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Reading the Ceiling

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
'Reading the Ceiling' takes us from Gambia to London, Boston and Mali as Ayodele confronts dilemmas universal to women across the globe, what do we settle for, how long do we wait for love, and what are the consequences of our actions?
Paperback, 277 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Simon & Schuster Ltd
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Mar 16, 2012 Kinga rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gambia
This is a good book if you are doing one of those Around the World challenges and you are struggling to find a book from the Gambia (did you know it was THE Gambia?).

It's a perfect book for this sort of thing - a perfect mix of the exotic and the familiar, not too challenging, giving you just enough of insight into the culture without making you uncomfortable. It meshes the European with the African, the traditional with the modern and shows African women dancing on the fine line between the two
Friederike Knabe
Aug 25, 2011 Friederike Knabe rated it liked it
Shelves: africa
On her eighteenth birthday, Ayodele decides, she will not only have a great party at the best disco in town, she will also choose a one-off mate to take her from childhood to womanhood. It is an empowering feeling and the choice is hers, not common in her society at that time. First-time Gambian novelist Dayo Forster has written a lively, fast paced and delightful novel built around an intriguing concept: three different scenarios unfold for her life, depending on the man she chooses for that fa ...more
Deborah Pickstone
I had higher hopes but it is still an interesting read; we don't get so much fiction out of the African continent that we can afford to misprize it. As the book developed, so did the writing. I would expect growth as a writer in the future and look forward to reading more.
Jama Jack
Jun 17, 2016 Jama Jack rated it really liked it
The author is Gambian!

Yes, that matters to me as much as the stories she has weaved together in Reading the Ceiling. Growing up and understanding the power of representation and writing our own stories has pushed me into a year of reading works from (female) African authors only for a year.

This book is one I wished I had read in my teenage years, as I struggled to place my feet on solid ground while navigating the pressures of growing up as a teenage African girl.

Ayodele's story mattered. For
Feb 23, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Set in Gambia, this novel traces a young woman's choices through three alternative lives. The author catches the tone and attitudes of Ayodele as a teenager and then young and middle aged woman well. All of our choices determine both create and limit the subsequent paths of our lives. Forster explores this idea with rich characters and vivid writing.
Sep 12, 2011 Abdelrahman rated it really liked it
It is very interesting yet not deep enough. Dele's reactions in the second story are very overrated comparing to Dele of the first story, as if it were a different person. The third story is the best, I enjoyed it so much. As she said; the moral of the story is: If you want something don't half-want it, want it properly and get it.
Apr 23, 2010 Mike/ rated it really liked it
I read it at a point in my life when I had to make life-changing decisions without the benefit of foresight....very influential....I like the books-in-book format.........took me back to Jeffrey Archer, RL Stine and the rest.
Should be made a recommended book for high school girls.....tackles scenarios with great sensitivity and grace.....a magnificent book.
Aug 14, 2011 Julia rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, gambia
Interesting concept - we all know that the whole life can take a really different take based on one spur-of-the-moment decision and thus the author evolves this novel from three different parting points in the life of 18-year-old Ayodele. I really liked the end of the book and the legend of the mermaid which might have been the author's parting point to start writing this book. I also enjoyed the details on Gambian life, food, dress, etc. very much. Unfortunately I never really cared for any of ...more
Feb 08, 2016 Sally rated it really liked it
"I can choose to be the hunter or the lion. What will my story be?", 7 Feb. 2016

This review is from: Reading the Ceiling (Paperback)
As the novel opens on narrator Ayodele's 18th birthday, I thought this was going to be a YA tale. Discos, the opposite sex and deciding on a future occupy the young people:
"We knot ourselves into a drift of conversations, starting and ebbing. University crops up again. And what we intend to do with our lives. We talk about the moon, about whether mermaids will come
V C Willow
May 12, 2012 V C Willow rated it liked it
I thought the idea for the book outshone the execution. The retelling of the story and the blandness of a lot of the narrative made one story mingle pretty much into the next retelling. Clearly Dayo Forster is a talented writer and a capable story teller but I simply found the style not to my personal taste. Lots of subjects were touched upon but I felt we never really got to explore the depths of any of the characters or the stories, which was a shame as it felt we were forever only skimming th ...more
Jul 16, 2011 Jessica rated it really liked it
This lovely book elaborates on the theory that a single choice can impact the rest of your life. Within "Reading the Ceiling" we are taken through three possible life stories of the narrator, Ayodele. She not only shifts and changes, but also her community, social life, and the relationships with those dear to her. I found myself getting more attached to certain storylines and characters than others, but not a particular version of the story. I enjoyed the everchanging perspectives on life Ayode ...more
Apr 05, 2010 Tiah added it
The story is an interesting concept - very "Sliding Doors." The main character is a strong woman - which I adored. But the formula also prevented me, as a reader, from becoming involved with any of her various "paths." Thus, I didn't find myself caring deeply when emotional events occurred that should have wrenched my heart. Very detached the whole way through - which is a shame.
Dec 19, 2015 BMR, MSW, LSW rated it it was ok
I usually skew towards nonfiction, so last year I decided to make an effort to read more fiction. I picked this up based on the reviews here on Goodreads.

