Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Another excellent read. This one had me staying up into the wee hours of morning, determined to finish just a few…more…pages… before extinguishing my book light (which I love, mom, thanks again for the gift!).
In Half of Yellow Sun, Adichie tells the story of the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967-1970 through the eyes of three very different sets of related characters: Olanna and her intellectual “revolutionary lover” Odenigbo, their houseboy Ugwu, and Richard, a British writer and expatriate in love with Olanna’s twin sister Kainene. The book follows them and their turbulent relationships throughout the whole of the sixties, before and after the start of the war. When Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960, the country was populated by many diverse peoples whose ethnic, religious, and class tensions had been strained to the breaking point through the process of British colonialism. The conflict erupted after the mostly Christian Igbo attempted a coup de’tat and then the mostly Muslim Hausa majority in the north massacred the Igbo there and forced them south, after which the Igbo then seceded and formed the the independent nation of Biafra. The violence did not end there, as is painfully illustrated in Adichie’s heartbreaking and beautiful novel.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I knew practically nothing about this history before reading this book, and was amazed at how much history and political knowledge I gained while absorbed in the story. I’m afraid this makes it sound a little dry, or something, but it was anything but. I found every character interesting and irresistably relatable, and immediately felt personally involved with them. I marveled at their strength and worried for their futures. They were all complex, well-developed, and changed according to varying circumstances throughout time. I cared about them, and even got teary towards the end of the book. And I never get teary while reading!
I had seen a few interviews and things with Adichie, but this was my first time reading her. I was impressed, as others have assured me I would be, and I look forward to enjoying more of her work in the future.