Probably the 37th book I’ve read narrated by a sassy African woman. Shockingly my first by Adichie. Unshockingly, I enjoyed it.
Teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love at secondary school in Nigeria. The country is under military dictatorship, those who can, are jumping ship. Those who can’t are jumping anyway, in the hope the tide won’t sweep them back to the dusty, turbulent shores of home.
Ifemelu leaves for the US, Obinze stays behind – the quiet and inevitable dissolution of their relationship occurs.
Years pass. < Lots of interesting things happen, this forms the bulk of the book >
Ifemelu moves back to Lagos, mildly americanised. Of this she is resistant and hyper aware, and so she must re-adjust to life in a place where frozen, artificial chips are favoured over freshly cut potatoes; for economic and unarguably practical reasons.
(Of course there are also romantic ramifications, this interested me less)
Americanah passes comment on many of ‘the biggies’; politics, love, culture all nested within the ever-present subject of race. Whilst these themes are far from ‘unchartered’ territory in fiction writing, there is great glory to be had when an author can present their subjective views entertainingly and without stale cliches.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s artistry precedes her and I was right to let her guide me.
As ever, my enjoyment is heightened when I can associate with some aspects of the novel. (What would these blogs be without making them just a bit about me?) Obinze’s overthinking of situations and Ifem’s inner indecisiveness I saw reflected in myself:
“There was something wrong with her. She did not know what it was but there was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself”
I’m sure many of my generation can relate to Ifemelu’s ‘grass is greener’ attitude and constant search for betterness. Forever unwilling to comply to what is expected and generally rejecting social ‘norms’: a defining characteristic of millennials. (See also ‘Everything and Nothing’ – my review of Lena Dunham’s landmark ‘Not That Kind Of Girl’)
Observing fundamental differences between Lagos and America on everyday attitudes to race, Ifemelu channels her thoughts into what becomes a successful blog. While this could have easily seemed an over eager stab at making modern a story which wouldn’t naturally be, it didn’t. Instead providing insights into racially relevant situations, both borrowed from real life (Obama’s successful presidential campaign) and invented.
I folded many corners in this book. (I do that – problem? See me after.) With that fact I confirm my enthusiastic recommendation.
One teeny, personal, gripe: happy, conclusive endings get my goat. Next time I’ll try and find something which ends with great ambiguity and angst. Perhaps mid-sentence, or even mid-word… After a swear-word. No ellipsis.
(Or is it?)