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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, Love and Hair
Americanah is the story of Ifemelu, her early life in Nigeria, her time as an expat working in America, and her return to her home country. It is the story of her family, friends, and lovers. It is an account of the expatriate African experience in America and the UK, and of the expatriate returning to Nigeria. It is the story of Ifem's hair as it changes to match her...
Published 16 months ago by P. G. Harris

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call?
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, an intelligent, strong willed, highly opinionated Nigerian who with her boyfriend, Obinze, grow up with a desire to live in America. They wish to live the American dream: the romanticized view of America they read about in books and see on television programmes like The Cosby Show.
During one of the many strikes at the...
Published 6 months ago by Christopher Sullivan


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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life, Love and Hair, 13 Jun 2013
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Americanah (Kindle Edition)
Americanah is the story of Ifemelu, her early life in Nigeria, her time as an expat working in America, and her return to her home country. It is the story of her family, friends, and lovers. It is an account of the expatriate African experience in America and the UK, and of the expatriate returning to Nigeria. It is the story of Ifem's hair as it changes to match her self perception. Above all it is a love story about Ifemelu and Obinze, "the Zed".

Adichie is the most glorious author, writing in a style which is absolutely bursting with vitality. Right from the very first page her brilliance with language is in evidence as she describes shops as being "delicately over-priced". In those two words she manages to convey everything about the establishments in question. When I read Half a Yellow Sun I was struck by her ability to convey restrained passion, and it is evident again here. There is a conversation between Ifem amd Obinze in the latter part of the book where they are talking about everything except their passionate mutual attraction, but which is nevertheless crackling away beneath the surface.

Through the book Ifemelu's self perception, love life and hairstyle follow aligned, intertwining pathways as she goes from her own country, to arriviste, to aspirational American with straight hair and white boyfriend, to academic with right-on African American partner and afro hair, and back to Nigera, its men and her cornrows.

This is not a primarily plot driven novel. There is a definite central story which holds everything together, but Adichie takes her time in telling it, giving her the space to explore her themes and develop her characters. Chief among these is the magnificent Ifem who deserves to take her place alongside Emma Woodhouse and Scarlett O'Hara as potentially unlikeable but strangely endearing and certainly feisty heroines. She is sympathetically drawn, intelligent, principled, passionate, but woe betide anyone, male or female who comes between her and what she wants, professionally or personally.

The most interesting theme is the exploration of what it means to be a black expatriate living in America. The fact that Ifem unashamedly, proudly uses the word "black" characterises her attitude. Early on she makes a distinction between African American and American African and this is key as she explores racism in America, both recognising the reality and cutting through what she sees as the ridiculousness of over sensitive middle class sensibilities and attitudes. There is a fascinating section where she is torn between attraction to Hilary Clinton as a woman running for the presidency and to Barack Obama as a black candidate.

I did get the feeling as I read Americanah that Adichie, if she wasn't a wonderful novelist, could build a career as an observational comedian. Her frequently forensic dissection of the minutiae of her characters is highly perceptive, deeply empathetic, but also bordering on the hilarious. Much of the early part of the book is told in retrospect as Ifem sits in a hairdresser's and the characters around her, while completely incidental to the main story, are just wonderfully drawn.

If I had criticisms of the book they would be twofold. Firstly some of the characters, especially when Obinze travels to London, are on the border of tipping over into pastiche. An anglicised friend and his wife are close to the same territory as the "English Indian" couple from "Goodness Gracious Me". Secondly, the ending feels just a little bit underpowered. With 5% (I read it on Kindle) of the book left I found myself wondering how on earth the story was going to resolve itself, and to be honest while it came to a clear conclusion, it didn't feel as if everything had been properly worked through, and I ended the book not quite liking Ifem and Zed as much as I wanted to.

However, that may just be another part of the totally credible realism of the book, realism which is achieved without in the least damaging the fact that this is , above all, a huge entertainment.
Highly recommended.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wake up call?, 6 April 2014
By 
Christopher Sullivan (edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
Americanah tells the story of Ifemelu, an intelligent, strong willed, highly opinionated Nigerian who with her boyfriend, Obinze, grow up with a desire to live in America. They wish to live the American dream: the romanticized view of America they read about in books and see on television programmes like The Cosby Show.
During one of the many strikes at the university, Ifemelu decides to apply to finish her studies in America on a scholarship. Her application is successful and she leaves Nigeria to live with her Aunt Ujo who already lives in the USA having fled Nigeria after her married lover, a high ranking general, is killed in a helicopter crash. Obinze promises to join Ifemelu once he has finished his studies but when he is ready to apply for his visa the world has changed post 9/11 and Obinze’s application fails so he tries his luck as an illegal immigrant in Great Britain.
Where Obinze fails, Ifemelu thrives. After writing an enthusiastically received post on the website, happilylinkynappy.com (a website dedicated to natural African hair), Ifemelu starts her own blog to write about her experiences in America and in time it becomes a highly respected and successful blog.
Having spent some thirteen years in America and recently witnessed Barack Obama’s election victory, Ifemelu prepares to return to her home country of Nigeria. As part of that preparation she visits a hair salon in the town of Trenton to have her hair braided in what amounts to a six hour session. It is during her time at the hair salon that the novel is mostly related in flashback.
Americanah is about race, dislocation, and the culture clash of Africa meets Britain and America. Ifemelu and Obinze are not escaping a war zone or a life of deprivation but are instead looking for opportunities that don’t exist in their own country. While living in Great Britain and the USA the couple are made aware of their race, their colour, things that in their own country were not regarded as restrictive or a barrier to opportunities.
While Americanah is a superbly written book and the author has a turn of phrase and descriptive powers that other authors can only dream about it is for me let down by Ifemelu’s personality. Ifemelu’s observations, in particular via her blog, border on polemical, didactic tirades. Ifemelu dislikes and criticises almost everyone around her and her relentless unforgiving diatribes create a weariness in the reader, a battle or compassion fatigue if you will.
Many of Ifemelu’s criticisms and views are at times generalistic, contradictory and at times border on the racist. She refers to Michelle Obama’s children as “beautiful chocolate babes” but then later in the same blog criticizes those who base their views on sweeping assumptions in regard to ‘degrees of blackness’. I don’t believe that Ifemelu would have been happy at a white person using the phrase, “beautiful chocolate babes”.
I found it hard to read Ifemelu’s view that other racial groups that suffer from prejudices don’t matter as much because they are white or at the least nearer to being white.

“Dear American non-Black, if an American Black person is telling you about an experience about being black, please do not eagerly bring up examples from your own life...Don’t say it’s just like anti-Semitism. It’s not. In the hatred of Jews, there is also the possibility of envy – they are so clever, these Jews, they control everything, these Jews – and one must concede that a certain respect, however grudging, accompanies envy.”

Yes, I’m sure the Nazis were full of respect and envy as they murdered, tortured, gassed and experimented on six million Jews.
Americanah dissects with scalpel like precision, the American and British view of race, colour and the differences of being an African in American against being an African-American. The author holds up the proverbial mirror to America and Britain and forces those countries to re-evaluate their thinking, politics and views on the subject of race and colour. Unfortunately, those who should read this book to re-evaluate their opinions, won’t, if for no other reason than it is written by a black women.
However, with the novels harsh, unrelenting negativity the reader can begin to feel punch-drunk. Couple this with the book being about 100 pages too long and its obvious and predictable ending the novel falls sadly short of being the classic it could so easily have been.

First Line – “Princeton in the summer, smelled of nothing, and although Ifemelu liked the tranquil greenness of the many trees, the clean streets and stately homes, the delicately overpriced shops and the quiet , abiding air of earned grace, it was this, the lack of a smell, that most appealed to her, perhaps because the other American cities she knew well had all smelled distinctly.”

Memorable Line – “I’ve meet a lot of people here with white mothers and they are all so full of issues, eh. I didn’t know I was even supposed to have issues until I came to America. Honestly, if anybody wants to raise bi-racial kids, do it in Nigeria.”

Number of Pages – 477
Sex Scenes – None
Profanity – None
Genre – Fiction.
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89 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye Achebe Hello Adichie, 19 April 2013
This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
Chinua Achebe died this year and the media went on and on about the "father of African literature" in that labelling way with which the media marks events. You may also have noticed that as the great man passed on there was no great debate about who would take over from the man who gave us Things Fall Apart because - in a very short space of time - Nobel Laureates for Literature have included the African observers Lessing, Gordimer, Soyinka, Coetzee and Mahfouz with many more unsung but established African writers waiting in the wings not for awards, but for you to discover them as Africans have for decades.

"Americanah" marks an important milestone for novels about Africa. Nothing that can be said about this rollicking ballsy brilliant read could match the emotional punches Adichie threw in the direction of my African heart. We went from secondary school in Nigeria to the maze of cities and continents where Nigerians reached in their escape from "choicelessness" and back again to Lagos with the kind of brash confidence only an African pen could yield when talking about African lives. And then she takes a surgical scalpel to the issues of race and identity; to the giddiness of the election of America's first black President to life as a black person in foreign lands - in conversations and scenes we all know and have argued about and she airs them at last.

Yes Adichie is younger than the old and the dead and her take on the African diaspora of the 21st century is the most authentic you will encounter, and if your heart beats, you will love these characters and fall in love with a love story like no other. I finished it and found myself clapping over the strength of her words and the reach of her vision.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Arrogant, weak characters ruin this book, 15 April 2014
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This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
I have all her books. I have followed her career. Listened to talks. I am a fan. I was therefore expecting the world with this long awaited book (I waited for paperback). Perhaps this was unfair of me.

