It is very uncharacteristic of me to read a book and drag on for months before deciding whether to abandon or finishing it. This year I have done it for this book and 2666. Before the year ends in 2 days, I’m planning to finish reading 2666. The Thing around your neck doesn’t falls in the same category of 2666, because I really love it. So much so that I didn’t want it to end and while reading my library copy I went online and procure my own.
The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of 12 short stories, focusing mainly on the lives and experiences of Nigerian women – women caught up in political or religious violence, coping with displacement, loneliness and disappointment in their new lives or their new marriages in America, surviving tragedy. In “Imitation”, a young wife, Nkem, living a life of isolation in America, discovers her wealthy husband has moved a mistress into the family home in Lagos. “On Monday of Last Week” tells the story of a university-educated Nigerian woman, again in America, forced to make ends meet by working as a home help and flattered by her employer’s compliments on her looks. In “Shivering”, a woman called Ukamaka is estranged from her husband and befriended a man not knowing that he is a gay. In “Arrangers of Marriage” Chinaza-Okafa found out that her husband wants her to be more American and adopt a more American sounding names. In “Ghosts” relates an encounter between a retired university professor and a former colleague who may have died from the Biafran war. During their conversation, the professor recalls the many changes that have taken place over the years. The betrayals by colleagues and by governments, the loss of dreams and also of the professor’s own wife as a result of being treated with counterfeit drugs (drugs that w, the same wife who still pays nightly visits to her husband’s room. Overall these are melancholy stories of disappointment and endurance.
Adichie gave women living in her birth country a voice that is uniquely African yet universal for us who had our hearts broken, who had been disappointed and had our soul wretched. Adichie’s writing is filled with social and political commentary and writes with conviction of what she believes and holds true. This seems to work against her, as Aminatta Forna said “The least successful stories are those where the author’s desire to make a statement is too plainly felt, Then the powerful themes close to Adichie’s heart shine through, but never overshadow writing of clarity and brilliance.” Another critic said her short stories were the sort that came out of a cookie-cutter, conforming to a prescribed formulae and recipe rather than genuine talent. When I read Half the Yellow Sun earlier this year, I thought it was good but some places were a little hit and miss and I much prefer this short stories collection where Adichie uses sparse and clean prose. She didn’t mince her words, and overall it gave me a feeling of a more controlled collection of stories. I am all for planning and executing the recipe, planning and organisation can create unsurpassed beauty. I can’t imagine Belvedere Garden looking all prim and pretty without following a cookie-cutter recipe to trim those hedges! 😉
While reading the book, I took out my post-it note and start checking and tagging which are my favourite stories out of the 12. 6 or half of them are my favourite and the rest I would say are just as good, conclusion: They are all good, making this a collection of short stories that I would treasure and re-read. If you are looking for a good short stories written by ethnic authors, I highly recommend this and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth and Pulitzer prize winner Interpreter of the Maladies.
P/s: It seems I have been rather generous in my rating on recent reads. Let’s just say I have been fortunate to read so many great books towards the very end of the year. 😉
Hardback. Length: 218 pages. Publisher: Harpers Collins 2010. Source: My own. Setting: Contemporary Nigeria / USA. Finished reading at: 26th December 2011.
Iris on books: The Thing Around Your Neck convinced me that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an author well worth reading. Had I not realised by now that reading one book by an author and loving it might be too little ground to claim he or she as a favourite, I would be telling you that indeed, she is.
1morechapter: It’s always difficult to define great writing, but it’s also very recognizable when one experiences it. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is definitely a master storyteller, and I believe she will be just as revered as Achebe is, not only in Nigeria, but in the entire world — if she isn’t already.
Did I miss your review? Let me know and I’ll add it in.