Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Most Definitely an Author for Our Time.
The raw and sometimes harrowing world of contemporary Nigeria is brought to life with astounding precision and clarity.
Like so many I am sure, I tend to have phases in my reading. I often seek books which will open my eyes to completely different worlds, worlds which are alien to me, but worlds worthy of a more nuanced and meaningful understanding.
And so this summer, I stumbled upon the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and what a world! Chimamanda who was born and raised in Nigeria, moved to America aged 19 and it was only then that she struggled with racial distinctions and what it meant to be a ‘Black Person’. Many of her personal experiences are reflected in her books which display an astounding understanding of the complexities of the world she inhabits. Even Beyonce is an admirer, sampling extracts from her TED talk: We Should All be Feminists, in her 2013 song, ***Flawless.
I am often reluctant to gush overly when reviewing books I have read but will make an exception today. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is simply stunning. I shrieked out loud. I hid my face, not wanting to read on and yet, I demolished this book in a day. Truly, an outstanding novel and I am embarrassed to admit that I have taken all this time to find and appreciate its beauty.
I thank the wonder of free samples on Amazon Kindle (downloaded on holiday after finishing all my other books!) for giving me a sneak preview into this most challenging, fearsome and engrossing world of middle class Nigeria as inhabited by Kambili and her brother Jaja, and for persuading me to delve deeper. Rarely does a book paint such a vivid picture of poverty and wealth, so entwined. Almost Dickensian in nature.
Adichie, you are a genius and I salute you. Americanah next!
Anyone interested in a serious and nuanced discussion on race and diversity in today’s world, should take the time to read this thought-provoking offering by the wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Set in Nigeria, London, and the United States, it follows the loves and lives of Ifemelu and Obinze and their wildly opposing experiences of life as a Nigerian living in the West. As you approach the final few chapters, you know this book will leave a cavernous hole in your heart and will leave you yearning for more. A definite must read!
The Thing Around Your Neck
The short story is such an under-rated art form, and one which is at times overlooked, but The Thing Around Your Neck, a collection of twelve short stories by Adichie is a spectacular example of storytelling. Tackling hugely weighty themes such as arranged marriage, truth, death, extreme violence, authoritarian rule, domestic violence, immigration, integration… we gain a searing insight into the lives and loves of Nigerians from all social classes and backgrounds; of those living in Nigeria and further afield, and we are witness to a daily struggle to find meaning, dignity, and love in a sometimes treacherous and highly unpredictable existence. Her ability to create character and emotional attachment to so many diverse individuals is a real craft.
The opening story, Cell One, reveals a world of complete barbarism and a world where the consequences are real and dangerous for those who dare to veer off, or question the official line. Are we offered any glimmers of hope? Well yes in some stories we are. Nkem, an estranged wife (in Imitation) living in a suburb of Philadelphia while her husband enjoys a degree of freedom back in the family home in Lagos, sees a returns to Nigeria as the only path to saving her marriage and finding a truer love. And Ukamaka (in The Shivering) whose ex-boyfriend misses a flight, a flight brought down by ‘an act of God’, and thus is still alive, does find temporary comfort in the hands of a neighbour, Chinedu, but these are often mere flashes of happiness and mask the unspoken fear that life is never exactly what is seems.
To my mind, these short stories stand shoulder to shoulder with other great exponents of the art-form, my personal favourites being Roald Dahl and Susan Hill. These are stories I will come back to, time and time again.
Adichie is indeed an author of our time and one who will inhabit my being for some time to come. Thank you.
I look forward now to reading Half of a Yellow Sun (a book I purchased in 2007 but never read!) and to re-reading The Famished Road by Ben Okri, a fellow Nigerian author, (another book from my early 20s) and winner of the 1991 Booker Prize. They do say that everything comes around eventually!