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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short story gems
These are beautiful, whimsical stories of culture shifting, of the intersection of differing African cultures with each other and in particular, the intersections of Nigerian culture, beliefs and experiences with that of the US. Ngozi Adichie's characters are poor, struggling housemaids, young African authors trying to make it as writers with the doubtful aid of English...
Published on July 4, 2009 by Philip Pogson

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars
Although I'm not a short story fan, I picked this up because Half of a Yellow Sun is a work of genius and so I'm interested in reading anything Adichie writes (Purple Hibiscus is good too, but with some first-novel problems). The stories in this collection are interesting and well-crafted, but left me with some reservations.

There are 12 unrelated, bite-size...
Published 20 months ago by E. Smiley


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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short story gems, July 4, 2009
By 
Philip Pogson (Ryde, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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These are beautiful, whimsical stories of culture shifting, of the intersection of differing African cultures with each other and in particular, the intersections of Nigerian culture, beliefs and experiences with that of the US. Ngozi Adichie's characters are poor, struggling housemaids, young African authors trying to make it as writers with the doubtful aid of English "African literature lovers", Big Men grown fat and over confident with power, influence and wealth, poor students trying to make their way in Western universities, retired academics waiting patiently, but without faith, for their pensions to be paid. Her best characters are the barely noticeable outsiders, those treading the at time treacherous, at times pitiful borders between Africa family and tribal norms and the consumer driven West. The wars, massacres and revolutions here are not those of Old Europe, but of Young Africa yet they have the same, stark effect of those who remember and mark their lives by these epoch-making events. These stories reward and enrich at a number of levels and provoke reflection long after the book is read.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Snapshots into the lifestyles of Nigerians at home and in diaspora!, July 15, 2009
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Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's newest novel is a collection of 12 short stories, some of which have been previously printed in journals under different names ("The arrangers of marriage" was published as "New husband" in Iowa Review).

Written in her trademark fluid and highly descriptive style (akin to fellow Nigerian Chinua Achebe's), they tell tales familiar to most Nigerians; Cult activity in Nigerian universities, late (or no) pension payments to retired civil servants, a husband's affair and the troubling effect on the wife, Religious riots in a Northern Nigerian city and their aftermath, a morning at the US embassy, a US visa lottery winner's experience in the US, sibling rivalry, and a new bride's awakening after an arranged marriage to mention a few.

Much like her previous books, the tales usually feature some strong female character (or some seemingly weak and docile female who develops strength over the course of the tale) and are set in reference to some real life occurrences in Nigeria; a plane crash that occurs on the same day as the first lady's death after plastic surgery, living under an oppressive military regime, etc.

My only complaint is that a few of the stories seem to grind to an abrupt halt just when you are expecting them to take further flight. She is just as pretty in the flesh as she appears in photos, I saw her at a book reading and signing for this book last week. Another literary classic!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly beautiful prose, and astonishingly beautiful stories, January 12, 2010
The thing around your neck is an absorbing and beautiful collection of short stories which blew me away and has sent me off in search of more of her stories. Each story in here, all of them, are utterly gripping and told without labouring the point. Right from the first paragraph in the first story I was gripped.

Cmimamanda Ngozi Adiche tells stories of her native Igbu (sp) people of Nigeria but from many different angles. From the story of a young boy, son of university lecturer and professionals going off the rails as observed by his sister, to the story of young wife installed in a large mansion in America by her husband who finds out her husband has a moved a mistress into their house in Nigeria.

I found the range of stories and tales that Adichie tackled the most interesting. She is able to tell different stories from vastly different people, and tell them sparingly yet with deeply observed nuance. No point is laboured but the ideas flow out of the text richly.

Adichie is now one of my must buy authors.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AN ACCESSIBLE WRITER, November 18, 2009
Chimamanda is a very accessible writer. She presents a beautiful collection of tales, with African women, especially Igbo women, at the centre of the tales.

Her style is free-flowing, highly redolent of one who has mastered the art of story telling.Her diction is not too facile or incomprehensible. This serves to engage the reader fully, and one gets to appreciate the plainness, simplicity, strength, and beauty of her prose.

