It’s been quite some time since I did a book review because, let’s face it, I didn’t read any actual books for about 8 months. Since I have been back at work reading has been back on the menu as I spend about two hours a day on the train and I have managed to read a few books. Unfortunately none of them have really been interesting enough – good or bad – to motivate me to actually write something, until now.
I have had Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on my to-read list for ages but after my friend, J, gave it a rave review, I decided to bump it up the list and I am glad I did.
As teenagers growing up in Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love and imagine they will spend the rest of their lives together. When Ifem gets the opportunity to study in America both her family and Obinze are adamant she should go. After all, spending time abroad is what every Nigerian aspires to, isn’t it?
Joining her aunt and nephew in New York, Ifem finds America very different from what she expected and as her struggle to adapt to her new environment starts to affect her, she loses touch with Obinze. The years pass by and she finds success as a blogger commenting on issues of race and self-image within the USA from her uniquely immigrant perspective and while she has other relationships, Ifem never stops wondering about her first love.
Meanwhile, Obinze finds himself married and a high profile businessman after a stint in London, still confused as to why Ifem has turned her back on him.
When the two reconnect after over a decade of silence on the eve of Ifem’s return to Nigeria they are forced to examine their life choices and question if you can ever really go back home.
Americanah is as much a love story as it is a commentary on race, privilege and immigration especially in the UK and USA. So while it can be read very much for enjoyment there is also a truly educational and informative element that aims to make the reader question how they see the world.
Ifem, Obinze and the supporting characters are complex and flawed individuals who draw you in to their moral and emotional struggles. I found myself chewing through this novel desperate to know the outcome but also excited by Adichie’s openness and honestly. I suppose as an immigrant and an African (albeit a white one), there was so much I could identify with but then also so much more I could learn.
I am not sure I am 100% sold on the ending, which was the only slight let down for me, but I have no reservation in recommending Americanah. Apparently there is a film version in development starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo…