It took an imminently expiring passport (you know that sinking “how did you let this happen” feeling?) and a belligerent bloke at the British Consulate here in Paree – “Désolé, Madame, mais le système a changé...” – to force a welcome albeit slightly frantic and decidedly speedy sortie back to Blighty on the Eurostar last month.
Involved much ingratiating obsequiousness from Yours Truly at the counter at the 9 o’clock appointment, followed by plentiful berating of self, not to say self-flagellation, during the prescribed nail-biting wait, suitably concluded with even less attractive but very sincere tugging of grateful forelock and baring of teeth on duly collecting the renewed-and-good-to-go-for-wow-ten-years passport just four hours later. Dickens would have had a field day. (Oh, and HRH and Gov.Uk, I salute you).
The reason for all this straying off topic is because as well as then being able to enjoy dazzling pre-Christmas London for 48 hours and spend some even more glorious catch up time with nearest and dearest, destiny had also played a hand in my trip coinciding with the Baileys “Best of the Best Live” event at the Piccadilly Theatre, announcing the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction top book of the decade. Deep joy. Managed to procure a ticket and a glass of Prosecco and be sat in prime position all afroth with excitement as the 10 illustrious Chairs of Judges, plus “Nooooo, Yes it is” Stanley bloody Tucci and “you have to be kidding” none other than Sheila Hancock all took to the stage right before my very eyes. HRH and Gov.Uk, I salute you a second time.
Well, everyone now knows that the worthy winner of the title is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for the astonishingly brilliant “Half of a Yellow Sun” (which I think many of us had hoped and predicted would be the case). Would have dropped my glass of Prosecco and fallen over the balcony if the authoress had walked onto that stage to collect her Bessie statuette, but fortunately for all she appeared but virtually to deliver her modest and eloquent acceptance speech on screen to rapturous applause.
So much has been written about this book so would only add a couple of words – I think it is a must read, a landmark novel and a huge achievement. It documents the shocking events of the times while creating characters you care intensely about, and I believe it will stand the test of time only too well. Furthermore, it was penned before C.G.A.’s 30th birthday, so is all the more extraordinary for that alone.
Don’t know if this rings true if you’ve seen it too, but suggest the film adaptation starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton is worth giving a wide berth, however: not because it’s a particularly bad film, but because it should never have been attempted. The book is just so much more, and while its far from unequivocal ending works so perfectly on paper, found it deeply unsatisfactory on the big (or small) screen – the tale appears to tail off, hmmm.
As for the book: well I think every man, woman and child should read it. End of story!
Rating : 10/10 – A FAVOURITE READ
Winner of the Orange/Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2007 and Best of the Decade in 2015