Book Review – The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Thing Around Your Neck was a pre-Christmas gift from Mr ER, purchased from Daunt Books in Marylebone in December 2016 on a whim on the way home from work. This recommendation was because he’d previously read one of the author’s books, enjoyed it and believed I would like this collection of short stories. Any portrayal of his birthplace – favourable or otherwise – is welcomed.
Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. Goodreads blurb
I thanked him promptly and left it on the living room bookshelf. Periodically on a bi-annual basis, I would find the book on a coffee table or a bedside table, consider why it had been moved, reflect on whether now was the time to read it, conclude it was not and return it directly to its shelf.
Why now ? Well I started the blog in October which is Black History Month and also shamefacedly thought that it had sat on the shelf for far too long.
The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of short stories exploring the lives of Nigerians at home and abroad. Proving a touching, insightful, raw in places and agonising in others read.
“How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?”The Shivering
Spanning different decades, continents and raising so many themes that I struggled to capture them all – I preferred reading to taking notes.
The few I list below are just that a few.
- Having no autonomy
- Having to confirm into a certain expectation, cultural, gender, etc
- Not knowing yourself
- Denying yourself for another
- Trying your best to fit in but at a cost
- Favouritism in family dynamics
- How you perceive and value yourself through family
- Accepting someone else’s vision for your life
Each story had on the surface a straightforward plot but once you started to examine the personalities it is clear there are many complex components effortlessly interwoven. However, the theme that stood out most for me as recurrent but in, essence what each story could be condensed to, was disappointment. Each person believed that they were a disappointment or perceived others as disappointing them.
The skill in capturing people that I recognised, real lived persons as opposed to finely crafted characters is extraordinary. These are real thoughts expressed.
“He prayed in that particularly Nigerian Pentecostal way that made her uneasy…”The Shivering
To tell the truth in a way that exonerates them from any of the deserved blame
‘”My drugs don’t kill people…It’s only that they will not cure your illness”Ghosts
The author’s perceptive insight into human character and motivation is evidenced throughout.
“He used to make me feel that nothing I said was witty enough or sarcastic enough or smart enough. He was always struggling to be different, even when it didn’t matter. It was as if he was performing his life instead of living his life”The Shivering
I know these types of people. I have met these people, laughed with some, despaired with others, and frustrated myself with the rest. They are universal and not limited to this demographic. A thoroughly wonderful read.
This is first book I’ve read by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie but assuredly it won’t be the last.
4 stars – really liked it