Saturday, 28 June 2014

Book Club: June 2014


June 2014: Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

This month's book was decided by Cynthia who chose the book Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. I hadn't heard of this book before or seen it anywhere, so I was instantly intrigued to be reading a book I knew nothing about. From the moment I had the book in my possession I was aware that this is a book I would never normally read, but I remained open minded because the whole point of being in a book club is to be introduced to new books and genres. However, unfortunately, now that I've finished reading it I can say that my initial thoughts were right, and that I really did not enjoy reading this book at all. I tried so hard to like this book, but I'm actually astonished that I made it through the 300 pages or so, as there was many times where I wanted to give up. I don't enjoy feeling so negatively towards a book or an author, it's just my personal opinion, but there could easily be people out there that would absolutely love this book. But I'm not one of them.

So, what is this book even about? To save me the trouble of summarising, here is the blurb that describes it perfectly:

Meet the Sais, a Nigerian-Ghanaian family living in the
United States. A family prospering until the day father
and surgeon Kweku Sai is the victim of a grave injustice.
Ashamed, he abandons his beautiful wife Fola and their
little boys and girls, causing the family to fracture and
spiral out into the world - New York, London, West Africa,
New England - on uncertain, troubled journeys until,
many years later, tragedy unites them. Now this broken
family has a chance to heal - but can the Sais take it?

The 'tragedy' described in the blurb is a death, and I won't tell you who's for the sake of spoilers, but the whole book is centred around this one death. Now this death brings me around to my main issue with this book, which is the ridiculous amount of overly 'poetic' description, repetition, and so much jumping from one time period to the other that it bored me. I particularly found the first 100 pages hard - which I decided to read in one day because I was afraid that if I put it down I'd never pick it up ever again - because we get to see 'this death' played out about 10 times with full on description, down to the point that I can still picture the blades of grass so clearly in my mind. Yes, grass - so it's not an exciting or dramatic death either. You might be thinking 'what's wrong with poetic, descriptive writing?', and my answer is 'nothing', but it was just too much. I can't pretend to know much about writing or English, apart from an 'A' at GCSE level, and since then the only major writing I've done is a 10,000 word dissertation for University (but no special 'writing' classes as my degree is in fashion) - but it's like the woman who wrote this swallowed a dictionary and thesaurus whilst attending a creative writing course. And it turns out that the author, Taiye Selasi, does have many a degree, and it makes me wonder that if I was more creative-writing-ly (yer, that's not a word) inclined, then maybe I would enjoy this book more? However, I would say that after the first 100 pages or so the descriptions lessen a small amount and make the book slightly more readable and even enjoyable at times, but only a bit.

Another issue was that I really did not connect with the characters, or the family. This whole book and story line is about this fractured family solving their individual problems and through all of that trying to reconnect together. Of course you do not have to 100% relate to a book to enjoy it (and I rarely find a book that's completely relatable, unless it's like - your own diary) but my family situation is the complete opposite to the Sais. They are a big family with four children: an older son, twins (boy and girl), a much younger sister, and divorced parents. Not only that, they scatter themselves all around the world away from each other. In reverse we are a small but close family; my parents are still together and I am an only child, and we still live together in the same house. Big families, and the meaning of family is the main focus of this entire book, and one line in the book that really struck me and actually offended me was 'The woman who has one child only, has no child.' (pg. 201, 2013) Now I don't really want to go into personal details, but my parents would've had more children if it had been possible. Maybe I'm overacting and reading too much into it, and to be fair, that line was not from a main character, but I still found it upsetting; does it makes me invalid because I have no siblings, or that my Mum isn't a proper Mum for having only one child? Are only big families considered 'real families'? Not only that, the family in the book have enough problems between them that it was like they were competing for a place in a soap opera: child abuse, eating disorders, affairs, homosexuality, and even incest to a certain degree. Of course it's always important to address some of these issues, but so many in one book and in one family just felt completely over the top and unnecessary. In particular there was a bit towards the end of the book which I really didn't enjoy because it was so disturbing and not really in-keeping with the tone of the book - it made me feel really uncomfortable. Not only did I not connect with the characters, I also didn't find any of them likeable.

I'm sorry to be so negative about a book and that I couldn't be more informative for those who do want to read it. All I can say is the story line itself isn't bad, not particularly exciting, but it's just hasn't been put together in the most easily read way. The plot did have a few peaks where I felt slightly interested, but unfortunately this just isn't a book for me, so I have to give it a two out of five stars.

2 out of 5 stars

Add me on: Goodreads
Last month's book review: May 2014

And don't forget to check out the rest of the book club's reviews.
If they're not up yet they will be soon:

I wonder what next month's book will be!
Also, let me know if you have any book suggestions.




2 comments:

  1. Sorry you didn't enjoy the book love! I do think it's a difficult read, and I can see why someone not creative-writing-y-inclined (that's a word now!) wouldn't get that much out of it.

    In reference to the whole: 'The woman who has one child only, has no child' quote, I think there's mention to it being an old village proverb. I think it has to do with "more children=more people to carry down the family name." The more children you have, the more likely they'll bring honor to the family name. Having lots and lots of kids was very important back in the day, especially when infant mortality was lower (and still is important in many Third World cultures). But I totally get why you'd find it offensive! I wouldn't take it personally, though.

    I'm finding it really interesting reading everyone's reviews and opinions, even when we disagree hehe. The whole experience is quite fun for me :)

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    1. Well I'm glad you enjoyed it even if I didn't! And I understood about the old village proverb etc. it's just in most cultures, and in media too, they always show the side of the 'big family'. If there's ever an interpretation of a family with one child then they're usually ridiculously rich and spoilt. And it's a close and sensitive subject to mine and my parents heart due to the fact that the option of having more children was taken away from them. I just think small families are often looked down upon and this book made me feel like that!

      I'm enjoying reading everyones opinions too :)

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