Half of a yellow sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” takes place in Nigeria during the Nigerian- Biafra war in 1967-1970. The effect of the war is shown through the dynamic relationships of five people’s lives ranging from high ranking political figures, a professor, an American citizen, and a house boy. After the British left Nigeria and stopped ruling, conflicts arose over what government would rule over the land. The land split and the Nigeria- Biafra war started. The lives of the main characters drastically changed and were torn apart by the war and decisions in their personal life. (From wikipedia)

I bought this book on an impulse. I had never heard of Adichie before, nor i had heard that she was the winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for fiction. I liked the story, the concept and I wanted a chance to know and understand something about Nigerian History.

Africa for me has always been vast stretch of rain forests, Sierra Leon and child soldiers.

I expected something in the lines of a war story from her, something like ‘A long way home’ by Ishmael Biah. Something which showed the struggle of the people during the war, the atrocities committed during the war.

But this book is all that and much more. In fact I wouldn’t call it a war story. It is the story of unforgettable characters; characters like Odenigbo, Olanna, Ugwu, Richard and Kaniene. They remain etched in your mind long after the book is over.

It is very difficult to believe that this is Adichie’s second novel.
As Chinua Achebe says about her,‘we do not associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers.’
And what a storyteller she is.

The book starts with a 13 year old Ugwu who comes to live with Odenigbo as a house boy. Right from the start you get pulled into the story. You can feel their emotions, their turmoil right through the pages of the book.
It has the backdrop of the formation and the death of Biafra as well. I won’t get into the story for the fear of spoiling it for those who haven’t read it.
All I can say is she has a very powerful command and control of the language. Her writing is an Art work. I fell in love with words like sonorous, sardonic, abstemious, sacrosanct, lugubrious all over again.

Miss Adichie in one of her interviews says she would like the new book to open a conversation about our history and the war. “When you say Biafra, some people would say, ‘Oh those Igbo people who want their own country!’, and nobody asks how did Biafra come about. I am hoping that people read the book and realize that a grave injustice has been done to Igbo people; it has to be acknowledged.”

It has been acknowledged indeed.

As Chinua Achebe says, ”She knows what is at stake and what to do about it.

Site : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Website (You can read a lot of short stories written by her)

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6 thoughts on “Half of a yellow sun

  1. Violet, I’ve read this too. It was given to me by a co worker who said it was one of the most moving and brilliantly written stories she had ever read.
    I’d agree totally. I read it a while ago but I think it’s having a ‘second coming’ as I have seen it on quite a few shop shelves.

  2. That sounds like a very good read – it’s odd, I was reading a book last night that touched on the Biafran War (Any Human Heart) and I was wondering if there wasn’t fiction based around the conflict. Sounds brilliant.

  3. Hey Daffy, I was thinking of re-reading it too, but I guess I’ll read her ‘Purple Hibiscus’ first. Even that book, I have heard, is wonderful.

    Pete: Then you would really be interested in reading this book. It touches on the political aspects of the war as well. Good for understanding the Biafra war, but equally sad as well.

  4. Great review, Violet. I agree that this was a beautifully written and very powerful novel. Absolutely deserving of the Orange Prize!!

    Have you read her debut novel?

    BTW, I linked to your review in the “Additional Information” section of mine.

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