what to make of his country (or any other aspect of his life), but he does a good job of describing the competing world views, religions, politics, and expectations he and his close friends face. Even the timeline of the novel is fractured and hard to put together, as Ihechi tries to figure out how he, his friends, and his country are imprisoned and try to work a way out (the novel begins with the main characters waking up, confused, in jail, and we return there several times, but metaphorical prisons abound as well). This novel has plenty of plot, but it is more interested in ideas--prepare to read slowly, enjoying the imagery, but also expect to keep thinking about the novel and its questions after you have closed the book. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway--thank you to Counterpoint Press for the free copy--but my opinions are my own.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Wilson

    Prince of Monkeys was a really interesting coming of age tale that also tackled politics, religion, and class in Nigeria during the 1990s. The writing was excellent, numerous quotable lines made for a very thought provoking read. There was some adult content and intense imagery (especially at the end). It started slow and finished too fast, and at times the writing felt a bit chaotic but overall I really liked it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Muthoni Muiruri

    2.5 Stars Ever read a book that screamt ‘DEBUT! DEBUT! DEBUUUUTTT!?’ This is one of those books. Getting into it, you can tell the author was overly excited and had too many ideas that he wanted to put across, and at the fear and risk of only ever getting published once, decided to cramp up everything into this one book. It’s distracting, most times annoying and robs you of the joy of really enjoying the book. Prince of Monkeys is Ehirim’s debut novel and tells the story of Ihechi and his group of 2.5 Stars Ever read a book that screamt ‘DEBUT! DEBUT! DEBUUUUTTT!?’ This is one of those books. Getting into it, you can tell the author was overly excited and had too many ideas that he wanted to put across, and at the fear and risk of only ever getting published once, decided to cramp up everything into this one book. It’s distracting, most times annoying and robs you of the joy of really enjoying the book. Prince of Monkeys is Ehirim’s debut novel and tells the story of Ihechi and his group of friends coming of age in military ruled and politically charged Nigeria. The story begins with Ihechi and his friends locked up in a prison cell, Ihechi the narrator noting that this is not their first stint in a cell. The rest of the story follows his life and that of his friends – Mendaus, Pastor’s Son and Maradonna – and the circumstances that led the group back to sharing a prison cell, years later. Ihechi and his friends are an idealistic lot. In their youth, they enjoy playing football, watching movies and attending concerts but when one of their friends, Zeenat, is killed in an anti-government riot, the close knit group is torn apart and Ihechi sent off to Enugu to live with his uncle. In later years, the group find themselves further torn by their political alliances. The entire book reads like a commentary on Nigerian politics and whilst you can tell the author had solid ideas, none of these are really well explored – he introduces so many other themes within this book – religion, sexuality, sex and politics, traditions – none properly interrogated and none properly developed. It also did not help that the text is heavy laden with metaphors, similes, parables and very long and drawn out reflective statements that completely distract the reader. To draw from a passage from the book, this is a book that contains ‘typical intellectual jargon, the sort that appeals to the pseudo-intellectual elites’. Would I recommend this book? Only if you have nothing else on your TBR. 2.5/5 stars **Thanks to CounterPoint Press for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. “I would not have an African civilization that would be an annex of Europe and America in administration and culture. That was Mendaus’s dream. I would rather have modern versions of our great cities of centuries ago, like Zaria and Ijaiye, where wealth was defined by the abundance of the community, not the profit of single individuals, where both largesse and family were endured communally, unlike modern cities, where dozens starve on the same street as one man’s dog with leftovers, but the str “I would not have an African civilization that would be an annex of Europe and America in administration and culture. That was Mendaus’s dream. I would rather have modern versions of our great cities of centuries ago, like Zaria and Ijaiye, where wealth was defined by the abundance of the community, not the profit of single individuals, where both largesse and family were endured communally, unlike modern cities, where dozens starve on the same street as one man’s dog with leftovers, but the street is heralded in greatness because of that one rich man. If I lived and died a million times, I would prefer a progression to the present past, with morality determined by communal values, not by the sentiments of the deepest pockets. But I did not know how to shape these ideas into a speech, let alone muster the courage to voice it.” - p. 239

  5. 4 out of 5

    Counterpoint Press

    “His reasoning knocked on the door of my conscience, but there was no budging; I would never understand his justifications. I had always heard but never understood that survival on Nigerian streets was like a game of chess, and no pieces were spared en route to checkmate.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam McCarthy

    Good, informative, and occasionally moving book, although not without some serious flaws (pacing, under-characterization, confusing framing device, forgettable-ness, etc.)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Ellis

    Couldn't get into it. Faint characterization and sense of place. The narrative was too episodic to engage me as a reader. Couldn't get into it. Faint characterization and sense of place. The narrative was too episodic to engage me as a reader.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy Ullmann-Moore

    Beautifully written, delightful prose, and heart rending honesty in this coming-of-age tale. So grateful my librarian recommended this book to me!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Fagbore

    Nnamdi Ehirim’s debut novel-Prince if Monkeys,is a lyrical meditative observation of Nigerian life, religion and politics at the end of the twentieth century..Looking forward to his future writings.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marooong

    The book was a drag. Pacing was horrible.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Utibe-Obong Akpabio

    This has to be one of the most beautiful stories ever written. From start to finish, you are literally glued to every page, to a point that you can almost touch the words - all so elegantly put together. An absolute masterpiece of art.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Delores

    This book has a lot of idea and word density which makes it interesting learning about Nigeria. The ending , though...very abrupt and left you wanting more. I hope there will be a part 2 .

