Here, you can find every comments by the bookclub members on the books they read this year.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (National Book Critics Award)
In a prose that flows easily and reads pleasantly we discover all about the life of a young Nigerian immigrant studying in the States
and how –for the first time in her life- she find herself questioning what it means to be black. Besides the obvious themes of racism in the USA and immigration, the book « Americanah »
is filled with the trivial everyday observations about life. Food, hair, conversations, all little nuggets of the experience and perceptions of the main characters. To some members
this made the book a bit too long but to others these snippets helped them relate to the characters.
The author has treated many different things in her book (growing up in Nigeria, the religious antics of her mother, the immigrant experience in the USA, Obinze’s failed immigration attempts to the UK, racism in the USA, life as an Americanah back in Nigeria, the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze) and fors ome members this made the book a bit too long.
The parts of the book taking place in Nigeria were deemed most interesting, along with the blog entries, perhaps because the Nigerian life is a life unknown to many of the readers of the book club. This book is character driven (as opposed to plot driven) and the love story between Ifemelu and Obinze gives it a feminine feel at times but without becoming sappy or sentimental.
Most members would be glad to read another work by Adichie and would recommend the book.
There were 9 people present at the discussion who voted and the book was given a 7.5/10
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (National Book Award)
This book has several celebrity recommendations on the cover, such as Oprah Winfrey and Barak Obama, and the book club wondered if that had any influence on it’s critical reception. Always a tough topic –in the States and elsewhere- Whitehead tackled the theme of slavery. He did so in a character driven novel with some fantasy elements (the underground railroad is an actual train) and it reads as a thriller while at times slowing down.
There are some beautiful parts of prose such as "freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close but from outside, the empty meadow, you see its true limits.” But there are also parts where the writing is considerably more mediocre.
The character of Cora, the young slave runaway that the book centers around, is well developed and convincing, but some of the secondary characters were more like caricatures. They are however interesting characters, even the less well-developed ones.
Much appreciated by most of the members was the depiction of life at the plantation, where it was each for him –or her-self, rather than the close-knit community displaying a solidarity that would not look out of place in a Disney movie. By combining different horrific feats of slavery (lynchings, manhunts, or forced sterilization to give some examples) that took place in different dates in time we get a good feel of the overal monstrosity of this economic system. And by observing it through Cora’s matter fo fact attitude it’s bearable and doesn’t read like a lament.
Even though most members were happy to have read the book they wondered if the celebrity endorsements have influenced those voting for the National Book Award, or the Pulitzer prize it both won.
There were 12 people present at the discussion who voted and the book was given a 7.21/10
Review to come