Customer Review

39 of 44 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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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Mar 2014 09:41:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Mar 2014 09:42:59 GMT
I entirely agree with this review by hodgeheg - this book was SO disappointing especially as I had looked forward to it. I ended up skipping through the last third as it just became dull and I found I really did not care what choices Ifemelu went on to make next.

Posted on 7 Apr 2014 12:45:31 BDT
I agree with Hodgeheg's review wholeheartedly. I wonder if Idichie expected readers of "Americanah" to recognise or not recognise Ifemelu's blatant opinions based on stereotyping and prejudices? I'm curious if readers are expected to just roll over and accept all of Ifemelu's thoughts and opinions as an ultimate truth so as not to appear racist? I began the book admiring Ifemelu then was completely put off by the second half, especially after the cruel way she sneered at her own parents. Ifemelu began as a strong, not afraid to speak her own mind young woman but slowly ended up espousing bitter, harsh judgements page after page.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Apr 2014 15:32:34 BDT
"Ifemelu's blatant opinions based on stereotyping and prejudices"??? This suggests to me that you've missed the point entirely, since the book is mainly about white prejudice and racism.
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