By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I think it’s so obvious that this is her first novel. I know it was widely acclaimed and all, but I found it so lacking compared to her other books (I read HOAYS and Americanah in Sri Lanka, actually, one after the other over a few days – tbh remember it more than lots of other things from those lovely times). This was definitely my least favourite of her books. For one, I thought the character development was just so much less nuanced than they usually are. You could tell they were changing, both the protaganist and her cousin, even her brother. But it didn’t feel fluid or (lol) organic as much as abrupt. One day they are young, the next they know.
The crux of the book is this screwed up, abusive family dyanmic between girl and her family. And I didn’t realise things were screwed up until quite far in. Like when she spoke about noise on wood in her parents’ room, I thought it meant sex. I didn’t read the back so I wasn’t sure how old she was. But I suppose that’s a strength of the book; you’re looking at things through the eyes of an innocent, and you could take it either as her lack of awareness, or just how wilfully ignorant we can choose to be if it makes bad things in life more palatable.
On the other hand, I thought the dynamicism between traidtionalism and Western religion imported over was so well done. Because there is criticism of everything, of the sexism of her local traditions in the same breath as Christianity; of how even though her dad is important and does good for so many people, his being sometimes cruel is fuelled by Christian religious fanaticism – but it’s something of him, and not the religion itself (because her boo is a pastor or something). Like in the way she dealt with how these two things co-exist in the village I thought it was really well done. One of my favourite parts was when the mom bows to one of the local leaders and the Dad hits her, and the next time the daughter goes to church, she doesn’t kneel to kiss the man (Priest or something’s) ring and she thinks her dad will br proud, and he twists her ear – I think one thing she did well was to capitalise on children’s inherent innocence to show the inherent hypocrisies of adults and religions, traditional or Western, imposed or your own.
It’s not a hard read – especially because it has a pretty happy ending I think, on a hopeful note – but would start with the others.