on 9 June 2013
Selasi has developed her own style of writing - short sentences, many of which are incomplete on their own, like brushstrokes. It means you have to read quite fast so that you can see the picture they are painting. In the beginning I found it quite patronising, and as I was reading slowly at the time I found it hard to feel engaged. After about a third the story picks up and I began to read faster and suddenly all of the staccato sentences began to form beautiful images and ideas. Which is fitting as Selasi appears to be very concerned about looks - she spends a lot of time talking about how beautiful the characters are - or how not beautiful other characters are/feel. There are lots of emotions, pretty descriptions and at the heart of it an intriguing and touching story. At times it felt a little staged at other times it was really astute. I loved the scene where Olu goes back to Ghana to meet his father who he has built up in his head so much, only to find an ordinary looking man in the throng of people at the arrival gates - no longer sticking out for his blue-black skin as he had done in America.
Overall I have just come out of a long phase of not reading and this book helped to bring me out. I think there is much to enjoy in this book and recommend it highly.
on 10 September 2013
This novel was chosen by my book group, and I was quite intrigued to be introduced to a new writer. The start of the story is original, introducing us to the characters and situation through the internal dialogue of someone whose fate we already know from the first line. The rest of the book presents the disturbing story of this rootless exiled African family through the points of view of the mother and the four children. These multiple points of view were the source of my confusion as I worked my way through. Maybe it was me, but at times I lost track of where we were, when the narrative was happening (it moves forward and back in time as much is based on the memories of characters, how they experienced key events), and even who we were. The author writes in an original style. Lots of sentences without verbs. Quite a few cliches popping up in the story. But overall a worthwhile read about family, love, loss and coming to terms.
on 18 September 2013
I very much enjoyed the opening section of the book describing simply, memorably, and indeed perhaps unforgettably, the death of Kweko, how it comes about, how it could have been avoided, what his reflections are on his life in the present, in Ghana, and the layout of his house and garden and the story of its construction, and so on.
Then the rest of the book goes in, much more, to his back story, the various traumatic episodes that have created a dysfunctional (but not terminally dysfunctional) family, and the aftermath of Kweko's death as his first wife and his four children come together in Ghana to mourn his death.
At that point I started to feel I did not really believe people mostly behave as they do in this plot; and that anyway what a family it is to have such extremely brilliant children one and all, to have such a brilliant father, to have dizygotic girl and boy twins who have the exceptional bonds that are sometimes thought to exist for monozygotic twins, and so on...At the end of the book Kweko's first wife ponders why she and Kweko have behaved as they did. It clearly has something to do, she thinks, with 'Ghana must go', a scheme that led to the expulsion of Ghanaians from Nigeria...not really an explanation I found very convincing.
So I had very mixed feelings about this, torn between its beauty and its observation on the one hand, and its rather unsatisfying underlying narrative plot, on the other....Others may - and many clearly do - feel very differently about this..
on 11 February 2014
Occasionally there are books that completely absorb me, like being parched thirsty and plunging into a deep well. Ghana Must Go is one such book. Captivating, dazzling and utterly heart wrenching, it chronicles the unravelling of a Nigerian-Ghanaian family living in the United States.
A shameful yet frustratingly surmountable event compels the father, Kweku Sai, to brusquely leave his gorgeous wife Fola and their four little boys and girls, causing them to fracture and spiral out into the world – New York, London, West Africa – on uncertain and troubled journeys. We see them grow up and forge their own paths in life, fiercely licking the wounds of their difficult adolescence, only to be reunited around their mother when they finally need each other most.
Taiye Selasi writes beautifully, disguising poetry as prose, often cloaking her words in delicious rhythms that tick through your head as you read. She paints a powerful picture of a broken family, disturbing in parts, examining the astonishing resilience and fragility of human beings and relationships, and peeling back the layers of each character to the extent that you long to reach out and hold them.
Reminiscent of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri (two of my favourite authors), but with greater warmth and depth, Ghana Must Go explores how it is to live across cultures, touching on themes and evoking emotions that resonate with us all.
Short sentences and quick-fire dialogues are interspersed with lilting descriptions, and observations so perceptive that they make you catch your breath. A stunning passage on seeing beauty in ugliness and ugliness in beauty made me pause to reread and reflect, a thought-provoking surprise within the narrative.
