This month, I’m reading some modern classics with focuses on non-American, non-British cultures. This book popped up when I went on a search for African fiction. The author is Nigerian and American (or at least has places to live in both countries), so I’m excited to see what this book has in store.
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Like the other books this month, this one isn’t in my usual speculative genres. However, what interests me about this book especially is the memory of a book I read a long time ago set in a similar time period in Nigerian history. The backdrop of the unstable postcolonial Nigeria is intriguing, and I can’t wait to see how this plays out.
As a note, the book is supposed to be YA, but it is of considerable enough length.
This book was beautifully written. It was quiet, and the story didn’t really have a plot so much as this slowly revealed situation and character, but it was done in such a manner that I read this in 2 sittings (rare for me). Though this was definitely YA and touched on common YA themes like abuse (yeah, don’t read if parental abuse bothers you) and coming of age, Adichie does it in such a truthful, detailed manner that the feeling of the characters just pervades your senses.
The characters are brilliant. The main character – Kambili – is richly created, and her silence speaks volumes. Papa, who was a terrible father and abusive, was built from a very deep background and was so complex that you had to feel sorry for him, too. Aunty Ifeoma’s strength and Father Amadi’s encouragement are beautifully incorporated.
I don’t even know if I can describe the setting adequately, but the cultural mishmash of Western, Nigerian, and even Eastern (there was a vase with women wearing Kimonos on it – I was so astounded at this detail!) cultures blended in the most impressive way. The book wasn’t racist, either, but you could feel this oozing racial bias. The black characters even had this awful, infernal feeling of inferiority due to some of the lingering colonial oppression and ideas which were so effectively yet quietly stated in the book.
100% recommend to anyone looking to expand their international pallete.
5/5 Discoball Snowcones
In this book, Kambili and her brother Jaja suffer through some horrible things at the hands of their father, but they believe God wants their suffering in order that they might improve. The material wealth of the family is also presented as a reason God has blessed them, that they are moving on the right path. It’s a dastardly method of gaslighting that I thought Adichie portrayed in a breathtakingly real fashion.
This contrasts with the relative freedom of Aunty Ifeoma’s house, where there is no finger breaking or standing in bathtubs while boiling water is poured on your feet. Kambili and her brother grow to enjoy this freedom, and their desire for it leads to bravery which their large, overbearing father punishes them too far for.
AND THEN THE MOM POISONS HIM OMG.
The whole time, the mom was like “oh, he pays for us, he’s great,” but then she finally grows a spine when Papa nearly kills Kambili for owning a painting of her “heathen” grandfather. It was a magnificent twist and a great way to end an otherwise rather reserved book.
Are there a lot of months with a 5th Monday this year? I feel like there are.
Unlike back in June, I can guarantee I won’t be reviewing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie. So don’t expect it.