Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 9/10

Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie

for reducing it.

americanah (1)

I nearly gave up on this one. I’m glad I had nothing else to read on the Tube one Monday, this fails the hundred page test but passes the two hundred page test with flying colours. So if you’re reading it and unconvinced, keep going (preferably on a train where you have no choice but to keep going), because you’ll get sucked in at some point and it’s completely worth the perseverance.

Starting in the now, then continually moving back, gives it the weak start. I wasn’t altogether happy with the ending either (though that’s thanks to my rather black and white moral compass), but that doesn’t detract from a well-plotted arching story.

The strength of this book is the huge themes. Race is an incredibly strong theme for the US setting, with Ifemelu running a race-related blog and being really very outspoken (although obviously well within her rights to be outspoken)! The portion set in the UK is much less about racism (a comment on UK attitudes compared to US?) and more about undocumented life, the constant threat of deportment, life as a shadow person. Very relevant right now given the anti-immigration platforms being traded on by the UK political parties.

The third huge theme is the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze – separated by fate and then Ifemelu’s self-perceived betrayal, her refusal to answer his letters and phone calls. When she finally does then come back from the US, there are yet more hurdles between them… but the teenage love story between them is really strong and credible while still being a “they were each other’s one in a million” type of thing.

Ifemelu is a really strong character, sort of everywoman, who doesn’t make odd or unpalatable choices (Obinze is harder to understand – quieter, and somehow the thoughts of his which are set on paper are less developed that Ifem’s?). We understand her ambition, her shame, her determination to put the world to rights. The secondary characters were much weaker in my eyes – Obinze’s wife, Ifem’s long-term boyfriends, both of their parents and uni friends all seemed more like caricatures. But this is worth reading just for Ifem and Obinze.

I don’t have the historical or cultural awareness to really get the Nigerian setting, but it’s written in an approachable style for a Western audience. Certainly the sections in the US and UK are well-researched and as a London resident I found the portion when Obinze was working as an illegal immigrant in London really interesting – it’s so totally different to my understanding of “documented” life in London.

All I can really say about this one is – read it, and get through the 100 pages. It’s worth it on the other side.

Additional info
Purchased in Manly on a recent trip to Sydney when I’d read my way through the books that Mini-Me had brought with her.
Publisher: Fourth Estate, 400 paperback pages
Order Americanahfrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting
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7 thoughts on “Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – 9/10

  1. winstonsdad 1 July 2014 at 8:00 pm Reply

    Must get this one it is one everyone seems to like

  2. heavenali 1 July 2014 at 10:48 pm Reply

    Thanks for the heads up on the beginning of this I have it on my kindle and may well get around to it in the next month or two.

  3. cyclingwithheels 2 July 2014 at 11:24 am Reply

    I’ve just finished reading this too, and agree with you. Though the story didn’t immediately pull me in, I wasn’t tempted to give up on it due to the strength of her writing and the fact that it’s had such rave reviews. I’ve read her other novels and really enjoyed them, particularly Half of a Yellow Sun, and this – in the end – was better than either of them. Definitely worth reading!

  4. semicolonsherry 5 July 2014 at 7:36 pm Reply

    I read this one a few months ago, and I had much the same reaction you did. http://www.semicolonblog.com/?p=22365
    However, I didn’t like Ifemelu very much. She was smart, but quite scathing in her disdain and critique of everyone who didn’t understand the world the way she did.

  5. […] Americanah – I’m not a big fan of books where adultery wins out. (see Great Gatsby). […]

  6. […] (I think in both paperback and audiobook form!) for several years now, but it was the release of Americanah that introduced me to Adichie. A slow start, but I ended up really enjoying it, and will definitely […]

  7. […] 3. Americanah […]

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