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on 28 April 2009
This is the best selection of short stories I have ever read. Chimamanda's ability to draw you into each of the characters in such a small space of time is phenomenal. The short stories are focused upon Nigerian life, but many of them are based in other countries. The balance between tragedy and happiness is perfect, leading to a book which does not dwell on hardship, but shows vivid glimpses of it, making the messages come across far more powerfully than continual horrific scenes.

Each story is unique, and although they all contain Nigerian characters, none have the same atmosphere or feel like repetitions of the same idea. The book is very easy to read, and is the perfect introduction to her writing style, as Half of a Yellow Sun, although amazing, is very long.

The only flaw in this book is that I was left yearning to know more about each character. I could easily have read whole novels based on each short story, in fact I'd be happy to read a book written by her once a month for the rest of my life! Sorry for gushing, but talent like this needs to be read by everyone!

Highly recommended to everyone!!
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VINE VOICEon 24 March 2009
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 16 July 2009
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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!
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on 24 March 2009
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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.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 20 August 2009
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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.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I haven't read anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie before, so I thought that a collection of short stories would be a good place to start, but now I'm not so sure.

The stories were ok, but not spectacular. Just short excerpts from people's lives. For me, they were too short to develop any kind of real interest in the characters. At the end of each story, I didn't care any more about them than I did at the start, I just turned the page and started the next story. Now I'm left wondering, is it that the author isn't for me, or just that I don't like her work as short stories?

If you haven't read anything by this author before, I suggest you give her a sporting chance and start with one of her full-length novels.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2009
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This collection of short stories by this acclaimed Nigerian writer never quite lived up to my expectations, although there were a few individual stories that really stood out. Having enjoyed her two previous novels, `Purple Hibiscus' and `Half of a Yellow Sun', with qualifications, I was interested to see how Adichie's writing adapted to the short story form. However, in general, I found these stories, while well-written, to be overly simplistic. The theme of the collection appears to be the contact and conflict between Nigerian and American culture, but this is often presented in an overly didactic and comparative way - for example, in the story `A Private Experience', where college-educated, Igbo Chika compares `her own denim skirt and red T-shirt embossed with a picture of the Statue of Liberty', bought in New York, to her Hausa Muslim companion's `threadbare wrapper'. This is a shame, because in the few stories where character and incident, rather than theme and message, predominate, Adichie's writing is much more impressive and memorable.

The opening story, `The Cell', is simple but incredibly effective, less because of the abuses it depicts than in the way it makes the character of the narrator's brother, Nnamabia, really come alive, whereas Ukamaka and Chinedu in `The Shivering' are also well-fleshed out. The last story in the collection, `The Headstrong Historian', departs slightly from the others (which can begin to seem repetitive after a while) in style and content, focusing almost entirely on African culture, rather than American influences, and taking a more traditional storytelling structure which is extremely effective. Having taken a long glimpse forward at the future life of the main character's granddaughter, Afamefuna, or Grace, it returns with renewed intensity to the present moment, as Grace sits with her grandmother Nwamgba `not contemplating her future. She simply held her grandmother's hand, the palm thickened from years of making pottery.' This simple image, contrasted with Grace's later experiences in contact with Western culture, says far more than the more overt commentary in the other stories.

Interestingly, another of the stories, `Jumping Monkey Hill', seems to gloss the collection as a whole when, at a writing retreat for a number of African writers, the course leader Edward criticises `agenda writing'; `the whole thing is implausible... this isn't a real story of real people'. Ujunwa, the author of the story in question, responds to the criticism; the story is real; it is her own story. Therefore, Adichie seems to be saying that sometimes things are as black and white as they seem, and the truth is more important than adding nuances and question marks simply for the sake of literary effect. This is definitely something worth thinking about, but the stories that stick in the mind from this collection, at least, are generally the ones where things aren't quite so simple.
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on 10 November 2014
The second time I picked the book up I was ready to continue reading til the end. These stories, so similar to a charm bracelet of amulets and charms against ill fortune, are stories of power struggle and soul destroying secrets. As the jacket cover states, they are stories about what binds men and women, institutions and the citizens they are supposed to represent, parents and their children. The calmness of voice, perceptive rendering of the people on the scene, is startling. I was confused and disoriented with the mother of the murdered son as she stood in line. I was the girl ready to do ANYthing to survive in a large and discriminatory family. I shuffled along the dusty streets as a retired professor, almost picking up sand to ward off a ghost. The Big Men are similar to 'big'men I have run into throughout my life in the West. The innuendos backing women into corners of life are rampant everywhere, a universal threat to women and those who are disenfranchised. She keeps the language light to hold the heavy issues at hand. I do not feel the Edward was a strawman as suggested by other reviewers. I did, though, find some stories seemed like chapters of books that have not been written, yet. These ended with a sense of incompleteness. On the other hand, some held names familiar to us who have read some of her other works: town names, Harrison as househelp, among some. Adichie is able to capture the complexity and disorientation that comes with being an expat. How what seems a given in a country is totally strange in another: we carry our countries inside us, our memes are activated to assess all that is new around us. The desperation inherent in leaving a place called 'home' no matter how hard it has treated you hangs from every paragraph.
It is not a comfortable book for white Americans to read, but it is equally uncomfortable for Nigerians to hold this mirror up to themselves. A book that needs to be read in quiet, in order to hear the people living and breathing in the stories. I keep learning from this gifted courageous writer.
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