All in all Ghana Must Go is an unforgettable, powerful and affecting novel. It totally blew me away… don’t miss out on this daring and mesmerising tour-de-force!
on 8 June 2016
I couldn’t get on with this book group pick. The writing is so self-conscious it gets in the way of itself. Everything is endlessly, repetitiously explained, with ‘poetic’ expansiveness. And the story? Well, the first sentence starts, ‘Kweku dies barefoot on a Sunday before sunrise...’ By page 30 he still hasn’t died, only reminisced as he stands dying, and I have begun to wish him dead! Looking ahead, I find he finally succumbs on page 92. My own remaining life is too short for this, so I’ve stopped reading, and I’m headed, with guilty relief, for my next Elmore Leonard :-)
on 5 January 2016
I was so looking forward to reading this because I had heard so much about it, and it totally disappointed me. I loved the characters but there was no story in this book. I found myself saying, so what? And then? Which is terrible when reading a book. I would read her work again because I'm sure she's a good writer, but this book just didn't do it for me.
on 5 February 2014
I had just finished reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (loved it!), and needed something that would give me the same 'awesome read' kind of feeling.... I struggled with the first chapter of this book. It seemed to subtle and slow, at the time... Can't think why I was tempted to stop reading now, but I did continue and slowly, persuasively found myself totally HOOKED on this story. I can undoubtedly say this was the BEST book I read in 2013. I stayed up all night to try to finish it but then started to slow it down, when I realised I was coming to the end; and didn't want it to!
The way the story unfolds. The characters... As you get to know them... Their secrets, their experiences. It's a magical authentic exploration of a family. I can not say enough about how good this is. The subtlety of the way Ms Selasi writes is amazing. Nothing in the beginning, or first half of the book could have led me to guess where the story would end. It was like slowly plucking the petals off a beautiful flower, only to find that the next layer and the eventual core of it is equally beautiful... And must be seen to be believed. I can't wait for her next book!
on 14 April 2013
I was completely captured by this book.
The author's writing style is unique. It is beautiful, poetic and feels so real. I had to read some parts more than once just because they were so beautiful to read.
The story is very interesting. It kept me curious and grabbed my attention until the very end. It explores issues such as immigration and cultural differences but its main focus is on family relations and family dynamics. A recurrent theme is the need "to belong" that all characters seem to have in common.
The author is really good in portraying the psychology of all the different characters. It is again through her words that we manage to enter the characters' minds and almost feel what they are feeling and see the world though their own eyes. At the end of the book you are left with the impression of knowing the characters so deeply and in detail that you feel like you are going to miss them.
It is a perfect book that won't disappoint and that should be read slowly and with attention, taking in every single word.
on 17 August 2014
At the end of the day the book should not be anything extraordinary - a family story, nothing more. And yet, it was quite extraordinary thanks to the way the story was said. The narrative is excellent, deep and disturbing, sentences carefully crafted and words hand-picked. Not always an easy read, with loads of digressions, detours and questions not always answered immediately. At the end however this a-chronological, non-linear narrative, through patchwork of the stories of individual family members, their secrets, their sorrows, forms an integral compelling story, a bit shocking and disturbing for an ignorant on Africa's realities as I am. Taiye's observations of humans and interactions between them are painfully acute and have filled my notebook with some brilliant quotes.
on 25 May 2013
This is a story of a family. The shadow - or perhaps footprint - of Kweku Sai, whose death opens the narrative, marks the remaining characters like a bruise. The past is part of the present for the cast of complex, damaged individuals who draw you into their worlds.
The fractured structure, the geographical spread, the atmospheric evocation of locations and relations are handled with confidence and grace. For a debut novelist, Selasi's talent cannot fail to impress. This story is beautifully written and reaches the reader's sensibilities via sensory and emotional faculties.
The gradual reveals of how-we-got-here is handled with all the subtlety and sleight-of-hand of a classic crime writer, while the revelations of how familial and cultural ties leave (in)visible marks touched me and made me think, as does the very best literary fiction.
My own narrow perspective regarding literature and cultural comprehension cause me to compare Ghana Must Go to Half of a Yellow Sun and Things Fall Apart. This is unfair, as Selasi describes a family, and Adichie and Achebe describe a historical/political events through the eyes of a family/individual. So my sense of disappointment at the insistently internal gaze is my own hindrance.
These characters are certainly interesting to the reader, but so much more so to themselves. So I finished this with a sense of privilege of having being allowed into these heads, but also a sense of gratitude for being allowed back into the wider world. Taiye Selasi has undeniable talent and I will be eager to see how she develops.