Book reviews

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’08MA

Knopf, $26.95
Reviewed by Sylvia Brownrigg ’86

Sylvia Brownrigg ’86 is the author of six books of fiction, most recently a novel for middle-grade readers called Kepler’s Dream.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Orange Prize and an armful of accolades for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun, published in 2006. Her new novel, Americanah, will only build on her reputation as one of the finest and most ambitious writers working today: the subtlety and grace of her prose combined with her trenchant political and cultural insights make this book one which engages the mind and will surely linger in the memory.

When we first meet Adichie’s protagonist, Ifemulu, she has decided to leave the United States (specifically Princeton, where she has had a fellowship) to return to Nigeria—if not deliberately to explore a possible reconnection with her first lover, Obinze, then at least to go back to “the only place she could sink her roots in without the constant urge to tug them out and shake off the soil.” Belonging, nationality, and race (and the instability of all three) are rich themes in a story that takes in Great Britain too in its multiple geographies. Yet Adichie is not writing a treatise or a polemic, but a layered, deeply human story about the quest for love and balance, and for an elusive internal peace.