Sunday, November 30, 2014

Audiobook Review: Americanah by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamamda Ngozi Adichie (narrated by Adjoa Andoh; 17 hours and 28 minutes) tackles many big themes - immigration, race and class - in a story about a young couple who are separated when they both leave military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Ifemelu and Obinze meet in school in Nigeria and quickly fall for each but with their homeland under dictatorship they, like many of their peers, decide they must leave Nigeria. Ifemelu departs for the US where she has some family and Obinze initially intends to follow her but then is not allowed to enter the US and he goes to London. The book follows each of their stories as emigrants separately until they both return to Nigeria and reconnect. At that point, the book follows them together again as they face returning to a Nigeria they left and the realization that their lives have become more complicated.

When Ifemelu arrives in the US, she faces racism for the first time and in addition to adjusting to a new country, she also struggles with learning about "American blacks" (AB) and "non American blacks" (NAB). With the benefit of an outsider's perspective who is also a member of the race facing discrimination, Ifemelu's observations on the topic are incisive. She begins writing a blog about her experiences which is popular but controversial. Ifemelu is conflicted about her life in the US - on one hand, she welcomes the freedom and the bounty of options available in the US but, on the other hand, she does not understand the constant optimism and apparent lack of grit she finds in her new home. 

Obinze's immigration takes a different route when he ultimately ends up living illegally in London. This educated, self-assured man is relegated to poorly paying jobs and living on the fringes of society. He enters into an agreement for an arranged marriage that will guarantee his British citizenship. Although he thinks of Ifemelu frequently, Obinze does not reach out to her and continues to live a lie in his new homeland. Ultimately, he is deported to Nigeria where he marries a woman and becomes a successful businessman. He continues to think of Ifemelu and is reunited with her when she returns to Nigeria from the States.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found myself stopping often on walks to consider the beauty of the sentences created by the author. I wish I also read this book in print so that I could underline passages and quotes because they so perfectly expressed a concept. This book is about Ifemelu and Obinze but their stories, individually and together, are really just a vehicle for the themes the author addresses in this wide ranging novel - themes of immigration, race and class.  It certainly has given me much to consider and months later I find myself reflecting on  the book and its characters. This is the first audiobook I have listened to by narrator Adjoa Andoh (others may be familiar with her as the narrator of Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency) - her British accent tinged with an African twang is perfect for this novel and its main characters although her narration of American characters sounded a bit generic.  Overall, I recommend this audiobook and also recommend the print version to better enjoy the excellent writing.


  1. I've been wondering about this one for my book club. It does sound like one that would make for great discussion.

  2. I loves this book too, though it is definitely heavy! I would love the audio... I love audios was by people with accents. :)

  3. I've had this book on my radar for quite some time and am glad to know that you enjoyed it. I'll definitely read it in print.

  4. I've had this book on my wish list, but never considered listening until now. Maybe I should borrow a copy from the library, too, so I can go back to especially memorable passages. Thanks for the recommendation, Colleen!

  5. It's really helpful to hear your advice on which books are best read hard copy vs. audio. I have been thinking about reading this book. I think lighter books are better in audio generally although I'd love to hear the proper accents in this one. Maybe I should listen to the Lady Detective instead?