Americanah is the first book of 2015 in one of the book groups that I’m part of. I’ve had it on my to read pile since September – I bought it on holiday with every intention of reading it while away. Anyway, I was excited to pick this up as I know it has received a lot of praise and critical acclaim, it is also a firm favourite of 2014 with a lot of the readers I follow youtube. Do I think it is worth all the praise? Yes, absolutely. Did I personally love it? No. I knew it was amazing, I knew that the subject was an important one but I just didn’t like it.
Her writing was beautiful and I wanted so badly to love this novel like so many others do. I did love a lot of it, the description was so vivid and it was definitely a really vibrant book too. I think it was a very important book to read but I find it’s very hard to enjoy a book to the full extent when you don’t feel engaged with the main character. Ifemelu is so hard to like and it’s really quite difficult to like a character when you’re unsure as to whether she even likes herself much. It’s hard to get engaged in a novel that is just shy of 500 pages long with a really unlikeable protagonist. I’m aware that it is really hard for an author to write a flawed protagonist, especially one as flawed as Ifem but the problem I have with her is that there is no justification or context for her flaws. She had issues that marred every relationship but they were just not dealt with at all.
There were some things I loved. I love the blog posts that show up in the novel. These were the most enlightening and passionate moments present. Certainly my eyes were opened to the many ways in which the western world is often blind to race and cultural identity. I just think that maybe characters were compromised for the sake of politics which isn’t what I was expecting at all as based on reviews I was expecting this to be a lot more driven by plot and character; but with quite flat characters and what I felt was a flimsy plot, it had a fair few holes in. I also found it quite difficult to follow conversation; while it was quite enlightening, when characters are flat the conversation is flat too and I just didn’t feel passion like I was expecting to fell.
Also, it’s worth noting that while reading this I kept getting reminded of White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I think there are a lot of parallels there actually and I may revisit White Teeth at some point just to compare the two a bit more.
Ultimately, this is probably a 3/5 book. It was good. It made me think. I will read more of her works in the future, that’s for certain. This book just wasn’t what I was expecting and while I appreciate what it was trying to say and do, I just didn’t enjoy it on a personal level. Her prose is beautiful, it’s vibrant and wonderful I just found that a lot of it fell flat for me unfortunately.