As teenagers, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love in a Nigeria under military dictatorship. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America, where Obinze hopes to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face?
©2013 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (P)2013 W.F. Howes
"Andoh's rich voice and distinct characters and rhythm keep the listener engrossed.... Andoh has fun adopting a mocking lilt for Ifemelu's snarky blog entries.... [and] a more serious tone brings authenticity to the heartbreak of Obinze's London experience." (AudioFile)
I heard an author's interview on NPR about this book, and I immediately knew I wanted to read it. I downloaded the Audible version, and was delighted immediately by the narration by Adjoa Andoh. The book carried me into the romance of a young couple who are separated by circumstance and opportunity, and are later reunited by chance and perhaps the inevitability of returning "home". What made me love this book is the main character, Ifamelu, an academician, a romantic (at heart) but also a realist. While experiencing life in America, Ifamelu challenges what other Americans, and Black Americans especially think about "Black women" and "Africans" generally. I loved her fictional blog, Raceteenth, and I wish it were real frankly. Her biting and acid criticism of race and perceptions of race among minorities was thought provoking, funny, and at times stunning. The main character's romances, her sexuality, and her reflection on love and companionship weaved together with the academic side of Ifamelu in a way that had me laughing and crying, and ultimately sad the book had to come to an end. I would liken reading Americanah to reading one my of other favorite novels, "Face of an Angel," by Denise Chavez. The intimacy you feel with the characters is unmatched, and when a book has you blushing about things you rarely will acknowledge, much less articulate to another, you know you have something special. Finally, I can't emphasize what a great narrator Andjoa Andoh is. About 80% of the books I listen to on Audible have boring or flat narrators, and so this narrator set Americanah on audio apart. The narrator took time to change her tone of voice, add inflection to separate the "sound" of characters male and female, American and non-American accented English, and to create a world of many different characters. I loved it, and I hope you will too. I look forward to more from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Face of Angel by Denise Chavez. This novel and Americanah have a lot of depth, and elve into intimacies that are sometimes uncomfortable, but necessary to understand the whole person.
She adjusted her voice to embody each character, and that was my favorite thing. She brought the characters to life, and her inflection carried the passion that I felt between the lovers in the story.
A yearning for home, an adventure apart
And it's so much more than a love story. Very intelligent, lyrical and insightful book about race relations and personal relations both within and without the United States. The Narrator was simply outstanding! Highly recommended.
The narrator brought alive the Americanah experience in a direct way that the written page would not have. She literally gave voice to the characters that enriched the narrative for me.
American literature is full of immigrant perspectives - but these are mostly from the days of an Ellis Island stuffed full of European peasants fleeing economic deprivation in search of a better life. Americanah gives us a detailed look into a fresh perspective - African (Nigerian) immigrants coming to America or the UK in current times.
The main character, Ifemelu, and her college boyfriend, Obinze, both seek opportunity to grow and develop their lives outside the limitations of Big Man politics and limited economic opportunity in Nigeria. Ifemelu's experience includes fascinating details about what it's like to be a non-American black person in the U.S. and demonstrates the many faces of racism in the education system, in employment, and in the liberal intellectual elite. Adichie does a great job making the impacts of this racism real through the eyes of Ifemelu and her family and friends in the U.S. Obinze's challenges in the UK are more structural; in a post-9/11 world, it is difficult for a young, African male to get through the bureaucracy of EU/UK immigration, and he ends up returning to Nigeria and navigating the corruption as best he can to make his way.
Ifemelu and Obinze's star-crossed love life is the romantic plot intertwined with their immigrant experiences and plays out using conventional romance tropes, well-told. There are a couple of places where I didn't believe the storyline (Ifemelu's long silence to Obinze after a traumatic experience just didn't ring true but was necessary so that Obinze could develop his own plot complications.)
Is Americanah a great book? My personal standard for literature is that the crafting of a sentence is so breathtaking that you have to stop and stare - and I didn't find any of this high art in Americanah. Nonetheless, the book is extremely well-crafted - Adichie is a skilled writer with both an excellent eye for what's just under the surface, and fine writing technique. Her characters are extremely well-drawn, with lots of interesting detail and good development. The book is perhaps drawing so much attention because it tells such an important, under-told story and does it so well. As a reader, you care a lot about what happens next for each of these characters, and the book is a pleasure to read.
The narrator reads with a Nigerian accent, which takes a chapter or two to get used to, and ultimately adds a lot to the listening experience. Her inflections and expressiveness are superior to most narrators.
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
This was a beautifully written book, and I enjoyed the story. The author’s keen insights into issues of immigration and race and what it means to be black in America AND in Africa were really interesting. It was particularly interesting to read about Nigeria from the viewpoint of some very well educated people. The main problem I had with the book is that it was too didactic. The author was critical of whites, critical of blacks - Nigerians, and Americans. That’s ok, and a lot of it was interesting, BUT it just went on too long. All of the preaching bogged the book down. Much of it could have been edited out, and the powerful main points would still have had as much or more impact.
Practicing Idealist, Dabbling Realist ;)
Contemporary fiction is not a favorite area, but this book was on sale, and had high review stats. So, I listened.
How is that we all have access to the same words in dictionaries, but some people can make amazing sentences. AND, use what they've learned from people-watching.
The narrator, too, turns this book into an art-form through an amazing performance of the characters. Humor shines through in all the right places.
There is nothing in this book that would have interested me - the main ideas, the characters in any of the countries - what happens in the process of immigrating and assimulating - the romantic thread - the racial issues - academia - the process of surviving economically. But, this book, this Audio Book, is awesome, amazing, and sucked me in.
I feel changed by the experience of this book, and expanded somehow.
great story about the life of a Nigerian women and her adjusting from Nigerian life to American life and then back to Nigerian life. All along, telling the story of her long time grade school love.
I really enjoyed the writing of this book, the Lagos was so relatable as a Nigerian and a Lagosian but the biggest let down in listening to this was the fact that the reader is not Nigerian and could not speak the language when it needed to be and mispronounced just about every name. Her slightly British accent was a joy for the English majority but it would have been a much better experience if the reader actually spoke the language of the author. It really did make what should be a really really good book merely mediocre and makes me feel like I need to read the book in paper to capture the language for my self how the author really meant it.
I highly recommend as a visual but not an audio read. The narrator does a fine job when the story is in the 3rd person or when she is speaking as the protagonist, but all her male and other-female characters sound like pre-adolescent boys. After so many hours of cringing when the narrator "turned male", I downloaded the e-book to enjoy the remainder of the story.
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