I must admit that I still can’t spell Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s name properly without Googling it first, but Americanah was the best fiction I’ve read so far this year. It has all the elements of great story telling —
Setting: The story starts in Nigeria during its years of conflict, and we follow the protagonists to the U.S. and U.K., then return to Nigeria as the country leaps into prosperity, carrying with it all the dilemmas that comes with such fast development.
Characters: Ifemelu is surprisingly extremely relatable as the protagonist. Perhaps it’s because I identify with her in many ways, as an immigrant in the U.S. and an expatriate when she returns home, and a minority female in an interracial relationship. Beyond Ifemelu, all the other characters embody so much complexity and depth, which gently take shape through the characters’ often brief interactions with with Ifemelu or Obinze.
Theme: The author explores so many intricate and controversial themes in this book I don’t even know where to start. At the center of it all is the question of identity, from which all other struggle arise. Through each choice seemingly big and small, Ifemelu was trying to find her identity, whether it was her accent, hairstyle, vocation, home, or love, everything started with the question “who am I and who do I want to be?” The book is also a social critique of racism in America (and other places), which I don’t want to downplay. I just think that the way it was presented was still very much a part of Ifemelu’s search for her place in the world.
Plot: It’s hard to classify this book, but I’m going to call it a love story, since much of the story revolved around the love between Ifemelu and Obinze. The plot, like life itself, is quite unpredictable, and it’s hard not to get so invested in the characters that you can’t wait to see what happens next.
Of course, the writing style of Adichie is absolutely mesmerizing, and her words effortlessly intertwine all the different storylines and motifs together. I also managed to learn a few new words (which I will likely soon forget from lack of usage):
– churlishness: rude in a mean-spirited and surly way
– sylphlike: slender and graceful
– piquant: pleasantly stimulating taste (or to the mind)
– somnolent: drowsy
– ambled: walking at a relaxed pace
– frisson: sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear
– supercilious: acting superior
– bedraggled: dirty and disheveled
– quisling: traitor
– vituperative: bitter and abusive