Book Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Bildungsroman

“It was as if he had suddenly been made to see that the Incredible Hulk was really just green paint.”

Adichie can even make jargon sound urgent and important, so imagine what an already urgently set agenda novel would sound like; more like scream like. 

“The Tanzanian told her that all fiction was therapy, some sort of therapy, no matter what anybody said.”

The Thing Around Your Neck is one those books that makes you feel maudlin for all the people you never knew existed, who struggled with such condor, that it makes you let out a silent prayer; not just for other people out there but also for yourself, to have the same everlasting courage that radiates off most Africans, in surviving through this black hole of an endless struggle we call life. 

“Is it a good life, Daddy?” 

“It is not good or bad,” I tell her, “it is simply mine.”

I wouldn’t have believed someone if they had told me that twelve short stories were enough to rip my world of leisure and comfort apart; that my world of leisure and comfort is just a dream that looks too real, a dream that will be broken once I wake up into the dawn of real life battles. It takes just twelve stories to believe that the world is unapologetic to all the independent women, who are powerful today as a result of fighting through sexual abuse and commodification, to all the people who have died while striving to challenge the heathen society’s misleadings (their graves still flowerless) and to all the men who live everyday with the knowledge that they could soon be murdered and yet continue to voice out the falsities set up by a histrionic government. It takes just twelve stories to realise that the world is not just full of glamorous people, but of those people who hold dignity of their myriad journey of struggles and who hold sovereignty of their strong opinions; people who are truly glamorous with freedom of expression and compassion. 

“It was as if he was performing his life instead of living his life.”

The Thing Around Your Neck chokes you enough to make you realise about life’s worth.

A handful of my favourite quotes:

  1. The British had a way of using words like “expedition” and “pacification” for killing and stealing.
  2. It is one of the things she has come to love about America, the abundance of unreasonable hope.
  3. It is what America does to you, she thinks. It forces egalitarianism on you.
  4. Perhaps he was mourning a time immersed in possibilities.
  5. It is our diffidence about afterlife that leads us to religion.
  6. “You speak such good English,” he said, and it annoyed her, his surprise, his assumption that English was somehow his personal property.
  7. Ujunwa thought she might like her, but only the way she liked alcohol – in small amounts.
  8. White people who liked Africa too much and those who liked Africa too little were the same – condescending.
  9. You can’t use human reasoning for God.
  10. Everybody has a crisis of faith. It’s normal.
  11. How can you love somebody and yet want to manage the amount of happiness that person is allowed?
  12. How can a person claim to love you and yet want you to do things that suit only them?
  13. I read a book that says that we don’t fall in love, we climb up to love.
  14. People ruled over others not because they were better but because they had better guns.
  15. It would cause her to make a clear link between education and dignity; between the hard, obvious things that are printed in books and the soft, subtle things that lodge themselves into the soul.

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