BOOK REVIEW : Half of a Yellow Sun By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Biafra’s war for independence from Nigeria decades ago and the subsequent violence that followed is brought alive in Half a Yellow Sun, not a like a big political conflict that plays out of BBC radio but like a conflict between families torn by the pangs of tribalism in a young multi-ethnic group African nation. Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all.

Biafra’s war for independence from Nigeria decades ago and the subsequent violence that followed is brought alive in Half a Yellow Sun, not a like a big political conflict that plays out of BBC radio but like a conflict between families torn by the pangs of tribalism in a young multi-ethnic group African nation. Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all.

Chimamanda, herself a daughter of a professor in what is now the University of Nigeria takes us in her novel through a journey in the life an academic university family and how they respond to realities of  ethnic division, war, love, and politics to earn herself the title of the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,”

She weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal.

Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover.

And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and they must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

Half a Yellow Sun is not just a story about Nigerian families but is also an insider vies of what happened in Biafra into eh nineteen sixties.

For someone who was not even alive, Chimamanda displays the prowess of a writer who is able to listen and build a real story into life that even those who lived the story will instantly identify with it and get carried by it into the past.

Binyavanga Wainaina, winner of The Caine Prize for African Writing says about Half a yellow Sun, that so much of the experience of our generation of Africans is about how we find ourselves reacting to our times based on wars and battles and events that we know little about, but which continue to define us.

We need to take control of our history, so we can manage our present. And it is this idea that is the inspiration behind this novel... Half of a Yellow Sun is honest and cutting, and always, always human, always loving... It is a pleasure to read Chimamanda’s crisp, resonant prose.

We see how every person’s belonging is contested in a new nation; find out that nobility of purpose has no currency in this contest; how powerfully we can love; how easily we can kill; how human we can be when a war dedicates itself to stripping our humanity from us.

This book shows signs of maturity from her debut novel purple Hibiscus, and it is thus no surprise that Half a Yellow Sun won Chimamanda the most prestigious literary prize exclusively for women, the Orange prize for fiction in 2007, annually awarded to a female author of any nationality for the best original full-length novel written in English, and published in the United Kingdom in the preceding year.

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