The story I loved the most was "Ghosts", followed by "The Headstrong Historian".Most of the other stories were good but some did not resonate well with me.I felt they were a bit weak in content, and the themes were lost on me.However this is not to take away any credit from Chimamanda.

She pits Western ideals against traditional Igbo values, and leaves the reader to judge which is better. However, in some instances,I believe she tacitly admits that the Igbo norms and cultures are superior to Western ways with their detachment from communal norms, a lack of respect for age, religious morality etc.The African is presented most times in the best possible light,but this does not mean an abdication of blame in the ills that forever plague us in the developing parts of the world.In some stories, the inane practices of pre-existing traditional societies is mentioned e.g curbing promiscuity by insertion of herbs into the female.It would have been nice to see a condemnation of such practices.However, that was not the point of that particular story.

There is an overt feminist tone in most of the stories, which is quite understandable .And I commend her depiction of strong, feminine characters, the situations they encounter, and how they are dealt with in every facet of daily existence.

As an African, and Nigerian, I am proud of Chimamanda's achievements so far, and hope that her success will open the doors for other young, fledgling writers in Nigeria, who are seeking an avenue to be read by the rest of the world.Indeed, there are more stories in that part of the African continenet waiting to be told.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars, November 11, 2012
This review is from: The Thing Around Your Neck (Paperback)
Although I'm not a short story fan, I picked this up because Half of a Yellow Sun is a work of genius and so I'm interested in reading anything Adichie writes (Purple Hibiscus is good too, but with some first-novel problems). The stories in this collection are interesting and well-crafted, but left me with some reservations.

There are 12 unrelated, bite-size short stories in the collection; half are set in Nigeria and another five feature Nigerian immigrants in the northeast United States. The subject matter varies: a teenage girl's brother is wrongly arrested and detained; a retired professor waits for a pension that never comes; a well-educated immigrant takes a job as a nanny for an American family and develops a crush on the child's mother. But there are common themes, in particular the tension between Nigerian political and economic realities that impel people to immigrate, and the difficulties they face in a new country. The stories have diverse plots and are well-structured. A few begin with interesting hooks and then fizzle out, but for the most part they feel complete within their brief page counts. At the same time, many seem to contain the seeds of novels (in a couple of cases, novels she's already written), and are interesting enough that I'd be happy to see them expanded.

The character development is mixed. There are some vivid and three-dimensional characters here, a feat given the length of the stories. On the other hand, the protagonists tend to run together. With few exceptions, they're young Igbo women, from either Lagos or Nsukka, moderately Christian, from relatively privileged backgrounds, seemingly intelligent and hardworking but also a bit wishy-washy and self-righteous, who deal with adversity through silent resentment that eventually either explodes or turns into bitterness. Most of them feel like the same person.

The stories here are also less subtle than Adichie's novels, and with an undercurrent of anger; at times the book feels like an enumeration of Things Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Does Not Like, taking aim at everything from embassy personnel to people who think African fiction ought to focus on atrocities to helicopter parents. Sometimes I found the criticisms incisive (the self-satisfied liberal tourist who observes foreign poverty from a position of comfort); other times they seem less justified (why shouldn't a visa interviewer ask an asylum seeker if she has any proof of her claims?). And while there's good and bad to the Nigerian characters, the portrayal of the Americans is mostly negative.

The writing is good, but the simplicity of Adichie's style comes across as more literary in her novels, with their complex characters and well-developed settings; here it sometimes seems just simple. A couple of the stories use the second person, something all literary writers apparently feel the need to attempt; as always, it's distracting, but fortunately those stories are among the shortest.

Despite the problems, this is one of the better short stories collections that I've read, and I enjoyed these more than I generally do short stories. Still, I hope Adichie goes back to writing novels.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great, August 24, 2009
By 
S.A.I (Washington DC) - See all my reviews
The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of short stories with heavy socio-political themes, featuring mostly Nigerian characters. While the author is very talented as evidenced by her previous novels and this current one, I do however think she should stick to novel-length work because it gives her a chance to deeply explore her characters. I think Ms. Adichie's strength as a writer lies in her unique ability to create unforgettable, layered, true-to-life characters and the short story format severely restricts her ability to go much further beyond bringing the characters to birth.

