Buy Americanah (2013) – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
I haven’t read Half of a Yellow Sun, which is supposed to be Adichie’s masterpiece, but I picked up this one, which is her latest. It’s the story of two Nigerians, Ifemelu & Obinzie. During school, they begin a love affair, but as the novel follows them on their separate paths, to America, Britain, back to Nigeria, through separate relationships, an arranged marriage, a demeaning sexual relationship, pained love affairs, we understand the way they view the world and wonder if fate will bring them back to each other. Or we’re supposed to. I had an odd reaction to this book. I thought that Adichie’s prose was really wonderful. She just has a very clear tone, but also beautiful and elevated without ever being flowery. And the two main characters, particularly Ifemelu, are well-written and interesting. But the novel lacks anything even approximating a serious plot and the book rambles aimlessly for, really, it’s entire length. Rambling is fine in a novel, but at almost six-hundred pages, this book is too long to sustain interest. A good hundred pages probably should have been cut. And I found especially lame the whole plotline about Ifemelu starting a blog; the story is then broken up by blog entries and, you know, if I wanted to read a blog, I’d read a blog, but probably not this one, if you get my drift. Still, it gets a lot of goodwill out of Adichie’s raw talent at creating prose. I’ll still check out Half of a Yellow Sun; hopefully, it has an actual story, along with the prose and characterizations. Anyway, it’s never particularly awful; it comes close in those blog entries a few times, but the problems are mainly in what the book lacks: energy, narrative, drive, etc. But I’ll give it a conditional recommendation. It’s not great, but I’ll allow a “good” rating. 3 stars.
tl;dr – Adichie’s beautiful prose and well-written lead characters can’t completely make up for the book’s lack of a strong narrative and aimless meandering, but they do their best. 3 stars.