Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie // First published: May 2013 // Genre: Contemporary
This edition: 477 pages, published in February 2014 by Fourth Estate // Get it @TheBookDepository
Read in September 2015
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
From the award-winning author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ a powerful story of love, race and identity.
As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
Unless you are living under a rock —or in a very remote part of the world with very limited access to internet and the media— you must have heard of this book, or at least of its author.
In a nutshell, this book is about race, expatriation, culture shock, the general struggles of life, and everything in between.
I will not try to pretend that I understand and relate to the issues presented in this book, because I simply cannot. As much as I say that I agree with some of the ideas, that I strongly disagree with the treatment of some of the characters by others, etc., unless I was indeed from the same background as the main character, or similar, I can’t put myself in her shoes and absolutely understand the struggles. This opened a whole new perspective on these issues that I was very unfamiliar with, and I hope that it will make me more aware of the numerous struggles that people go through everyday.
Something that I could relate to, was how hard it was to find a place to live and a job. The boring details of my life are irrelevant, but I “liked” to see how much Ifemelu struggled to find an apartment, a job, and how hard it was to make ends meet and be able to pay rent and eat at the same time. I liked it because it is the reality of things. How many times in movies or books do we see the young and naive character moving in a new city, and in the span of 2 days he or she already has a job and a place to live without struggling too much (sure, they had to sleep on a friend’s couch or something, but you don’t always have a convenient friend with a couch in the city that you’re moving to). It took a good chunk of the book for Ifemelu to finally have things straightened out; and even though the process is very depressing, it actually was refreshing to read about something so real.
It may seem weird, but I like stories about expatriates in the US or the UK, and how they adapt to their new surroundings. Back in the day I really enjoyed The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri for example. I always find it very interesting to see how a person’s culture can be challenged by the culture and customs of the country in which they have settled.
I didn’t enjoy the beginning of the book so much, though, which was, in my opinion, very romance heavy. But that’s just a personal preference. Nor did I particularly liked being introduced to new characters way too often, only for them to disappear after giving their speech on the state of the world or whatnot. I understand that some of these things had to be said, but sometimes the political lecture became a bit too much and I struggled through those chapters, because they were said by characters I didn’t care about, and shouldn’t care about because they disappeared once their speech was over.
Even though this is a very good book (look everywhere for reviews, they’re al great), I cannot bring myself to give it the highest star rating… I’m giving it 4.5/5 stars because of the reasons I’ve stated above… There a little too much romance for my taste, and sometimes the discourse about race and identity almost became lecture notes, and I zoned out of them a little.