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Reading the Ceiling

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  266 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Ayodele has just turned eighteen and has decided, having now reached womanhood, that the time is right to lose her virginity. She's drawn up a shortlist: Reuben, the fail safe; a long-admired school friend; abd Frederick Adams, the 42-year-old, soon-to-be-pot-bellied father of her best friend. What she doesn't know is that her choice of suitor will have a drastic effect on ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published May 8th 2007 by Simon & Schuster Ltd
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Average rating 3.39  · 
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
Ayodele is turning 18 and is selecting a man to have sex with.
I don’t want to wait for this falling-in-love business, or aim for passion, even though everyone everywhere – books, films, magazines – makes it seem like the ultimate. I want to get this sex thing over and done with so my life can move on.
The novel is written in three sections following what would happen if Dele follows three different scenarios. It's not quite choose your own adventure in feeling, although the consequences are at ti
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2007
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
On her 18th birthday, Ayodele decides to lose her virginity to a boy or a man of her choice. She has a short-list of three candidates, and her decision will determine the course of her future. The blurb makes it sound as if each choice is a linear outcome and that she will remain with the boy or man of the evening. However, each story unfolds in unexpected directions and although there is hardship. she also finds some satisfaction in her future. Beautifully written and structured, I found Ayodel ...more
The premise of the book was interesting. A girl turns 18 and decides to lose her virginity on that night. She has a list of 3 possible partners.
The book then tells her story in a Sliding Doors manner; what happens depended on which partner she went with.
The three parts of the story have some common threads but the writing is quite of a different standard. The last part "The un-Named" was probably the best written but by this time I had lost interest.
In my Reading the World Quest - 90th Country 'Visited'.
Country - The Gambia

Ayodele has turned 18. Her thoughts are on the opposite sex. When and with whom?

The story divides into three possible outcomes: Reuben, Leon and The Un-named.

Enjoyed this debut novel and learning about Gambia. In the book the role of women and Gambian cuisine were addressed. In outside research, I learned about Gambian geography.

3 stars
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I agree with the other reviews that this is a fine option if you are doing a world books challenge and need a book from the Gambia – this is why I read it, and it’s certainly readable – but there isn’t much to recommend it beyond that.

Reading the Ceiling has an interesting premise: the narrator, Ayodele, is turning 18 and determined to get initiated into the mysteries of sex, so she needs to choose a partner with whom to do the deed. The three sections of the book follow alternate versions of he
Jama Jack
Jun 17, 2016 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
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. ...more
Friederike Knabe
Aug 25, 2011 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
Sue Kozlowski
I read this book as part of my quest to read a book written by an author from every country in the world. The author of this book is from The Gambia (yes, the name includes 'The').

Gambia is a country located in Western Africa - it is the smallest African country on the continent and it is bordered by Senegal on 3 sides and by the Atlantic Ocean on its 4th. It is a long narrow country running east to west, with the Gambia River splitting it lengthwise.

Ayodele is an 18-year-old-girl who lives in T
Book Wormy
Aug 23, 2020 rated it liked it
#ReadAroundtheWorld #TheGambia

Reading the Ceiling tells the story of 18 year old Ayodele who has decided that now she has become a woman the only thing holding her back is her virginity in order to rid herself of this pesky problem she makes a shortlist of men who can potentially help her the book then explores what happens when she has sex for the first time with each man on her list. While some of the stories contain crossovers for the most part a different man means a different outcome.

I enjo
My eyes play on the ceiling. I find myself picking out patterns, just as we used to when my sisters and I were little. My ceiling's boards have been repainted white, but rainwater, eager to leave behind a memory of itself, has sploshed new stains on it. I can see a bra, straps wriggling, with enormous cups. Also a leg, with well-toned thigh, bent at the knee, lying open, suggesting the other leg is also flung sideways, welcoming entry. A mouth in a grimace. An eye wide open in shock. All my fear
A good read that gets you to think about all the different things that could happen in your life that hinges on that one choice
V C Willow
May 12, 2012 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
Feb 23, 2009 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. ...more
Apr 23, 2010 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.
Sep 12, 2011 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. ...more
Madhulika Liddle
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
On the morning she turns eighteen, Ayodele wakes up with one resolve: today is the day she loses her virginity. To whom, she hasn’t figured out yet. And how. Or what the consequences of that might be: all she knows is that by the time tomorrow dawns, she will be a virgin no more.

