We’ve been bad about posting book reviews lately (though we haven’t stopped reading all of the wonderful books about and set in Africa). We just finisWe’ve been bad about posting book reviews lately (though we haven’t stopped reading all of the wonderful books about and set in Africa). We just finished ‘Americanah‘ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and while it’s not focused on animals or safaris, or set in a country that we regularly visit, we were enchanted by the story and her writing just the same.
Adichie is a multiple award-winning author who grew up in Nigeria and now divides her time between her home country and the United States. Americanah is her fourth book and her work has been translated into 30 languages.
After enjoying a privileged upbringing and falling in love during secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze are separated when Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in the United States. The plan is for Obinze to follow shortly thereafter, but life intervenes and prevents him. We follow Ifemelu through her first challenging years in the US, where finding a job is difficult (especially as she’s not meant to be working), as well as the realization of race for the first time in her life.
In the meantime, Obinze ends up in London for a brief period, and the two are no longer in touch. We follow his struggles and successes as we do Ifemelu’s until the two are finally reunited back in Nigeria after they each return to a home that feels utterly different after their experiences abroad.
Americanah is not only Ifemelu and Obinze’s love story, it’s also a commentary on cultural differences, and the issue of race in the United States. Adichie creates rich and complex characters that were immediately engaging and had us thinking about them long after we finished the last page. Highly recommended....more
The wonderful true tale of how Ian Player and a small group of dedicated game wardens saved the white rhino from extinction during the 1960's. Set inThe wonderful true tale of how Ian Player and a small group of dedicated game wardens saved the white rhino from extinction during the 1960's. Set in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, the book is engaging with stories of heartbreak and victory. No longer in print, but can be found through Inter-library loan, as well as used copies on Amazon. Highly recommended!...more
This book initially fatigued me when I started it. Author Rick Bass was making me think too much and his style was a bit much for my mood. He definiteThis book initially fatigued me when I started it. Author Rick Bass was making me think too much and his style was a bit much for my mood. He definitely errs on the side of being lyrical, which in this case sometimes clouds and obscures facts. I think I had been longing for something simple, and books about Africa rarely are. In Bass, I found someone that really gets nature in a way that few writers – heck, few people – ever do. I had just been to the area of Namibia he was describing, and once I finally embraced his writing style rather than let it distract me, he took me right back to my time there.
Namibia is one of the few places in Africa that has an endemic rhino population that is not constantly threatened or being decimated by poachers for its (proven to be ineffective for medicinal purposes) horn. The country is a leader in conservation – not just in Africa, but the world. Bass visits the Namibian desert and explores the relationship between humans and rhinos – as well as the whole of nature. He also meets some of the people responsible for the work of the Save the Rhino Trust. These ‘characters’ are passionate activists and scientists living in the furthest reaches of nature conducting research and working to preserve forgotten, fragile ecosystems. His descriptions of their efforts, combined with his own experiences makes a readers’ heart ache with the intensity and sometimes futility of their actions.
The story is set in a rather inhospitable environment, which adds a richness to his narrative that wouldn’t have existed in say, South Africa, where the rhino population is larger, easier to see, surrounded by many more settlements (and tourists), and presently in much greater danger of extermination.
The story is richly-woven and very interesting, at times sobering, and I highly recommend it. There are factual gaps and a bit more philosophizing than might strictly be necessary, but if you can get past those things, it is well worth your time. Bass captures the essence of Namibia and its rhinos in a way I've seen no other author do. Prepare to be transported, uplifted and a little bit heartbroken (not necessarily in that order).
He has a forthcoming book on Rwanda and his time teaching there – I am very much looking forward to reading it....more