Category: Contemporary Fiction
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was so certain that this would be a 5 star read, but felt rather let down overall.
Starting with the positives, I think it’s safe to say that Chimamanda can be considered an authority when it comes to topics on race, identity & immigration. Her observations were completely brilliant, moving, honest and really thought provoking. She gets to the root of racism in society. And gives it to you in it’s simplest, most objective form, stripped of unnecessary layers. It almost seems absurd that race & identity haven’t been explored in the way that she has by any other author.
And now, I think it’s interesting to discuss what didn’t work for me.
Firstly, the plot didn’t grab me and at times I found it really tedious. There is way too much backstory of secondary characters. Relatives, friends, hairdressers, just about everyone gets page time. For one, I really didn’t see how it was adding any value to the plot. Secondly, I just found it very distracting. This novel is almost 600 pages, and it could have been cut down to 400 and made a stronger read.
Secondly, whilst Adichie’s exploration on what it really means to be ‘black’ in America is just perfection, it starts getting repetitive. Especially with Ifemelu’s blog posts in the second half. They all have the same core message but are just representations of different circumstances. In the process, something that started off being incredibly powerful, starts losing significance with overuse.
Characters. Yes, Ifemelu is very flawed and I’m completely fine with flawed characters, but I really struggled in understanding her motivations & personality. I could empathise better with Obinze and was invested in his story, but he gets limited spotlight in comparison.
I enjoy non-linear narratives, but in Americanah, the timeline shifts were rather abrupt. It felt like being suddenly air-dropped into a scene without much preface. So the narration style didn’t really work for me.
Final verdict: I’d give it a 4.5/5 for an eye-opening look at the social/political scene in Nigeria, and for the commentary on racism in the western world. A 2/5 for the plot, characters and narration style. And 4/5 for her emotive, sharp writing.