  13. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    A good novel. Good plot. Good character development. An enjoyable read. Won courtesy of the author and goodreads.com

  14. 4 out of 5

    Call Me [Brackets]

    Empowerment from wealth or bonds: which is more important? How does one navigate and understand their place within a post-colonial and capitalistic society that is constantly challenging or incorporating Western culture into itself? How can you maintain your friendships and relationships within a society that is constantly dealing with political upheaval? What is self-actualization if external societal forces are always influencing you? And can you actually escape imprisonment? Nnamdi Ehirim wre Empowerment from wealth or bonds: which is more important? How does one navigate and understand their place within a post-colonial and capitalistic society that is constantly challenging or incorporating Western culture into itself? How can you maintain your friendships and relationships within a society that is constantly dealing with political upheaval? What is self-actualization if external societal forces are always influencing you? And can you actually escape imprisonment? Nnamdi Ehirim wrestles with these questions in his debut novel Prince of Monkeys. Additionally, Ehirim’s concern with politics, spirituality, religion, gender, sexuality, class, tribalism, and identity in the novel shows that one cannot live within a post-colonial society without risking something, whether these risks involve the loss of freedom, body parts, damaged relationships, and loved ones. However, throughout the danger, loss, and tragedy experienced by the characters in Prince of Monkeys, Ehririm reminds readers that you have to continue to live in spite of everything for yourself even if it means you have to risk experiencing a social, mental, or physical death. Therefore, if you enjoy episodic, postmodernist, and realism novels that deal with the post-colonial subjects’ articulation of their subject positions and how they navigate two seemingly separate worlds within a single society, you should add Nnamdi Ehirim’s Prince of Monkeys onto your list of books to read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Skaar

    "Injustice is only injustice when it happened in the past. This is the present. There's no judge to decide justice in the present, just witnesses who are as powerless as victims." Few writers will have me baffled beyond my bias this way, but NNAMDI I AM SO PROUD TO KNOW YOU. With your mastery of riveting fiction and illustrative language, I am in awe of all the things I have yet to learn from you. Luckily the world gets to do the same - goes without saying now that the NYTimes already caught your "Injustice is only injustice when it happened in the past. This is the present. There's no judge to decide justice in the present, just witnesses who are as powerless as victims." Few writers will have me baffled beyond my bias this way, but NNAMDI I AM SO PROUD TO KNOW YOU. With your mastery of riveting fiction and illustrative language, I am in awe of all the things I have yet to learn from you. Luckily the world gets to do the same - goes without saying now that the NYTimes already caught your fire! Prince of Monkeys is a time travel out of the ordinary, and albeit fictional, an exploration of recent Nigerian history that sparked my motivation to read on. First to the thrilling end of this book, then onto Chinua Achebe and Buchi Emecheta.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adesuwa Grace (Somewhat Reserved)

    I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this novel from Counterpoint Press in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinion in any way. 3.5 stars Full review at Somewhat Reserved This story reveals events that took place from Ihechi's childhood to adulthood. He went to a Christian primary school and felt a little different from his peers since his mother practiced Ifá, a traditional Yoruba pagan religion. Though this book was engaging, I couldn't help but get annoyed at some instances where a I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this novel from Counterpoint Press in exchange for a review. This did not affect my opinion in any way. 3.5 stars Full review at Somewhat Reserved This story reveals events that took place from Ihechi's childhood to adulthood. He went to a Christian primary school and felt a little different from his peers since his mother practiced Ifá, a traditional Yoruba pagan religion. Though this book was engaging, I couldn't help but get annoyed at some instances where a character would have a piece of dialogue that would take up a page or at least most of it. All in all a fascinating story of twentieth century Nigerian life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    Being an armchair Traveller and homebound long before the Coronavirus, I like reading books that take place in other places........ This is the second "serious" book I've read about modern happenings, politics, and daily life in Nigeria and it is a very good slice of late 80,s to late 90,s of Nigerian life with a short history of Nigeria and Biafra thrown in too! My takeaway is that every Nigerian likes to be right ( like most people) and they are all willing to fight to keep their positions in mo Being an armchair Traveller and homebound long before the Coronavirus, I like reading books that take place in other places........ This is the second "serious" book I've read about modern happenings, politics, and daily life in Nigeria and it is a very good slice of late 80,s to late 90,s of Nigerian life with a short history of Nigeria and Biafra thrown in too! My takeaway is that every Nigerian likes to be right ( like most people) and they are all willing to fight to keep their positions in motion and relevant! This is also quite a sad book, just as Little Bee is........and shares another trait with Little Bee....hard to start and then hard to put down and finished in one day

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anita

    I was pretty distracted when I read this and am perhaps not giving it its full due. But I struggled to get through it, and couldn't wait to finish it so I could get to something a bit more to my taste in fiction. Too much testosterone? Perhaps. I was pretty distracted when I read this and am perhaps not giving it its full due. But I struggled to get through it, and couldn't wait to finish it so I could get to something a bit more to my taste in fiction. Too much testosterone? Perhaps.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Evonne

    I enjoyed the poetic description, particularly at the beginning. The ending was abrupt and seemed anti-climatic to me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Oluwafemi Ojosu

    The politics of this book made me want to stand up, go outside, tear shirt and fight because!!! And Fuck!!! What was that ending!!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erin Boers

  22. 4 out of 5

    Oniye

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jen L.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Iris

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

  28. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sean Drate

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