Monday, May 12, 2014

Book 51: The Thing Around Your Neck

I loved Adichie's first two novels, and intend to read Americanah very soon.  Given that I really enjoy the author, I bought her short story collection as soon as it was released in paperback.  And then avoided reading it because I don't really like short story collections that much.  When I do, it tends to be one's about characters I already know experiencing side adventures, such as Sidejobs, a collection of Harry Dresden stories, or the two collections from the Women of the Otherworld series.  I started pretty strong with this one, and actually read about half the stories in one weekend, and then decided to take a break.  I finally picked it back up and finished it three weeks later.
For the most part, I liked all the stories, and I thought she wrapped them up really well - while I still would have preferred novels and longer narratives, I wasn't left wanting more.  She clearly sets up her characters and their lives in the short time she has in the pages devoted to them.  Having read her previous work, I also didn't feel completely clueless about Nigeria's history, culture and differing ethnic backgrounds, which helped me avoid too much confusion with some of the specifics.  The stories take place in both Nigeria and America, focusing not only on life in Nigeria, but exploring the immigrant's experience as well.  She provides a snap shot of a variety of Nigerian women through this lense.
I think the last two stories of the collection were actually my favorite.  "Tomorrow is Too Far" deals with a woman's return to Africa for her grandmother's funeral after an eighteen year absence, ever since her older brother died one summer.  The last story, "The Headstrong Historian," is very reminiscent Things Fall Apart and Adichie's own novel, Purple Hibiscus, as it takes place in the late 19th century, and talks about the influence of white missionaries and the rift it causes between old traditions and the new generation.  I also enjoyed "A Private Experience" about a Christian woman and a Muslim woman hiding together during a riot.  I think my least favorite was "Jumping Monkey Hill" about a writer's retreat, and "The Shivering."  "The Shivering" focuses on a young college student that spends a lot of time talking about her ex-boyfriend.  I think I disliked it because her irritating habit of bringing him up in random conversations may have hit a bit too close to home and, unfortunately, felt like an accurate portrayal of a younger version of me.
If you love short stories or are a bit of a completionist, I would recommend this because Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an amazing author.  However, if you prefer novels, I would definitely start with Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel about Biafra and the Nigerian Civil War, or her debut, Purple Hibiscus, which explores the rifts between old and new and religion in modern Nigeria - I think it is due to this that many early blurbs compared her to Chinua Achebe.  Hopefully, I'll let you know more about Americanah soon, but most of the reviews have been positive.

No comments: