Sunday, 29 June 2014

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Reading Group Review

I run one of the reading groups at the library I manage and every month we read a new book and meet for an hour to discuss our thoughts about that months book. Our July book was chosen as it was a Bailey's Women's Prize For Fiction shortlisted book and also the group like exploring books that have a little bit of history and where they are exposed to a different country and culture.

My Thoughts

It seemed to take me forever to get through this book, I am normally a quick reader but with a long week at work and watching World Cup matches I really struggled with reading time whilst reading Americanah & I think that maybe that impacted on my thoughts on the book. I was reading a few pages here and there and that really broke up my enjoyment of the book.
 The book is described on GoodReads as a 'powerful story of love, race and identity' and yes it was. The book starts in Lagos where we meet Ifemlu and Obinze, two teenagers who fall in love whilst in high school, we see them go to university together and then fed up with the lecturers striking Ifemlu sets off to America to study. The plan is for Obinze to follow but the plans goes awry and after 9/11 Obinze is not able to obtain a visa. The rest of the book explores what life is like for Ifemlu in America and how she struggles to make a life for herself. The book looks at race and interracial relationships, immigration and emigration and also looks at afro hair v straightened hair. Ifemlu sinks into a deep depression whilst in the US and cuts all contact with Obinze, the main focus of the book is on Ifemlu and how she settles into her life in America but do see Obinze and how is life goes on without Ifemlu in it.
The book is a love story, a book about lost love and what happens when Ifemlu & Obinze find each other again when Ifemlu after years in America moves back to Nigeria. I admired Ifemlu's strength, the way she would say whatever was on her mind even if maybe it wasn't appropriate to do so. I am not so sure if I actually liked her though, there is something about her that I can't quite put my finger on that didn't sit quite right with me. The book covered so many themes & I was really keen to see what the thoughts of the rest of the group were.

The Group's Thoughts

On the whole everyone loved the book. Even the one member that normally hasn't enjoyed the book and is difficult book found this one interesting and loved how it was written.
Some of the group like me had found it hard book to get through as there was just so much going on and also the font was incredibly small which didn't make for easy reading.
The group enjoyed seeing how Ifemlu transitioned into life in the USA and found the Adichie's look at race and immigration interesting.
As always when we discuss a book we ended up going off at a tangent. This book led us to a discussion around festival toilets after talking about the toilets in the university in Lagos & the mention of maggots. We also talked about hair salons and hairdressing which led to a discussion around hair extensions and then a discussion around how young girls are encouraged to dress far older than their years due to magazines and the fashions available in kids clothing stores today.

Overall a perfect choice for a reading group with so many themes to discuss and characters to love & hate

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