The author is a good writer, I like her exposition and dialogue. The story itself I was not a fan of. Maybe her other works will be more my style.
Aug 22, 2011 Suzi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, OK so the concept is not very original but it did make me wonder about the choices I made at 18 and where I would be now if things had worked out differently. If only the 3 stories of Ayodele were applicable to life!!! It frustrated me that I didn't know enough about each section, but well worth a read.
Dec 02, 2012 Tolu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good read about how one decision can change the course of the future. The book looks at three possible parallel universes following Ayodele making a decision at the age of 18. Would recommend it!
Jul 26, 2011 Valerie rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Each part of this triptych imagines a young woman choosing a different first lover, and how her life's path changes based on that choice. The stories give a glimpse into the dreams of this young woman, and in none of those dreams is she entirely her own person.
Apr 04, 2016 DJ rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, fall-15-16
Well-intentioned but very bland. Not really like Sliding Doors at all, rather three separate stories with interchangeable people. Can be used for The Gambia in a country reading quest, but there's very little to distinguish the setting from any country in Africa, or in the world for that matter.
Ana V
Oct 31, 2016 Ana V rated it really liked it
This was a good book. I guess it got low ratings because you'd have to be African to understand. So it lacks emotions, Africans are not emotional. We mostly follow tradition and don't have to dissect every little detail as if on an operating table.
I'd definitely recommend people to read it.
Nina Chachu
Apr 12, 2009 Nina Chachu rated it really liked it
Liked it, though at times I got slightly confused about the Gambian locales which sounded slightly Nigerian - but probably that was my mis-reading rather than anything else?
Rosa Jacob
I didn't get why we had to have three endings. Made me so aware that am reading a FICTION
Oct 02, 2013 Anne rated it liked it
Reviewed on
Aug 07, 2013 TheFountainPenDiva marked it as to-read
Hmm, great book but loathed the whitewashed cover. Why are publishers still doing this shit?
Aug 03, 2011 Helen rated it really liked it
A thoroughly enjoyable, well-written book. I will definitely recommend this to friends and family.
Feb 08, 2008 Nancy rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting perspective on what isn't such an important decision for most women in the US... definitely worth reading, VERY good book club read
Jan 21, 2014 Carbonelle rated it it was ok
Interesting device however, not a very sophisticated development of potential story lines.
Nyamu Muthama
Nyamu Muthama rated it it was ok
Jul 22, 2012
Julia rated it really liked it
Nov 16, 2016
Makandi rated it it was amazing
Apr 25, 2013
Jessica rated it liked it
Nov 28, 2015
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Great African Reads: This topic has been closed to new comments. "Reading the Ceiling" by Dayo Forster 5 45 Mar 16, 2013 07:11PM  
Great African Reads: July/Aug: Gambia | "Reading the Ceiling" 36 36 Aug 14, 2011 05:41PM  
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Dayo Forster was born in Gambia and now lives in Kenya. She has published a short story in Kwani? and was one of 12 African writers selected as a participant at the 2006 Caine Prize Writer’s Workshop. The story produced as a result of the workshop was published in a Caine Prize anthology in July 2006. Her short story in Kwani? led her to write her first novel, which will be published early 2008.

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“A man walks fast along the forecourt of the station towards a gate, moving towards a train that's about to leave. I get shivery all over as I watch the back of his head, which is about Yuan's height, with hair and a neckline just like his. My eyes tell me what my mind knows cannot be true. I follow him along seeking the one thing that would confirm him as someone else. The man turns his head slightly to talk to a train official. I can see his nose in profile. My eyes sting.” 1 likes
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