As a Nigerian born British 20 something, maybe I haven't gained the life experience to understand the complexity of emotions underpinning this novel, but I have been in a relationship for several years with my childhood sweetheart and still thought the characters lacked depth.

They were judgement, as most Nigerians I think are, but the arrogance behind their self described intelligence had me putting the book a few times. Chimamanda at no point seems to present a mirror up to her characters and have them examine their own lives, she's too busy having them insult and criticise everyone else's.

It is not one I will be recommending, but I will be going to watch Half of a Yellow, hoping it will rekindle my passion for her work.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars African queen, 20 Sep 2014
This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
The story is interesting in the beginning, even funny at times. Life of an African immigrant in the U.S., her struggle with unemployment, racism and little daily confusions and misunderstandings. There is a lot of truth in her observations, and describing the cultural differences from that viewpoint is refreshing.There is also a ( very simple) love story framing the book, but her real interest is really the American society from a foreigners viewpoint.

However, the more I progressed , the more irritated I became with the main protagonist. I found her complete lack of self-reflection, her constant finger-pointing at other's shortcomings to be not only extremely righteous, but simply presumptuous and unfair.

There isn't anything, it appears, she actually likes about the country that enabled her an education and a new life in safety and even moderate prosperity. In her criticism of Americans she leaves no cliche untold : lack of knowledge in history and geography (Burkina Faso anyone?), Americans talk too loud and with a vulgar accent,most of the whites are privileged, patronising and shallow, etc etc. Hundreds of pages full of mocking and accusations about the terrible life in America she has to endure.

The irony of the whole book is that while the main protagonist is describing the daily-life problems of most Americans as negligible compared to the "real" problems in Nigeria, she falls into her own trap. None of the agony the main character has to go through is really that significant, sometimes simply ridiculous and snivelling. At some point we learn that she has to go to the hairdresser before a job interview in order to flatten her hair, then she has to endure a taxi driver questioning her outfit or she describes like people tell her from their last safari once she mentions her origins. This is mildly amusing for a while, but turns into a complete nuisance after the first hundred pages ( with another 400 to go).
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and thought-provoking, but it felt more like a manifesto than a novel., 11 Jan 2014
This review is from: Americanah (Hardcover)
Having loved Half of a Yellow Sun when it came out, and recently rediscovered Chimamanda via her excellent TED talks, I was excited to read this novel. I really wanted to enjoy it. So it is with mixed feelings and a somewhat heavy heart that I write this review.

Essentially this is a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. The section of the book describing their growing up in Nigeria was excellent, Adiche is able to describe the essence of a situation and show you the world the way her characters view it. You get a feeling for the family dynamics, social structures, political background and even the climate. So far so good.

Eventually, Ifemelu moves to the US to study, loses contact with Obinze and spends the next 10 years floating around the American middle classes. At this point, for me, this largely stopped being a novel and became a lecture in identity politics. There is no subtlety, no being allowed to think for yourself as a reader, and as the book goes on I found myself distracted by how unbearably smug Ifemelu came across as. The book is basically a series of situations about which you are told what you should think. What I found increasingly ironic/irritating was how Ifem was allowed to cynically dissect everyone around her based on social and racial stereotypes, while this seemed to be exactly the issue she has with everyone else.

So, while Ifemelu is beautiful, intelligent and apparently infallible, Obinze is attractive and nice and all other blandly positive adjectives, except he is slightly lacking in a backbone. His time in the UK as an illegal immigrant was actually one of my favorite parts of the book for its insight into a parallel experience of London, but again it was jarring how in every situation he behaved with absolute integrity, while everyone around him was flawed.

The love story and ending, as many other reviews have said, were entirely predictable, but the plot seemed largely incidental as a way to package a political statement. My main gripe with this book is the complete lack of any introspection; all main characters are Good, and incidental characters are Bad. It is difficult to take a lecture on the faults of others when the lecturer seems oblivious to their own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Read, But With Reservations, 29 Oct 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
When I started this I didn't know if I would finish it. I did read `Half Of A Yellow Sun' some years back but unlike many other people who I know have read it although it was good it did seem to get bogged down and be slow going in some places. This I also found was a fault with this book, where some of the minutiae could have been left out.

