This is my third Chimamanda Adichie book. Previously I have read Purple Hibiscus and Americanah. In both previous books, I enjoyed the richness of language and the careful, detailed narration. I think I also must have enjoyed the relatively long gap between reading them, because having read Americanah not that long ago sort of soured this book a little. In part, this was souring because one of the stories traces some of the specific plot from that book or closely enough borrows the narration that it struck me how similar (if I am being neutral), how familiar (if I am being generous), or how repetitive (if I am being critical) many of these stories felt.
That is not to say I hated this book, but I don’t think I loved it either. Instead, I think the stories that were good, were good, and the ones that felt derivative or rehashing, not only were not particularly successful, but also cost the book quite a bit, considering this is already a short collection at 215 pages. The stories that I thought were strong were: “Cell One,” “On Monday of Last Week,” “The Shivering,” and “The Arranger of Marriages.” These stories were the most realized in terms of plot, didn’t rely on the a second person narrator, which tends to limit a work, and were distinct portrayals of realized characters. In a few of the other stories, you will find generally strong writing, a distinct authorial voice, compelling ideas, but not necessarily strong stories that stand up under their own weight.
I think Adichie’s strengths lie in longer novels. As far as her short fiction goes, were there more stories like the four above and just more stories in general this would have been a better book. I found it hard to be satisfied by this reading experience because of this weird paradox happening here: by including more stories, this book lacked in totality.