After reading and enjoying Adichie's debut "Purple Hibiscus" and the follow up "Half of a Yellow Sun," I was eagerly anticipating this collection of twelve short stories from the Nigerian author and it doesn't disappoint.
"The Thing Around Your Neck" is similar to her previous work in that the stories focus on Nigerian culture and issues, however I found the stories easier to read. I think this is perhaps because they had a more contemporary and somewhat Westernised feel compared to her 2 novels set in the 60's. Many of the short stories are also influenced by the time Adichie now spends in America.
I would recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and all her works highly and look forward to reading more from her in the future.
My idea of a perfect short story is a tale of about 25 pages that doesn't attempt to resolve or explain everything in that space, but instead leaves the reader wanting to read the finished novel - should it ever be written!
When it's done well, a collection of these stories would potentially leave you demanding that the author write full novels for each of them, just so you can see how it ends up. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie can expect to see my letter in the post, because I want to read the completed stories for all of her tales collected here.
Essentially, she's being a big tease!
The writing style is fluid and not wasteful of language, and although some of the themes are similar (well read Nigerians ending up at the bottom of the ladder when they get to America), the characters are distinct enough, and their stories are also different enough. Absolutely perfect to dip in and out of, or even better to sit and read in one hit. Recommended!
on 24 March 2009
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's collection of short stories is a delightful insight into the life of Nigeria and Nigerians - both at home and abroad. Each one is a little cameo, demonstrating the fascinating history of Nigerians and the problems they face today. The characters never fail to surprise and their touching stories are complete in themselves. She really knows how to write in this form, leaving nothing out that is vital and yet putting in nothing superfluous. Excellent.
I loved her two novels, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, but C.N.A. is not for the faint-hearted. She tackles gritty subjects sometimes in quite graphic detail. If you pick up this book expecting to read some cosy, nice stories, then you can forget it! I must admit I prefer to read novels. Short stories always tend to leave me dissatisfied somehow, but C. N. A.'s stories are meatier than most, and she is undoubtedly a big writing talent. If you are already a fan of hers, and you enjoy reading short stories, then this is a book for you. If you are new to C.N.A., I would suggest you read Purple Hibiscus first. It will let you in (slightly!) more gently to her world, and her bravery in tackling big subjects fearlessly and sometimes poetically. She is definitely a very important contemporary writer.
What a wonderful book. I somehow overlooked this gifted Nigerian-born author's first two novels but now plan to read them at the first opportunity.
These stories are original, compelling and absorbing. Adichie manages to draw you in, filling you with confidence in her story-telling, and all within a few sentences. I love her writing - her use of language and the ease with which stories seem to roll off her pen. In particular, the bemusement felt by characters who find themselves in America for the first time is oh-so cleverly portrayed.
Some of the stories seem to end a little prematurely, abruptly even, but that is simply down to economy of style and leaves you free to use a little imagination. Mind you, there is probably room for each to be developed into a book in its own right.
This is certainly my favourite collection of short stories and I would urge anyone to try them.
Chimamanda Adichie is a wonderful storyteller. The tales in this book are a fascinating collection dealing with how ordinary people deal with and are changed by the often extraordinary (although not always) events that often form part of day to day life in Africa. For example; the dramatic psychological transformation of a young man from arrogant, irresponsible youth to an empathic and compassionate adult - after an encounter with arbitrary violence - is described beautifully through the eyes of his sister. Then there is the young woman who finds solace in the presenece of a young muslim woman with whom she shelters during a riot...her resilience and dignity in the face of suffering acting as an emotional sanctuary both during the intial violence and the aftermath. These are just a small taste....
I really enjoyed this book, I found it easy to read and I feel the author has a great deal of insight into the human heart, however the only reason I would stop short of giving it 5 stars is that I found it difficult to find any JOY in the book, perhaps the authors intention is to lay bare honest realities - and this book does that beautifully, but having visted numerous places such as are described in the book andmet similar people I have always felt that joy lives amongst the heartache and harsh realities - but I think to find it and describe it is extremely difficult without being considered saccharine and perhaps dishonest. I can only think of a few authors who have managed it, such as Kuki Gallmann in her memoirs or the very poular Khaled Hosseni or Dostoyevsky or more recently Mark Matousek. Nonetheless this is an excellent read and highly recommended.
on 22 October 2013
I only bought this because I was searching for Achebe's "There Was A Country" (at that time unavailable on Kindle) and Amazon suggested I might like it. I'm so glad I did; Adichie is a brilliant writer, and having read and devoured this I immediately went and bought her (then) two full-length novels (she's since written another one), and in short order she became my favourite contemporary author.
This collection shows her at the peak of her powers - her characterisation, scene-setting, storytelling, her ability to make you *care* about someone you only met a couple of lines ago, are without equal. All her novels are full of characters who appear for a few pages, a brief flicker of interaction with the main storyline before vanishing (sometimes for many chapters on end, sometimes forever), and that's a skill she uses to maximum effect here, the short story the perfect format for Adichie to display her brilliance.
I know I'm gushing with praise here. I can't help it, she really is that good. Read this book. Read it now.
The order of the stories is interesting, and I wonder how many people might be put off by the sample - "Cell One", which opens the collection, is the most uncompromising thing here, dumping the reader straight into a stark, tightly-wound tale of middle-class family breakdown and prison brutality peppered with Igbo phrases and Nigerian slang and references to things like cults and the harmattan. Adichie has talked in lectures about growing up reading Enid Blyton, packed with alien cultural references; the first few pages of "Cell One" provide the Western reader with a similar experience, a similar expectation to get with the programme straight away. Do persevere, it is absolutely worth it. Some of the stories are more shocking ("The American Embassy" and "Tomorrow Is Too Far" both pack a wounding gut punch whose effects you'll never quite shake off), but most of the drama here is internal, vignettes of intense domestic dramas and questions of identity in Nigeria and in the diaspora. Not one of them is forgettable, staying with you to be savoured and reflected over even as you inevitably rush to start the next one because you can't wait to hear more.
Picking out highlights is a waste of time because there's not really a weak link in the collection. The title story, from which several themes are picked up in Adichie's third novel Americanah, is probably the best short story I've ever read, told entirely in the second person and painting just about the most convincing character portrait you'll ever see, is a magnificent centrepiece to the collection, but in truth pretty much every story here would be enough to carry a whole volume. "Jumping Monkey Hill" is a fascinating one; it's too tempting to see the central character, a Nigerian writer attending a pan-African writers' workshop hosted by an insufferable white English academic at a hokey safari-themed resort in South Africa, as Adichie herself. I'd love to know how autobiographical it really is, because the British characters come across as (literally) unbelievably patronising, and yet the host's attitude to the heroine's workshop submission - a true story from her life with a couple of key details changed - is also to call it far-fetched, as if to warn the reader not to make the same mistake with Adichie's own work. The final story, "The Headstrong Historian" is just Adichie showing off, a sublime piece of fan fiction set in the timeline (and written in the style) of Achebe's "Things Fall Apart", centred on a background character from the original novel, and done with such staggering aplomb it takes the breath away as you first realise what she's doing and then stand stunned as she carries it off.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie hasn't long turned 30; not only is she one of our best young writers, I don't think the "young" qualification is needed. This is such a good introduction to her work, I already know I will buy every book she ever writes.