There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
~ Emily Dickinson

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ~ Helen Keller

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Review: Americanah

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adichie's vitally important TED talks first brought her on my radar. I decided to read this novel sooner rather than later as I flipped through it in the library and saw that the protagonist was a blogger of the type who taught me about white privilege and the ubiquitous racism in American culture. The blog posts scattered through the novel are a strong scaffolding -- irreverent enough to be entertaining, smart enough to be educational. It is a novel that teaches -- about race, Nigeria, hair, immigration, America, love -- but that's just the skin over a vitally alive body of characters. Flashes of unique characterization show this to be the work of a tremendous talent, yet I finished it dissatisfied. (SPOILERS FOLLOW) While the love between Ifemelu and Obinze often feels beautiful and real, the treatment of infidelity disturbed me. It's not that I don't believe novels should portray it, but that here I sensed an inevitability in the story's swift closure. Obinze's wife, Kosi, is presented as a woman trapping her more intelligent husband by her conventionality, and I couldn't help but co.mpare her to a similar character in Middlemarch. Maybe it's a flaw for me to expect all novelists to treat the inner lives of all characters, and the moral implications of all actions, with the same attention as George Eliot, dead 100 years, did. Nevertheless, the quick wrap-up of a beautifully messy story left me discomfited. I don't want to impose my own morality on a story rooted in a culture that I have no connection to, but Adichie's obvious skill and acuity makes me believe I should be able to expect a little more moral angst and awareness in the end. Not so much despite, but because of these questions, I hope to revisit this novel someday. Rewatching Adichie's TED talk on feminism I'm reminded of her brilliance, and would encourage everyone to run to youtube and listen to her.

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