But what will happen as a result of the man Ayodele chooses for her first sexual experience will be something even she can’t foresee. At the party, three paths diverge, and the one she takes will decide where she ends up
Sylvia Okyere
Oct 27, 2021 rated it liked it
This didn't go how I imagined it to go from reading the synopsis...
What I had initially thought was going to be a coming of age story where she explores her wants/needs/desires and asseses her 'wishlist' for the character and personalities of these three men (Reuben, Yuan and Fredrick Adams), ultimately falling for the least suspecting male. INSTEAD we get three stories, three alternate relaties where we find out Ayodele's fate each time she chooses any one of her suitors. I actually liked the f
Suzanna (TheMillennialJAReads)
I love the different aspects of Gambian culture I was exposed to through this novel, this was especially important to me because I have a personal connection to The Gambia so I need to read more literature from there.

Reading The Ceiling gave me the perfect opportunity to dip my toes in, it gives us culture, versatile storytelling, beautiful prose and life lessons. The story is narrated in first person by Ayodele, a Krio Gambian young woman who just turned 18 and is eager to enter adulthood by fi
May 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-the-world
This was my read the world selection for The Gambia.

On Ayodele’s 18th birthday, she decides that it’s time to lose her virginity and makes a shortlist of people that she thinks may be suitable. This is her decision alone and she is not influenced by anyone else’s thoughts or actions.

The book then has three sections - each based on how her life turns out had she selected each of the men on her shortlist. While some events occur in each timeline, for the most part each possible life story takes a
Nicole Kroger Joy
3.5 stars
#readtheworld The Gambia

Ayodele is a neurotic mess (coming from someone with her fair share of neuroses). Upon deciding she wants to lose her virginity, she draws up a shortlist of her potential suitors. The book then breaks into three separate stories, each exploring her destiny following one of those three choices.

While I this gives a ridiculous amount of power to such a seemingly small decision, I think the author does well to explore each life path and the ways in which small decisi
Verena Annette
Not a bad book, not a really good book either.
I picked it up, to get an insight into the life in the Gambia, where part of this story takes place. That curiosity was satisfied.
The story itself is split into three plot lines - Ayodele decides, she wants to loose her virginity. She makes a list of men and the book tells three ways in which her life unfolds after choosing one of the guys. This idea of course isn't new or revolutionary, but it is entertaining enough. After each of the three decision
This one frustrated me. I thought it started out really strong, and about a third of the way through I was recommending it to friends. But then it felt like it veered off course, as some other reviewers have said, in terms of clarity around what Ayodele's motivations were and what the point the author was trying to make was.

I really appreciated the beginning, her as this character who was her own woman, and who made her own choices and was pretty much not bothered by other people's opinions of
Apr 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: globalread
Global Read Challenge 100: The Gambia

Before reading the book, I thought the idea was gimmicky but I thought it was well executed. There was just enough overlap in three stories to feel familiar without getting boring. I thought it was really beautifully written, especially the final parts about her mother in each section. I thought the writing was slightly different in each section which I appreciated. Of course I had minor quibbles with some of how the time lines differed, but overall I think t
Jan 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
(Another secondhand find from my sister as a birthday gift!)

This was a really interesting read where there are essentially three stories in one. Three different lives the main character could have led if she had chosen a slightly different life decisions; where she went to university, who she lost her virginity to, and will she keep this baby??
I’m reading The Midnight Library at the moment, and these two books are similar in the sense of different life choices lead to different lives.
This defini
"I am on the other side of knowing, yet the answer to the mystery of how to make my life has been in me all along."

A little like My Real Children and a little like Community's "Remedial Chaos Theory" episode, but the device is used for more literary rather than speculative purposes. (Or, I guess, the device is more a literary tool than a heavyhanded thought generator, as in MRC, or a framework, as in RCT.) Forster creates three possible lives for her protagonist Ayodele, all diverging from her d
Apr 18, 2022 rated it liked it

Some very beautiful writing and an interesting format of giving the reader an overview of a womans life depending on a decision she makes about who to sleep with and when. Could have been structured a little clearer. Additionally, the first person narrator of Adoyele offers only very minimal glimpses into her thoughts or feelings and seems to decide only who to loose her virginity to, after that point she becomes a fairly passive woman.

Themes of self, motherhood, being a woman, marriage,
Kate Throp
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
On a role with women writers from Africa. This is sliding doors Gambian style. The protagonist goes out on her 18th birthday determined to lose her virginity and with 3 or 4 potential candidates. What follows are three paths her life could go down depending on who she chooses. Covers single motherhood, polygamy, overseas education, religion and family relations. Again 4.5.
Leslie Ann
May 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Solid read for my AtW challenge (The Gambia). The premise is interesting, but the third storyline was very different from the other two, which shared similar events. I liked the legend of the mermaid, whose ending changes depending on the storyteller; perhaps the tale should have been told at the beginning instead of the end.
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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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Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s time to check in on the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge, our rigorous annual initiative for book...
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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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