The story opens and closes in Nigeria but in between we are taken to the US and Britain, although mainly the US. Starting with a group of students in Nigeria they gradually disperse and go separate ways, some abroad, some to remain in their country. Due to this Ifemelu and Obinze, a teenage couple in love split. Ifemelu is offered a place in America, whereas Obinze stays for the time being in Nigeria. This novel mainly follows Ifemelu in the US and her experiences, which some are probably based on what the author herself experienced in America. Turning to race issues in the US there are some very keen observations here but in some places there are a few stereotypes of white people. Taking in the election of Barrack Obama and people sitting around watching the TV, you can imagine this happening. Every now and then the story does turn to Obinze, who outstays his visa in the UK. His story looks like it would be very interesting but this is just given to us in a few parts taking away the impact of what happens to him. This is a disappointment as he then becomes a man of mystery, and suddenly is a rich businessman back in Nigeria.

I know a lot of African people who don't like speaking to Nigerians, but in this book that doesn't come across, and all Africans seem to be buddies; I know this does happen with for instance Arabs and Jews, and Turks and Greeks as they work along together, but some of the problems with different tribes within Africa means there is still a lot of bad feeling from the past, and so it doesn't happen that way so much when they are living abroad. Although corruption is endemic in Nigeria reading this you would think that apart from Obinze trying to make a marriage of convenience, in general Nigerians abroad are all honest, even to the fact that for Obinze to be able to arrange a marriage he has to turn to some Angolans.

So, every now and then this book does get slightly annoying as some things are left out, in a way that makes you think that the author wants everyone to cuddle a Nigerian, who let's face it are no better or worse than any other race or people. Ifemelu herself although writing about race issues herself seems clueless in some ways as her and her educated black friends only seem to be concerned about race issues that directly affects them, and not about the amount of their folk who are living on the breadline. In all then there is a lot to think and discuss about this book if you read it as a book group choice, but I would say although a good and interesting read I do have some issues and reservations here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Americanah, 8 Aug 2014
By 
Macey89 - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
As teenagers in Nigeria, Ifem and Obinze plan a new life far away in America, aiming to leave the coups and the strikes behind. The reality, when it comes, is very different. Separated, isolated and strangers in foreign countries, Ifem and Obinze and driven apart. Years later, they are given the opportunity to reconnect. But has time changed too much to bring them back together?

Their story is the glue that holds this novel together, but it does take somewhat of a back seat to the themes that the author works so hard to develop and address. In Ifem, Adichie creates a strong, individual voice which shines through the writing. Her character is not without its flaws, but that’s what makes her real. I particularly loved the sections where Ifem speaks through her blog. These sections is particular are used to provide an in-depth commentary and critique on the issues surrounding race and class in America, and later also in Nigeria. She cuts right to the heart of some fairly controversial issues and lays everything on the table for us to consider and make our own opinions on in our own time.

I really enjoyed this book – it was funny, interesting and insightful. I found the parts of the novel set back in Nigeria really interesting. Ifem leaves America longing for home, but when she gets there, she finds herself changed. When the fantasy becomes a reality, it is distinctly underwhelming, and Ifem is still left looking for something more. This feeling of displacement, and not truly fitting in anywhere other than with other expats, is a constant theme throughout the book – no matter where she is living.

Both Ifem and Obinze hit rock bottom in their attempts to build a new life outside of Nigeria. Their experiences are completely different, but have the same effect of crushing their optimism and spirit. Their attempts to rebuild and recoup following these experiences take their lives in wildly different directions. Ifem gains citizenship in America and builds a life abroad. Obinze builds a life in Nigeria. Their different stories, social lives and the way that they are treated by others around them, offer a fascinating look into two very different cultures.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars At a pence it was too much., 17 Sep 2014
This review is from: Americanah (Paperback)
Over indulgent, self-pitying exercise in criticism of western civilization. Immigrants situations are painted with detail and depth, all the while accusing others of being one dimensional in viewing them; while the author paints all others with a broad stroke of one color which becomes boring in very short order.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cords and words and love, 25 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Americanah (Kindle Edition)
This is a love story.
Not just between Ifemelu and Obinze, but for a country.
Adichie’s observations on America and Britain are cool, in both senses of the word. Precise, amused, sardonic and aware. Yet when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, the reader can sense passion.

Young lovers Ifemelu and Obinze are well-off, educated and intelligent individuals, who love their country. But only by leaving do they realise how well off they are. Ifemelu takes up a scholarship in the US and learns some harsh lessons about racial attitudes (NAB v AA), principles (how the word ‘relax’ differs when it comes to hair and tennis coaches) and the influence of class.

Obinze opts for a less secure route in Britain. Whereas Ifemelu, who’s started a blog, sees the funny side of assumption and prejudgement, Obinze’s treatment at the hands of authority and associates, leaves deep scars on his sense of self.

One feature I found especially endearing is the significance of the written word. Our hero and heroine share books, letters, emails and maintain a connection through words on a page. Reading, writing and books are doorways for these characters.

An articulate, broad and sharp analysis of the state we’re in, this is a beautifully written story about two people and a love that will always bring them back.
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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Paperback - 27 Feb 2014)
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