I have read several books recently that felt like a bit of a chore, so the first point to make about The Whistler is that it is gloriously short. With the help of generous amounts of white space the publishers have padded it out to 100 pages, but it's probably more like 60 pages of actual text. I'm not a fan of short stories and I'm usually suspicious of very short novels, but this time I was in the mood for it: how nice to get a book finished in a couple of short sittings.
It's about a man with an extraordinary whistle; except actually the whistler himself hardly appears. It's really the story of a village reacting to the whistler's arrival; and his whistling has a remarkable effect on people. We're in magical realism territory here.
The story is light on plot but strong on atmosphere; it's dreamy and wistful and gently funny. I guess in the end it might be a tiny bit insubstantial, but I found it very likeable. And it's nice to read African fiction which isn't about civil war or dictatorship or colonialism, important though those subjects are, but instead about people's normal desires and concerns on a human scale.