The thing around your neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Review by Val

Gardners Book reviews Fiction

How I loved this wonderful collection of short stories!

 This book feels like an open window into Nigeria, its life and its people. It is full of interesting relationships with fascinating dynamics across ages, sexes, classes and cultures. Topics include marriage, feminism, racism, police brutality, colonialism, immigration, politics, love and much more. It made me look up many (many!) words, maps of Nigeria, and research historical events I’d heard about without knowing very much about them, like the Biafran War of 1967-70.

 A few characters who stood out for me include:

 Nkem, for her quiet strength resolve and dignity.

Chika and the Muslim Hausa woman, and their fascinating impromptu meeting.

Ujunwa the talented writer, and the awful Edward Campbell.

Ugonna’s mother, and the heart-wrenching story she tells at the American Embassy.

Chinaza, who finds out that her arranged marriage with a doctor in America may not be quite what she expected.

Nonso’s sister, and the heavy secret she carries surrounding his death.

The title story feels both sobering and haunting, with its depiction of life as a Nigerian immigrant in the US, the everyday racism, and the strange burden of living with your heart stretched across two continents and cultures.

 Throughout the book, the writing is fluid, clear and engaging, never detracting from the plot by trying to be too clever. It always seems to serve the stories and their characters, not the writer.  I highly enjoyed this book, for the richness and variety of its characters, and I will certainly be delving into a longer read by the same author, probably starting with Half of a Yellow Sun."

 Val Gayes



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