Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest novel is a real treat. Ifemelu and Obinze are young Nigerian lovers. Both have dreams for a future away from Nigeria. Obinze has always been obsessed with everything American and this is where he is determined to go for his education and work. But he fails to get the desired US visa and instead travels to England where he enters a precarious existence of undocumented labour. Ifemelu has good contacts and gets her US visa and travels to America (thinking it will be just like The Cosby Show) – although she has to jump through a series of illegal hoops in order to gain work.
Ifemelu knows that Obinze has eventually returned to Nigeria and married and is now doing well financially. She has made a good life for herself in America and has an African American boyfriend. She writes a very successful blog called “Curious Observations by a Non-American Black on the subject of Blackness in America”. But she grows increasingly dissatisfied and depressed has a desire to return home.
This is a superb novel that not only tells a great story with characters that we care about but is also packed with interesting observations about cultural differences. She makes incisive comments about the over-compensation of white people in addressing blacks, the gradations of skin colour and the challenges of hairdressing. She is brilliant on the nuances of social interaction between outsiders and locals in both UK and USA.
This is a big book but is carefully structured and immensely readable. It is sharply observed, funny and humane. Highly recommended.