Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

IMG_20130906_021328Americanah is a hugely ambitious novel thematically. There’s a love story between a man and a women, another between people and their countries, racial issues, socio-economic issues, Americanism, Africanism (I’m making up the ‘isms’), Britishism, ideas of home, culture, hair, academia, liberalism, conservatism, and the list could grow much longer. That’s a lot to cram into 500 pages or less. Maybe too much.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is without a doubt one of our most talented contemporary writers. I can say that without having read any of her other novels. She has a vision and a grand mission to her writing that is often grounded in humorous anecdotes and the minutiae of everyday life. In Americanah, she’s created such an engrossing character in Ifemelu who leaves her native Nigeria and her love, Obinze, to attend college in America. Ifemelu ends up spending the next 15 years of her life living, loving, and writing amid the first world hustle and bustle. She becomes a cultural writer with a hugely successful blog discussing her views of race and racism from the perspective of a non-American black. Then she decides to head home to Nigeria and face the man she abandoned all those years ago who is now rich, married, and a father.

Adichie’s writing was rich and engaging once I had warmed up to Ifemelu as a character. The narrative does skip between her perspective and Obinze’s, but more often than not we are with the blunt and sharp tongue of Ifemelu as she navigates her new life in the States. Ifemelu is not an easy character to read, many won’t like her, but the way she sees things is so revealing and undeniable. Despite her rough edges, she’s a literary character I want more of and regretted leaving. I loved her blog posts as she tackled the topic of racism in America. She didn’t allow me to shy away from tough questions about the country’s prejudices and my own.

But like I said earlier, Americanah does try to do a bit too much and suffers from not necessarily knowing what type of story it actually wants to be. I can’t help but think if only a couple of the themes addressed above were handled instead of all, this could have been a nearly perfect novel. I’d even go so far as to say that the last 50 or so pages of romance between Obinze and Ifemelu were utterly unnecessary.

All that aside, Adichie has won over a new fan and I can’t wait to read the rest of her work. Americanah is an important book, a big book, and although not perfect, damn near close enough.

RATING: starstarstarstarrating_star_half-1cx8y5d


SeptembEYRE – Our First Week of Reading!

IMG_20130901_071408Oh, Jane, how I’ve missed you! As much as I love Jane Austen’s works, I think Jane Eyre is my favorite heroine ever. EVER. That’s quite a compliment and might change next week, but let’s go with it for now.

During this reread, I’m trying to discover just why I love Ms. Eyre so much. The first 11 chapters were assigned (that’s a terrible word choice) this past week and I flew through them in 1.5 days. These chapters cover Jane’s life from ages 10-18 as an orphan first in the household of her Aunt Reed – a major bitch – and then in Lowood School, a place for wayward orphans with no place else to go.

Jane is spirited, headstrong, and quick to act. She’s angry at her lot in the world – not so much her class or social standing – but rather with the evil people she’s forced to endure. She’s not meek at all. She prefers immediate retaliation and revenge against the wrongs done her than killing with kindness. Until she meets her dear friend Helen who teaches her all the things. I loved Helen and her death scene is just so moving.

Chapter Eleven brings us to Thornfield where we meet Adele and Mrs. Fairfax. Jane is taken with the house and its splendidly vast views. I like that Jane has worked on her own behalf to find herself a new position and has ambitions beyond her very insular childhood. We only have the vaguest notion of Mr. Rochester and only one instance of hysterical laughter so far. The foreshadowing is a little more overt than I remember.

Really excited to move forward in the story and continue down the path of madness that is to come! I’m remembering details in bits and pieces, but mostly the story feels fresh. I wish I had read Jane Eyre as a teenager in high school. I just think it’s such an immensely accessible Victorian classic – far more so than Dickens or Thackeray.

Onward we go!!!!

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

IMG_20130901_102915Mansfield Park was a book with baggage. Lots of bad baggage. I originally read the book after seeing the 1999 film with Johnny Lee Miller that I absolutely adored. Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I watched that movie. Video Warehouse probably hated me with how torn and damaged their VHS copy was by the time I graduated and moved away. This was all before my Jane Austen obsession.

Even though I wasn’t quite the book fangirl I am now, I still wanted to read the source material. But Mansfield Park just wasn’t a book I should have attempted in high school. Obviously, I hated it and chucked it into a dusty corner to be forgotten. Until now!!!

Fourteen years have gone by and man, what fourteen years can do. I loved Mansfield Park this time around despite all of the anxiety and apprehension I felt going in. I’m also well aware that the 1999 film only borrowed bits and pieces from the novel and is in no way an adequate representation of Austen’s original story. And, for me, that’s okay. I still love the movie for what it is. Although I was a bit shocked at how sexualized everything was in the film…not that I should have been. Edmund is also far more appealing in the movie.

I read Mansfield Park over the course of four weeks. Slowly, but surely, I made my way through Austen’s most serious novel and mostly adored every word. I liked Fanny – her moral compass, although rigid, was respectable because she truly believed in her morality in the face of so many detractors. She fiercely defended her beliefs and didn’t back down for anyone. That’s far more than we can say about Edmund and his fickle morality in the face of Mary Crawford.

