Saturday, 25 March 2017

Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First published in the UK by Fourth Estate in 2006.
Winner of the 2007 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

How I got this book:
Bought at Totnes Community Bookshop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race – and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.'

If I hadn't already read The Dollmaker in March then Half Of A Yellow Sun would certainly have been my Book Of The Month. Adichie's exploration of events leading up to and during the late 1960s civil war in Nigeria is a powerful indictment of irresponsible colonialism and also an emotionally moving historical novel. We see Nigeria and, for its brief existence, Biafra, through several eyes which enables Adichie to give a rounded portrayal of the disastrous attempt at independence. Already knowing how this battle will turn out means the whole of Half Of A Yellow Sun is tinged with poignancy, but I still found myself caught up in the excitement and self-belief of the Igbo people as they started to fight back against persecution.

I loved that our leading characters are such complicated people and their interconnected relationships allows us to see their actions from different perspectives. Twins are an important motif to Adichie and here the two sisters Olanna and Kainene have very different views on the best way to navigate their lives and I liked the brittle connection between them. Innocent Ugwu perhaps has the most difficult journey from village ignorance to political awareness. As readers, we learn alongside him, seeing as he does the many facets of Nigerian society that, repressed under British rule, now independence has come to the country are all asserting themselves. As an English woman I found myself again angry at my country for its behaviour.

Graphic descriptions of poverty, starvation and violence are frequently difficult to read and Half Of A Yellow Sun is not a novel for the faint-hearted. It shows the worst of humanity, but also the best. We understand how a people can be led to absolute disaster by carefully manipulated nationalist propaganda, how weak some individuals will be at such a time, how greedy and power-hungry, and also how strong and selfless. I believe this story of fifty years ago carries a powerful lesson for right now. Splintering along cultural or religious lines and allowing ourselves to be ruled by fear and hate will only result in Biafra being repeated again and again and again all over the world.

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by Banknote Stamp Store in
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Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / Historical fiction / Books from Nigeria


  1. I know next to nothing about the history in Nigeria, so I feel like this would be a very informative read of general events, while also still representing the emotional side of things as well. Colonialism was a terrible occurrence that messed with the making and independence of a lot of countries... and I am sure we see that here.

    1. I love how Adichie writes so I learn history, but without feeling like I am attending a lesson :-)