I am hesitant to do a story by story critique but I will say some stories are better than others. A couple unfortunately seem like they are start nowhere and go nowhere but I will not specify which those are so as not to deter anyone from reading what is a good compilation of short stories. But I will say that the title story is my absolute favorite and the last story comes in at a close second. I am also appreciative of the author for as always birthing strong, female characters worth emulating. That was the primary lesson I came away with.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things Around Your Neck, February 6, 2010
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Great book! I love the way the author brings the characters to live & makes you feel like you are actually experiencing what you are reading. It is a fiction yet it is so real as the author writes about events that most Nigerians experience. The author keeps you flipping over the pages in great anticipation of what would happen next. I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Strength of Women, February 1, 2010
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This is the strongest book I have read in years. It is impossible to read without having your world rearranged. I particularly liked the stories "The Headstrong Historian" and "Jumping Monkey Hill" which should be required reading. The thing that gives these stories such strength is that the people are not just victims in terrible circumstances. Instead a woman is portrayed as strong and standing up and saying "No more, enough and walking away." This book tells it like it is for some of today's Nigerians. If only those who should pay attention would get the message.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully-Crafted And Haunting Stories, August 22, 2010
This review is from: The Thing Around Your Neck (Paperback)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has that rare ability to portray the contradictions of the human condition. Over and over again, she returns to themes of exile, homesickness, and alienation. In the title story, the young narrator gains a prized American visa and goes to her uncle's home in Maine. "They spoke Igbo and ate garri for lunch and it was like home until your uncle came into the cramped basement where you slept and pulled you forcefully to him..." recalls the barely-adult girl.

Again, in Arrangers of Marriages, a young bride discovers that all is different in America when her new husband tells her, "You don't understand how it works in this country. If you want to get anywhere you have to be as mainstream as possible. If not, you will be left by the roadside." And in Imitation: "She does miss home, though, her friends, the cadence of Igbo and Yoruba and pidgin English spoken around her..."

Home is a complex place. The protagonists, mostly young, mostly female, are often a long way from home, both figuratively and literally. Many have fled or want to flee because of violence - a young woman whose four-year-old son was killed before her eyes, for instance, in The American Embassy. But America, in most instances, is not a panacea. A dream of a college education is traded in for the reality of a waitress job. A man whom is chosen by one woman's family -- "A doctor in America! What could be better?" - is, in reality, a pretentious posturer who insists she speak proper English, change her name, and eat in fast food courts.

And so most of Adichie's characters precariously straddle two worlds. Yet what shines forth is the resilience of the women who take destiny in their own hands and remain unbowed. We meet women who flee from uncomfortable situations with their dignity intact. In Monkey Hill, for example, the protagonist - a writer - is challenged that her character would not give up a lucrative job because she was a "woman with no other choices." She reflects, "The only thing I didn't add in the story is that after I left my coworker and walked out of the alhaji's house, I got into the Jeep and insisted that the driver take me home because I knew it was the last time I would be riding in it."

One of the most affecting stories in this collection, to my mind, is the first story, Cell One, a harrowing tale of the narrator's brother, who is arrested n a roundup of gang suspects and sent to jail. That story ends, "It would have been so easy for him, my charming brother, to make a sleek drama of his story, but he did not." The same might be said about Ms. Adichie, who forgoes the drama for solid story-telling.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes things around your neck are beautiful, August 21, 2013
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This has been a summer of reading Adichie for me. I enjoy her writing style and her keen insights into life in Nigeria.
The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of wonderful short stories that deal with the pathos of life in the ‘big man’ lane in Nigeria. Some of the stories are outtakes from longer stories, but all are good.
The Thing Around Your Neck can e anything: beautiful, strangling, even holding your head upright so that you can breathe.
I recommend this collection.
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The Thing Around Your Neck
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Paperback - June 1, 2010)
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