I was unsure what to expect from this book, I’d heard vague good things about it, so when I saw it in the 2 for £7 section at Tesco alongside another book that I wanted to buy, I decide to take the plunge and give it a try. And boy am I glad that I did. After a shaky start where I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the kind of book I could get along with, I was completely enthralled within the first 50 pages.
The book opened up a new world to me, one that I had never really considered before. The intricacies of race and class, particularly within the US, but also within Ifemelu and Obinze’s home of Lagos in Nigeria. This was a backdrop for a love story between the two young people, exploring their love as teenagers in Nigeria, then having their love torn apart by their need for a better education than can be provided in their Nigerian universities, with the rising number of strikes destroying their chance for a good education.
Ifemelu manages to get a visa to study in America, but Obinze is not so lucky, and eventually they lose contact, although not entirely by accident. The book jumps back and forth in time and in characters, taking us from Nigeria to America to London and back again absolutely seamlessly. Adichie switches perfectly from one to the other, dealing with the distinct intricacies of racial identity in each country, what it means to be black and how this changes depending on where you are. How fitting in is not so easy when you move to a different country, and how being ‘black’ is not enough if you’re not the ‘right kind’ of black.
I said earlier that this was a love story, but it wasn’t the kind of love story that I’m used to reading. Somehow it was more real. The main proponents were not perfect and the love was not easygoing, but somehow it became stronger throughout the book. I was a little unsure about how it would end, but I should have known really that it couldn’t end any other way.
I didn’t really feel like I could identify with the main character as much as I usually like, being a white English girl I’ve never really seen the world that this book explores. But somehow it didn’t matter, I was still completely engrossed in the book and the world created by Adichie.
I’ve had another book by Adichie on my shelf for a couple of years, and I’m definitely going to pick it up and read it soon, I could see Adichie jumping into my favourite authors quite quickly!