by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fourth Estate 2013
I really enjoyed this beautifully written novel. A love story across continents, but so much more.
The novel tells the story of Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman, who moves to America to study at university, leaving her first lover, Obinze, back home in Lagos. In order to adapt to the American way of life, she must renounce much of her Nigerian-ness. She analyses American culture, becoming a serious racial commentator via her blog, and finds that American race issues are not simply black and white.
I enjoyed the concurrent stories of Ifemelu in America, and Obinze, back in Nigeria and England. Ifemelu’s choices about where is home, and what is love, are loaded and sticky.
The lengthy descriptions about controlling (or not) ‘Afro’ hair was central to the theme of learning to be yourself: strong, proud and ‘out-there’. It was a wonderful metaphor; the lengths to which African women have to go in order to control their hair for social expectations. I loved Ifemelu’s resounding show of strength in her failure to comply.
Adichie’s observational detail is vast, and her commentary on racism is fascinating. It’s a modern classic. I can’t wait to read her two other novels, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus.