Worth reading? – YES!
Americanah is a story about Ifemelu and Obinze who have a deep mature love for high school sweethearts. They fall in love in Nigeria and must part when Ifemelu halfway through university due to strikes, goes to study in America, both of them full of plans to reunite. Adichie is a phenomenal story teller and this is by far my favorite of her works (‘The thing around your neck’, a close second). It is mind blowing how well written the story is from the carefully chosen details that made her descriptions so alive with vividness to askew metaphors that injected honest humour. Its a love story yet also also a story about race in america and such sub-themes as interracial relationships, immigration , culture, hair, religion, ambition, identity and self realization The story remains clever and engaging throughout and that for me boiled down to the presence of genuine and fascinating smaller characters and what they represented – Aisha, The General, Emenike, Kimberly, Kosi etc I know i’m gushing here but its a very well written story with serious, thought provoking issues embedded in delicious fiction. Ifemelu’s blogposts on various aspects of race also added to this.
Ifemelu’s voice is what really drives the story forward. Even though the third person limited narrative alternates between both she and Obinze’s perspectives, there is a clear sense that whilst Obinze’s story is being told, Ifemelu is telling her own story. She is a character that is both easy and difficult for a reader to love. Adichie unravels the story switching between the present and different stages of the past seamlessly. I enjoyed being able to see three different continents that I am very familiar with through the characters eyes. The story presents more dialogue and monologue on race than a lot of people are used to or comfortable with, in terms of both depth and quality.
spoiler alert !! (stop reading at this point, if you don’t want to know how it ends)
I wasn’t a big fan of Ifemelu’s character to be honest. Whilst she seemed like a tough grounded intelligent woman, and was quite admirable at several points she came off judgmental and over-entitled . Her attitude to her aunt being the other woman during her affair with The General is laughable because at the end she is the other woman having an affair with a married Obinze. Obviously she wasn’t doing it for money but the intrinsic act mirrors her aunt’s. I guess that’s just part of the complexity you get with character development- self-contradiction because real people always have contradicting traits. The men other than Obinze i.e. Non Nigerian men she had relationships with, were made to look more like accessories to an anthropological exercise, than actual people worth loving. Also her impassioned rants about race, racial subjugation etc. were put into perspective when Professor Hunk wanted to protest on behalf of black American man who had been discriminated against and she conveniently avoided it. That said, it is a riveting story that explores very interesting issues.