Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 8: Updated Review of My Favorite Summer Read, and various other musings.

Well here I am at 9:28 on Thursday morning. It just started raining, after a lovely stretch of spectacular Maine weather: 75 and sunny during the days, then becoming a chilly 50 or so during the clear, lovely nights. The usual August routine of appointments and such has settled in. . . and our big push is getting things decent for Camilla, who arrives on Saturday. She at orientation at UNE in Biddeford now, and Nate and I will depart early on Sat. to get her.

Here's my updated review, done before I send the book to Julie for her reading pleasure. . . .

AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I *gobbled* this book down. I want to write a more developed review (I added more stuff below)  when it's not 9:42 pm after a busy day and Shakespeare at the Fort and all, but I loved it. The story is one that takes a unique perspective and experience and opens it up so that it includes the reader. It is gentle with people, allowing them to make mistakes and to change. It's funny and sad, but always hopeful, and it shows that life happens all over the world, celebrating the struggles and the triumphs that people face. I would love to have a chance to talk over it all with Adichie: her strong, clear voice, her willingness to draw positive male and female characters of all races and backgrounds, and her sense of humor make her seem like a person who'd be great to know!

More later. For right now, go buy it. Full price, at your local bookstore. I did, and I don't regret it one bit. This book deserves to be a bestseller!

ETA: Before I send this off for Julie to read, I wanted to tie in a few passages I marked to give a sense of Adichie's way with language. Ifemelu reflects on the kind of books her boyfriend likes: "novels written by young and youngish men and packed with things, a fascinating, confusing accumulation of brans and music and comic books and icons, with emotions skimmed over, and each sentence stylishly aware of its own stylishness. She had read many of them, because he recommended them, but they were like cotton candy that so easily evaporated from her tongue's memory." (12). And then she describes Obinze's mother: "She was pleasant and direct, even warm, but there was a privacy about her, a reluctance to bare herself completely to the world, the same quality as Obinze. She had taught her son the ability to be, even in the middle of a crowd, somehow comfortably inside himself." (69/70) What a vivid way to describe that particular element of certain people--and that element defines Obinze's character and the relationship Ifemelu has with him throughout the novel.

Another thing the novel did was discuss how Americans deal with foreigners, especially those from African countries. Ifemelu comments on the usual response being "Isn't there a war there?" as well as the attitude toward accents and toward non-American names. Having read those sections, I took a deep breath and forced myself to stop skimming the names and thinking, "There's the main character, her name starts with an I" and really figured out how Ifemelu's name was spelled and (probably) pronounced. Adichie doesn't hector, but she presents a clear picture of what it's like to be on the receiving end of such stereotypes and expectations. Also, she creates a character, Ifemelu, who is known for being outspoken, who alters her accent into Americanese and then, deliberately, recaptures her Nigerian style of English when she realizes what she's done. Ifemelu has advantages, has opportunities: she is aware of them and how they enable her to make a life in the US and a life in Nigeria. If we're moving toward a "world is flat" type global identity, Adichie's Americanah and her characters offer a possible model for how that reality could be lived.

Hopeful, humane, articulate, and perceptive, Adichie has created a valuable, arresting novel full of characters I'd love to meet in real life.

I am using my new MacBook Air from school, which has "ipad tendencies" so occasionally a page will change with no warning, etc. Ah well. I will adapt. Talk about 1st world problems!

Lyle is off in Nepal, out of range for a few more weeks. I am sure he's having a great time, but I do confess that I am marking off the days in my head!

Okay. Must sort through a few boxes, do some laundry, vacuum, and then head to the Y before going for my mammogram. . . Ah, what a life I live. I will share a few pics if possible just to lively up this space. Oops. But not from this laptop! Haven't yet transferred my files over. Later, I guess! When You Were MineWhen You Were Mine by Elizabeth Noble
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this one started well, but when I finished it, I was really down, and I finally realized that it was because Susanna, the main character, was such a jerk. Really. The copy of this book is all about second chances, but it's more like sixth chances because she keeps being selfish and shallow and demanding. The relationship she's in with Doug is already in trouble, but she refuses to do anything about it, and her passivity makes her much much less sympathetic. When she finally goes away to think about her needs and her life, I was thinking she'd finally grow up and become responsible------- but the doorbell rings, and there's the end of her really coming to terms with her own issues.

SO: the book is written well enough, but the character is frustratingly selfish and immature, and we're asked to sympathize with her which makes for a bad overall reading experience. Some of the plot details, like Rob's wife being deployed to Afghanistan, are updated but tired, trite themes from romance plots goneby. Back to the book sale shelves it goes.

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