Thursday, 29 May 2014

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

americanahReview by JJ Marsh

What We Thought:
This is a love story. 
Not just between Ifemelu and Obinze, but for a country. 
Adichie’s observations on America and Britain are cool, in both senses of the word. Precise, amused, sardonic and aware. Yet when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, the reader can sense passion. 

Young lovers Ifemelu and Obinze are well-off, educated and intelligent individuals, who love their country. But only by leaving do they realise how well off they are. Ifemelu takes up a scholarship in the US and learns some harsh lessons about racial attitudes (NAB v AA), principles (how the word ‘relax’ differs when it comes to hair and tennis coaches) and the influence of class.

Obinze opts for a less secure route in Britain. Whereas Ifemelu, who’s started a blog, sees the funny side of assumption and prejudgement, Obinze’s treatment at the hands of authority and associates, leaves deep scars on his sense of self. 

One feature I found especially endearing is the significance of the written word. Our hero and heroine share books, letters, emails and maintain a connection through words on a page. Reading, writing and books are doorways for these characters.

An articulate, broad and sharp analysis of the state we’re in, this is a beautifully written story about two people and a love that will always bring them back.

Read this if you enjoyed: Half of a Yellow Sun, Nervous Conditions, The Namesake

Avoid if you dislike: observations on race, puncturing of liberal lip-service, realities of immigration

Ideal accompaniments: Salted cashews, Zobo, and Brian Eno's On Land

Genre: Literary Fiction

Read JJ Marsh's exclusive interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the June 2014 edition of Words with JAM

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