BLURB: With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.(Goodreads.com)
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because a white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white.’
READ IF YOU LIKE: African culture, Nigerian past, African history, stories of war torn countries and families, romance, drama, and crying.
PAGE COUNT: Approx 448.
STAR RATING: (★★★★☆) – only minus one star because it takes a while to get into…but persevere!!!
What struck me most about this book when I had finished it was how little I have been educated on African conflict, and the history of the African countries; how little it has been mentioned in my Western education. I had come across British imperialism in Africa previously in school, but again, that was based around Britain, and have never experienced anything like this written from the PoV of an African, and I only realised this when reading this book. I think most people who are like me will therefore agree that therefore this is a completely eye-opening and almost life changing book.
The book is told from the perspectives of five characters. Ugwe, the young (really young it turned out) houseboy goes to work for the university professor Odenigbo, who soon marries rich Olanna. Kainene is the twin sister of Olanna who falls in love with British Richard. As the war progresses, these four totally different characters find their loves and their lives turned completely upside down. Whilst never openly criticising white people, seen through the inclusion of Richard, who attempts to immerse himself totally in Biafran culture and language, the book doesn’t take that stupid egotistical position of white superiority and pity of African people that I know centres much of white culture.
I had never even heard of Biafra, or it’s civil war that engulfed Nigeria between 1967-70, and I felt that as the reader was hit with more and more plot twists and action it got better and better, so as the book gets sadder, its gets more gripping. After the first 100 or so pages of introduction therefore, the book its heart wrenchingly sad and affecting.
Basically, this is a treasure of a book. If you have never experienced African literture , which I certainly hadn’t, then its great, not preaching or lecturing, but never sugar coating the struggles these people went through. We’ve all seen the photos in glossy magazines, emaciated babies with distented stomachs, but as Western readers we never really get the chance to fully engage with the why’s, what’s and how’s of the situation. This book gives a narrative voice to those images, and I felt I could exactly match what Adichie writes about with images I have become used to seeing. I have come out of this book more knowledgeable and aware. I am by no means an expert now, and am not saying spending a week reading this book has made me on a level with those who experienced the Nigeria-Biafra war, but I certainly want to go and read more about it.