Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review - Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Image: My own

From the book cover: As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and achieves triumphs, 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 undocumented life in Britain. 

Years later, Obinze is wealthy in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. When Ifemelu decides to return home, she and Obinze will face the hardest decision of their lives. 

My thoughts: I had read, reviewed and loved Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun last year. Seeing all the raving reviews that Americanah was getting certainly piqued my curiosity and I finally bought the book couple of months ago. Just like last year, I wanted the first book for the year to be something special and I couldn't think of a better book to kick start 2016 with. 

I took quite a long time to read this one. At 470 odd pages, it is not a light read. I wanted to savor and relish it as much as possible and took over a week to finish it, but it was so worth it. You know you are reading an excellent book when you don't want the book to be over, yet at the same time can't wait to see as to how the story would unfold. 

This certainly proves true here and Ifemelu is a character that I fell head over heels in love with. She is pretty, definitely not conventional, makes her own mistakes - in love and in life, is a blogger (and this alone scores her all the points in my book) and at the same time, is connected to Nigeria and her roots despite living in America for many years. 

The plight of Ifemelu, right from when she is a teenager who is struggling with her emotions to the young and confident woman that she transitions into, is portrayed deeply. Dwelling on her fears and insecurities in a foreign country where she faces immense poverty and desperation; battling with depression, all changed my outlook of how I had viewed America till date. 

Adichie shows the raw side of not just people, but also the cultural differences and among the countries as a whole. There are not many books that I have read about race, but this one tackles the issue with an unflinching honesty and really opens your eyes to the prejudices existing in our nation even today. What I also loved was the nuances that the author has brought in, be it in the conversations between the hair dressers and customers in a small salon in America, or the relationship between two old friends meeting after years and the changes in them, each scene is well constructed.

Though the book deals with race and has passages from the blog that Ifemelu writes, at its heart is also a love story. Obinze is another interesting character in the book and though he is married to a beautiful woman and has a child with her, his heart still belongs to Ifemelu. Will the lovers unite when Ifemelu decides to come back? And if so, at what cost? These are the questions that keeps you guessing right till the end. 

There are a lot of other interesting characters like Ifemelu's Aunt Uju, her cousin Dike, Curt- the white guy she dates, Blaine- the American black professor at Yale and boyfriend with whom she shares a special bond, to name a few. The book has been set at the time of elections in America when Barack Obama was elected as the president. Needless to say, this affects Ifemelu in ways more than one.

I also loved the pop culture references throughout the book. Whether it is in the fashion, the books or the music, the effort made by the author is commendable. The language flows beautifully, each sentence is crafted so well and is a pleasure to read. In short, there was nothing I did not love about Americanah. This one comes highly recommended!


  1. Good review, so very honest and crystal clear in your opinion on the various aspects of the book you were reviewing. Makes me feel like buying the book ! Good job Aathira, well written.

    1. Oh, you must read it. It's such a beautifully book!


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