Sir Bertram is another father figure I’ve come to love (I know that Sir Bertram isn’t always the kind of character one can praise – specifically when you consider whether or not he was involved in the slave trade). Jane Austen can write some excellent fathers. Aunt Norris is a despicable bit of comic relief. I loved that Aunt Norris dotes on Maria while trashing Fanny which only manages to ruin Maria in the end.

As for Fanny and Edmund’s ending, holy rushed romance, Batman! Jeez. Edmund essentially just decides to be in love with Fanny and marry her in about two sentences. To me, this romance is underdeveloped and swept under the rug which tells me Austen’s point wasn’t to get Fanny a hero, but rather to let her be her own hero. I like that. I like Mansfield Park. For the moment, however fleeting, it shall stand as my favorite Austen. Until my next reread…

Rating: starstarstarstar

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

15745753Be still my heart. What a heck of a little YA contemporary romance.

Eleanor & Park has made its rounds on the blogosphere and booktube several times at this point. Rowell has captured the first love of two 15/16 year old kids in 1986 rather perfectly. But beyond that, she’s captured exactly what it’s like to be a misfit and to come from some pretty shitty circumstances. She’s created Eleanor, a girl growing up with a horrifically abusive stepfather, suffering from the severe constraints of poverty, and  buried under the self-consciousness of being an overweight teenage girl. With Park, she’s drawn a half-white, half-Korean boy with a love of black clothes, punk rock, comic books, and a freakin’ heart of gold. A boy who deals with the constant disappoint of his father, constant comparisons to his more perfect brother, and who sits quietly on the school bus just hoping to go unnoticed. I loved them both unconditionally.

Eleanor and Park are real characters ; they feel like real people. These kids existed in 1986 and they exist now.

Rowell is a master of dialogue. She’s witty and clever yet manages to make her characters still sound like the young adults they are. That’s always been my problem with John Green. I love him to death, but his characters always sound too much like himself.  Rowell might be MY John Green. (I still love you, John!!)

There are cheesy moments here, for sure. Moments that in other books and handled by other authors have often made me cringe. But I just smiled happily and kept right on going. Why? Because something was just so grounded in the realness of my memories of teenagedom that I couldn’t help reminisce on my own high school years – my own crushes and first loves – my own struggles with the world, internal and external. I saw myself written on the page.


Rating: starstarstarstar

Join Us for SeptembEYRE!

IMG_20130901_071408I have my Classics Club list organized by year – meaning, I have my 75 books sorted into 14/15 book mini-lists with a year attached to said mini-list. That makes the list feel more manageable. Mind Games. Anyway, this year Jane Eyre is on the list and I couldn’t be happier that there’s also a fabulous readalong happening during September to facilitate my reading.

Super huge thanks to Entomology of a Bookworm for hosting the event! Head over to her page and sign up if you want to participate. The reading schedules look like this:


September 2nd: Kick-off post, introductions, why you’re reading, etc.
September 9th: Chapters I-XI
September 16th: Chapters XII-XXI
September 23rd: Chapters XXII-XXIX
September 30th: Chapters XXX-End

This reading will be my second time through Jane’s story. In college, I first read Bronte’s most popular novel for a class on women in literature. I loved it then and can only hope to love it more this time around. Charlotte Bronte is one of my top 5 favorite authors of all time. I love everything the woman wrote.  To honor this most wonderful of readalongs, I purchased a new, lovely copy of Jane Eyre to replace my tattered and torn Norton edition. As you can see in the picture, I’m thrilled to have a shiny, new, and supremely gorgeous Penguin English Library edition. Yay for the pretty!

Enough writing – time for reading!! Follow me on twitter for all my incoherent ramblings: @wickedinnuendo

TSS: Books, Football, and Festivals

Future!Brooke is currently celebrating a Georgia win over Clemson. Or – she might be weeping after a devastating loss. Either way, college football season is back and my life has an extra level of stress. (Update: I’m weeping in my cheerios, dammit.)

TSSbadge2Happy September! This month I’m participating in two readalongs. The first, SeptembEYre, is a collective reading of Jane Eyre (aren’t readers clever?). It’s hosted over at Entomology of a Bookworm and you should go check it out. The second is in conjunction with RIP VIII and it’s for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. The always lovely Estella Society is hosting, and I am ridiculously excited.

Vintage Cluj Cemetery

While you’re reading this post, I’ve hopefully made my way over to the Decatur Book Festival which might be the most awesome book festival EVER. Anyway, I’m hoping to attend some author events. This might also mean new books are in my future. I know I’m on a book buying challenge to read 20 books before buying anything new, but I might have to make this particular event exempt. Because I make the rules. BE QUIET with your judgments.

As far as reviews to look forward to this week, I should find time to get my thoughts on Mansfield Park  by Jane Austen and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell put together. I’m currently reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and hope to start Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte along with Dark Places by Gillian Flynn this week.


Looking forward to a quiet work week. Last week saw long hours in the office and long hours of social events once I got home. We hosted an awesome hot pot dinner on Wednesday night which was a glorious success. Thursday night my sister, brother-in-law, and gorgeous baby niece came to visit. Saturday we hosted even more people for pizza, beer, and the UGA game. So thankful to have a four day weekend to sleep and recover from all the festivities.

What’s new with you?