Not a reading group or a challenge, I was just giving my overloaded bookshelves a tidy and my hand brought this out and I couldn’t resist to read again.
This is a stunning first novel, not easily put down or forgotten. A love story with a brilliant portrayal of this emotion. There is love of a nation and its culture, love of family, the love of God and Gods, with the terrible black side of love on display with the gentleness.
It is also a story of repression. Of emotion and spirit from and by a father who, in his desire to save the souls of those he holds dear, steps beyond the boundaries of what is considered loving behaviour. It is the repression of a whole country, when bribes are a way of life and food, fuel and power are erratic and personal security uncertain. Not just of the ordinary people but of the elite. University life under this regime shows how easily the academic freedoms we take for granted, such as free speech, can be stripped away. How the thinkers and questioners are driven away to foreign countries leaving their homeland the poorer.
Kambili the heroine of this story and her brother, Jaja, have to make their journey to maturity within this background of coups, cruelty and bigotry, finding a way to survive while endeavouring in their different ways to keep their ideals intact.
This is a very sure footed portrayal of the complexities of family love, ties and loyalties. How forgiveness and acceptance can walk hand in hand with brutality and rejection, and family love can persist when all sense says it should be buried
After the State itself the obvious villain could be said to be the father. However, nothing within these pages is so cut and dried. Deeply flawed, he is passionate man devoting that passion to God, truth and justice. He is brutal in his fathering, and towards any back sliders within the church. He is also courageous in his determination to expose the corrupt government and his charity enables many hundreds to survive and to flourish. A good or a bad man?
This is a story of a traditional coming of age through adversity and trials. Jaja responds to outside influences and stages his own rejection and sacrifice while Kambili slowly responds to unconditional and uncritical love and as her confidence grows so too does her self awareness. From this comes the courage to be her own person.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has beautifully crafted and seamlessly put this universal story of humanity together with incredibly powerful images of an Africa not often seen. The sights, sounds and smells of the country leap from the page and by the end one is left with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for her country.
Adichie is young so, hopefully, there are many more treasures such as this to delight her readers in the future.