Booked All Week

and next week, too

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

with 11 comments

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.

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Written by Emily Jane

January 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

11 Responses

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  1. I loved loved loved loved this book. Adichie does a brilliant job of contextualising what’s happening politically and yet NEVER forgets the human/personal angle. I cry easily with books, so you can imagine what this one did to me 😛

    nymeth

    January 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

  2. It’s true, I really think Adichie told this story just perfectly! And, ugh, total tearjerker…in the best way.

    Emily Jane

    January 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm

  3. I have to read this. I read Purple Hibiscus a few years ago and thought it was just gorgeous — I’ve only held off reading Half of a Yellow Sun until Adichie writes another book, so I will still have a new book of hers in reserve.

    Jenny

    January 17, 2011 at 2:30 am

    • Well, then, the time is now Jenny! Purple Hibiscus sounds great, too 🙂

      Emily Jane

      January 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm

  4. One of my favorite books and I am glad you liked it too!

    Birdy

    January 18, 2011 at 4:33 am

  5. I am SO HAPPY that you enjoyed this book!!! Adichie is my favorite writer and like Jenny, I am rationing. I started with her short story collection in 2009, read this one last year, and have Purple Hibiscus to read this year. I do hope that by the following year there will be another book!

    amymckie

    January 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    • I can see why she’s your favorite! I can’t wait to work my way through her other two books…I hope there’s another in the works too, so I don’t run out too quickly!

      Emily Jane

      January 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm

  6. This is one that I keep seeing in bookstores and I really must must get a copy. The whole idea sounds right up my street and everyone seems to really enoy it. great review

    Jessica

    January 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm

  7. […] became an instant favorite of mine after reading Half of a Yellow Sun and seeing her participate in a talk last spring at the Met on something like The Hero in African […]

  8. Funny thing is my case was a typical example of listening to one side of a story. I am from the South of Nigeria, and one might say we were the not so apparent victims of the Biafran war. Though the south was wary of the north, they also didn’t trust the Igbo’s to completely accept them as Biafrans. I have heard the story of the war from both my parents, and this is the conclusion I drew, and frankly i have been a little angry at the Igbo’s until I read half of a yellow sun! I have bought a copy for my Father, and hope he sees the war from a new perspective after reading it. I sure do now. Nice work by Chimamanda

    Pamela

    October 3, 2012 at 11:52 pm


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