Warnings: Swearing,vague sexual references, mild racism, mild abortion references.
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
‘As teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love in a Nigeria under military dictatorship. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America, where Obinze hopes to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?’
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my IDOLS. I’m drawing her for my GCSE Graphics project and I’ve pre-ordered a bunch of her books to binge from the library. I loved Purple Hibiscus so I was super excited to read this (even though the only copy I could find was in LARGE PRINT).
I really enjoyed Ifemelu as a character – she seemed real and genuine, not manufactured like some book characters. Her journey from Nigeria to the US wasn’t the typical ‘I moved here and now I have a nice house and I’m making money and I love everything!!!’ It showed the struggle that she went to both in understanding the culture and finding a job. I felt like most of the story focused on her, detailing her life, relationships and blog posts. This incredible depth into her life made the sections on Obinze and his life in London seem a bit more fuzzy. But, it also made him seem more interesting as the story only focused on him for the most interesting parts of his life – both the highs and lows. The other characters were less central but also had lots of depth and emotion.
I liked the way that the story would flip both between the two characters and through time frames – sometimes it was modern, sometimes it was in their teens as they first met. I enjoyed seeing the development of their relationship in different aspects
and I want someone like that lmao please love me. I don’t know if it was the large text of the book (it made it 730 pages long compared to 477 pages in the normal copy) but this book seemed very long. That’s not to say that I was bored, although some sections were a bit slow, but the way Adichie writes made it seem like someone’s life, not a whistle-stop tour of only the extremely dramatic parts.
There are undertones of racism and sexism all through the book – both in the US with Ifemelu, UK with Obinze and Nigeria with both of them. This made a theme that interlocked everything in the book, and showed the reader that although the countries are very different in terms of development, they have a lot of the same problems. There’s also discussion of mental illness and how it affects black communities – Ifemelu is firm in the fact that she isn’t depressed because that just happens to Americans and white people. This made for the book being generally very heavy reading that didn’t particularly seem heavy as the nuances to the issues are so subtle.
To be honest, I liked Purple Hibiscus more as I related to the characters and the story, but I still really liked the writing of Americanah and the way that people leave and reenter Nigeria, along with how that affects people in Nigeria.