‘Americanah’ – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


I’ve literally this evening just finished reading Americanah, the 2013 novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s not the kind of book I usually go for – it was actually nominated for a fiction prize, which usually puts me off! Haha. But I went on a bit of a book buying spree about a month ago, and I’ve promised myself that I’m going to get through them all. I’m really glad I read this, and as it took me so long (I’ve been trying to read it for over 3 weeks) I’ve got a real sense of achievement from finishing it (bit sad, never mind). I definitely want to read more books like this. After I grew out of children’s books, I read way too much chick lit, and I’ve always kind of drifted towards it whenever I’ve wanted to read since then. But I honestly think this change in what I read is important – it’s important to read more meaningful books as you understand more and more of the world around you. So here’s to slogging through some brilliant, deep, insightful, life changing books in the next few years – and throwing in the odd cheesy chick lit novel from time to time!

Here’s my review of Americanah, in ‘proper’ review form:

This is an amazing, amazing read. Spanning decades, the reader is entwined in the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are soul mates, but who spend the majority of the book on different continents. Starting in the present, Adichie takes the reader on a journey through time, back to the childhood of Ifemelu, through their teenage years together, following Obinze to the UK and Ifemelu to the US, and both of them back to their home of Lagos, Nigeria – Obinze far sooner than Ifemelu.

The story largely centres around Ifemelu. The reader gets an insight into her childhood, her attitude towards her mother, her father’s struggles with work, and her cousin (Aunty Uju) and her antics. This storyline evolves into her teenage relationship with Obinze, and her (and his to an extent) struggle to better herself, the ultimate goal being to get an American visa. Ifemelu succeeds where Obinze fails, and with his encouragement she leaves for the US to go to college. After a traumatic start in America, Ifemelu stops contacting Obinze, and their relationship quickly falls apart. After that, the storyline splits. Punctuated with flash forwards to the present, the reader is taken through Ifemelu’s journey in America alongside her. A quick detour through Obinze’s short-lived time in England and the reader is reunited with Obinze in Nigeria in the present, and Ifemelu about to return. Ifemelu is temporarily delayed with Aunty Uju and her son Dike, who have also been in the US, but it is Ifemelu’s young cousin Dike who pushes her to take that final step to return home. Nigeria is very different for Ifemelu, and her return will – eventually – be the catalyst for lasting change in both her and Obinze’s lives.

Different readers will view Americanah contrastingly. It is a ‘long’ book, extremely detailed, and some will relish this, others will feel a need to know what happens. Another element to the book is Ifemelu’s successful blog about race in America, and the ‘extracts’ from this throughout the book are really interesting, and poignant at times, and they really construe the frustration that Ifemelu feels towards the world and the actions of the human race. At heart though, this is really a crazy, dysfunctional, stretched out and heavily disguised love story. But still a love story.

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