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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 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 the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another. Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, 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. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.


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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed. With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 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 the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another. Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, 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. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.

30 review for Half of a Yellow Sun

  1. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    It came to me as an epiphany as I barreled through the last few pages of this book, blanketed in my Sunday evening lethargy, marveling at Adichie's graceful evocation of a forgotten time and place and feeling the embarrassment of having known nothing about the Biafran war, that somewhere in the Gaza strip the maimed bodies of children must lie strewn amidst the debris of their former lives while vicious debates rage on twitter in which people pick a side - Israel or Hamas - to defend from critic It came to me as an epiphany as I barreled through the last few pages of this book, blanketed in my Sunday evening lethargy, marveling at Adichie's graceful evocation of a forgotten time and place and feeling the embarrassment of having known nothing about the Biafran war, that somewhere in the Gaza strip the maimed bodies of children must lie strewn amidst the debris of their former lives while vicious debates rage on twitter in which people pick a side - Israel or Hamas - to defend from criticism. As if that's what matters. Somewhere at this very moment there may be a terror-stricken, weeping child, fleeing to find cover, unaware of what she is running from, unaware of the finality of death, shielded by the caprices of the same history she is living, perhaps. Someday she may grow up well to become another Chimamanda to write the story which is hers to tell, and time, circumstances, and health permitting, I am going to be reading that book and be reminded of the umpteenth 'war' that not even my generation of enlightened, Nobel-peace-prize winning heads of state did enough to prevent, the damage that could have been preempted, and the children who could have grown up to carry the weight of civilization some day but didn't. The farce of this relentless cycle of mayhem, killing, pillage, rape, and starvation will hit us time and again and yet leaders of the first world will continue to look dapper in their crisp suits and appear dignified while justifying their sale of high-tech weapons to warring parties because revenue is to be earned from the spilling of blood. For the sake of self-made demarcations, for the sake of that ridiculous nonentity called national pride, for the sake of righting wrongs done in the past we'll bury our children and future in mass graves and commit more wrongs. This book deserves 4 stars in my eyes. It's not a flawlessly written work with its frequent straying into the territory of melodramatic personal relationships and cliched characterization and Adichie's writing seems to lack polish in places. But in no way does that stop this from being a highly important work of fiction that the annals of literature ought to acknowledge with a gleaming appraisal. This is the past transcending the barriers of time to appear before us in a surely pale imitation of its true grotesqueness. This is Adichie leading us to history of a corner of the world we only associate with food programs, the UNHCR, unstable governments and inexorable ethnic conflicts. This is Adichie telling us that history ignored isn't history blotted out. I didn't know Biafra at all; there are not enough books on Biafra (as confirmed by Goodreads and Google Books), because only those horrors of war survive oblivion which are fortunate enough to receive the world media's stamp of approval. Not all death and devastation caused by 'civil wars' are worthy of the glory of 'crimes against humanity' like Nigeria's smooth war tactic of starving Biafran children with tacit British support wasn't. "Starvation propelled aid organizations to sneak-fly food into Biafra at night since both sides could not agree on routes. Starvation aided the careers of photographers. And starvation made the International Red Cross call Biafra its gravest emergency since the Second World War." But there was a Biafra. Not the transient existence of the nation represented by half of a yellow sun but the reality of the people who, in the paroxysms of misguided idealism, picked the losing side in a war. Chimamanda's Olanna, Ugwu and Richard, all of whom weave their way in and out of manifold conflicts of morality, identity, and survival, serve as our guides in this landscape of kwashiorkor-plagued children with pot bellies while trying to make sense of the muddle of mutual Hausa-Yoruba-Igbo animosity. And along with them the reader navigates the maze of wartime barbarity, political allegiances, and interpersonal relationships with a growing sense of unease and uncertainty - who are the ones truly responsible? who are the perpetrators? who are the victims? what was the war for and what did it achieve? "Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved. But it was not grief that Olanna felt, it was greater than grief. It was stranger than grief." In the end any such attempt at such neat compartmentalization makes little difference to the truth of lives destroyed in a fit of murderous passion. In all likelihood, there will be more Biafras and Srebrenicas and Rwanda-Burundis and Syrias and Gazas as there will be the burden of future tragedy and loss to be borne by hapless survivors. But there's the small assurance that there will be the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies of the world to give a human face to the solemn formality of statistics every time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    A few months ago I read Chinua Achebe’s autobiography, “There Was a Country”, which depicted Nigeria’s Biafran War (1967-1970). This book also deals with the events before and leading up to the war. This book was marvelous. The story just flows for the most part and the language used is so evocative. I’m sure people who have visited or lived in Africa will appreciate the descriptions of African life, African mentality, humour, nature and so on. I have to admit, I much preferred the first half to A few months ago I read Chinua Achebe’s autobiography, “There Was a Country”, which depicted Nigeria’s Biafran War (1967-1970). This book also deals with the events before and leading up to the war. This book was marvelous. The story just flows for the most part and the language used is so evocative. I’m sure people who have visited or lived in Africa will appreciate the descriptions of African life, African mentality, humour, nature and so on. I have to admit, I much preferred the first half to the second half. It was hard to read about the Biafran war. The copy of the book I had actually showed pictures of children during the war who had suffered from kwashiorkor. It was truly heartbreaking. To think so many tribal wars occurred because of colonialists drawing arbitrary borders and also favouring one ethnic group over another (similar to what happened in Burundi and Rwanda). The stories of the five main characters; Ugwu, Olanna, Richard, Odenigbo and Kainene were also interesting, though some parts were quite reminiscent of a Nollywood (Nigerian movie industry) movie (affairs, evil women, desperation for babies, meddling mothers etc.) Since a lot of people consider Africa on the whole to be a homogeneous “country” where everyone speaks “African”, I’m hoping books like this will help show people that that’s not the case; even a country like Nigeria has so many tribes and cultures. One quote I really liked was this: “The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.” A point to ponder. Adichie is definitely a wonderful contemporary African writer, probably one of the best I’ve encountered in recent years. I’m really excited to read more from Adichie. She’s so young and it’s safe to suppose her writing will only get better

  3. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Magic. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born 1977) seemed to possess a magic wand that she was able to weave a story that was not supposed to be interesting for me: an Asian who have not been to Africa except seeing parts of that continent in the movies and reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Adichie turned an “uninteresting” story that speaks lucidly, bravely and beautifully about that tumultuous event that happened in her country Nigeria during the latter part of the 60’s when she was not even Magic. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born 1977) seemed to possess a magic wand that she was able to weave a story that was not supposed to be interesting for me: an Asian who have not been to Africa except seeing parts of that continent in the movies and reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Adichie turned an “uninteresting” story that speaks lucidly, bravely and beautifully about that tumultuous event that happened in her country Nigeria during the latter part of the 60’s when she was not even born yet. I have been postponing reading this book for a year now and had I died at that time, I would have regretted not experiencing the magical prose of the beautiful – outside and inside - Adichie. Yes, Google her picture (oh, I now refrain inserting images in my reviews as they could hang the screen of my computer) and see for yourself. She is beautiful. I said the story was “uninteresting” because its backdrop was the secession of Biafra from Nigeria in the 1967. The British left Nigeria in 1960 and it resulted to the alignment of powers, anchored in ethnicity, social class, oil, etc, and so the Republic of Biafra (still an unrecognized state) was born. On the center of the republic’s flag is a rising yellow sun. That explains the title as only half of the sun is shown. This secession is not as close to my heart as the ones here in Asia including the one here in the country: Mindanao on-going. If you look at the map of the Philippines, there is a big island at the southern part of the archipelago. It is called Mindanao. Since many decades back, there is a secessionist movement composed of the Muslim leaders, the Moro National Liberation Front, based in that island who want to secede Mindanao from the Philippines. Reason: religion. The island is mostly populated by Muslims while the rest of the country is inhabited by Christians with Catholics comprising 85% of them. Taiwan on-going. Taiwan used to be part of Mainland China until the defeat and expulsion of the ruling Kuomintang ROC government by the Communist Party of China in 1949. Tibet on-going. Tibetan Independence Movement asserts that Tibet has been historically independent from People’s Republic of China. Tibetan diaspora in countries like India and the United States and by celebrities in the US and Europe support this with the Dalai Lama becoming the symbol of their cause. Those who have seceded already but whose stories captured the attention of the world were: East Timor secession from Indonesia in 2002, Kashmir from India in 1989 and the expulsion of Singapore from the Malayan Federation in 1965. Since these three happened during my lifetime,I have read many stories about them on newspapers or novels with any of them used as backdrop.So, you can see that my plate is full already of interesting stories of on-going Asian secession movements as well as those that have succeeded already. So, reading about one in Africa - Biafra - was not really that interesting for me. But Adichie has magic tricks up her sleeves. I would like to think that Adichie’s powerful prose can even turn a telephone book into a literary masterpiece. Her characters are three- or even four- dimensional, i.e., they come alive in every page of her book. This is a story of 5 individuals all belonging to the ethnic group Igbo that is pro-secession. One of them is already a British national, an intellectual professor Odenigbo. The second one is his wife Olanna who studied in England. Third is Olanna’s her sister Kainene. Fourth is Kainene's husband Richard who is a still a British national but studying Igbo arts. However, my favorite is the fifth major character: the 13-y/o houseboy Ugwu not only because he seems to be the character that holds the story together but he seems to be the one that truly represents the Biafran: innocent and clueless but governed by his traditional values and what little knowledge of the world and politics he had at the beginning of the story then got caught in the frenzy of killings, hopelessness, famine and deaths during the secession. He also got caught by the resulting transformations of the other four main characters as the secession brought out the best, but mostly worst, of their characters. In terms of its theme, this book may have some similarities with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or Richard Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously as both are stories of people caught and struggling with themselves amidst the change in the political power. However, Adichie’s storytelling makes all the difference. Her narration is flawless, enchanting, interesting and arresting. I was able to relate to her milieu because Africa and Asia have many similarities including the social strata of people particularly in the provinces. This book really surprised me. Two years ago, when I saw this book on the shelves of Fullybooked, I said to myself ”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Who is this author?” and I had second thought of buying the book. The only reason why I had to was that this is a 1001 book. Now, if somebody would ask me who is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I would have this to say: ”Magic. She is this African author who writes like she has magical powers.” And her work deserves to be in that list. I should go and look for her Purple Hibiscus.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Megha

    I read only about one-third of this novel. Adichie's (CNA) writing doesn't agree with me at all. And the characters are so flat they should be able to slide under a door trouble-free. The characters don't even bother to play their role with its limited definition. Instead they keep pounding their fists on a table and shouting out what their role is supposed to be: "I am a sardonic bitch.", "I am sooo non-racist you won't even believe it", "blah blah". Ouch! My head hurts. One type of characters I I read only about one-third of this novel. Adichie's (CNA) writing doesn't agree with me at all. And the characters are so flat they should be able to slide under a door trouble-free. The characters don't even bother to play their role with its limited definition. Instead they keep pounding their fists on a table and shouting out what their role is supposed to be: "I am a sardonic bitch.", "I am sooo non-racist you won't even believe it", "blah blah". Ouch! My head hurts. One type of characters I am almost certain to hate are the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. ones. And CNA stops just short of establishing Olanna's idol in a temple and worshiping her. We are constantly reminded of what a smart and benevolent person she is. And non-racist. She is always showing off her fancy London-based education, always talking about this charity or that. To make sure she is universally adored, CNA mentions her angel-like beauty almost every time Olanna is mentioned. In CNA's world all rich people are by default super-shallow. Now poor Olanna had the misfortune of being born to rich parents. How do we fix that? Olanna leaves her parent's house to live with her boyfriend (does this count as a sacrifice?) and takes up a job. Her parents still keep trying to shove fancy cars and bundles of cash down her throat. She feebly resists, but has to accept them anyway. Very convenient! Odenigbo - the revolutionary. His activism largely involves drinking with buddies in his living room and abruptly shouting out some out-of-context political dialogue. To hold up this forward and enlightened image of his he needs to keep breaking into such diatribes without any sense of place or time - so I am driving my houseboy to see his sick mom. I know exactly what the boy needs right now, my political rant. Yup. Ugwu - So wait, you mean my mom is not dying, she is only terribly sick? Hurray, I can go back to fantasizing about Nnesinachi breasts. Richard - super-lame white boy who has read a Wikipedia article (or some equivalent) about one Nigerian art form and now that's the only thing he will ever talk about. And hey, he claims to have interest in a local art form. What do you mean that's not sufficient to give him a non-racist badge? ...and a couple of more such posers. In terms of writing, CNA tries to be somewhat fancy and writer-ly, thus ending up writing in a style that doesn't come naturally to her. You can see her trying a bit too hard. One rule of thumb she seems to follow is to attach an unrelated, trivial sentence at the end of a paragraph. Is that supposed to impart depth to the writing? I know I haven't reached the meat of the novel yet. There is a war on the horizon. Typically one can expect to see a transformation in someone who has lived through a war. Given what I have seen so far, these characters may jump from one assigned characteristic to another, if the author tells them to. I don't expect to see any realistic, believable transitions. I am just going to live without knowing who all make it through the war.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    "The world was silent when we died." This casual statement he once heard is used as the title of a book written by one of the characters in this novel, in which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chronicles the birth, short and tortured life and death of the State of Biafra: born on the 30th of May, 1967 from Nigeria and forcefully annexed back by the parent state, after a bitter war in which a million died, in January 1970. Most of us, I suspect, do not know about this short-lived country. Even Wikipedia c "The world was silent when we died." This casual statement he once heard is used as the title of a book written by one of the characters in this novel, in which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chronicles the birth, short and tortured life and death of the State of Biafra: born on the 30th of May, 1967 from Nigeria and forcefully annexed back by the parent state, after a bitter war in which a million died, in January 1970. Most of us, I suspect, do not know about this short-lived country. Even Wikipedia calls the war between Biafra and Nigeria a "civil war", thus denying legitimacy to the erstwhile nation: even though a number of countries recognised it. Since history is always written by the victors, the voice of the losers are often submerged in the general background noise. I listened to a talk by the author - a very impressive one - about the danger of the "single story": the one that has been foisted on the world by the erstwhile colonial powers and called "history". These are opinions which are taught as facts, which tend to show an uncivilised "third world", and the West's "civilising" influence. This is so much bovine excrement. The colonial powers went into Asia and Africa to loot, and when the loot was finished, exited leaving miserable poverty and the flames of mutual hatred in the minds of people. This is the story which is not told. Ms. Adichie also warns us about the "secondary story" in the speech; that is, starting the story from the second chapter, ignoring the first. Examples are plentiful - Palestinians attacking the peaceful state of Israel, without mentioning the death and displacement of thousand of Palestinians to create the said country; mutual hatred between India and Pakistan, without mentioning the hatred fomented by the British which resulted in the partition; endemic poverty and tribal violence in Africa, without mentioning the years of occupation by the West which created them. Up till recently, world history was made up of these secondary stories, which served as the "one story" which the former colonial powers wanted to propagate. It is heartening to note that things are changing. People like Chimamanda are using the most powerful medium available to humans since the dawn of civilisation to bring about that change: the medium of the narrative. And it is here that the defeated people have an immense power which cannot be suppressed. The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave. --------------------------------------------------- As the British colonists left Nigeria, they did what they were expert at doing: drawing artificial national boundaries and inciting hatred in the minds of the people they ruled. So after a period of uneasy calm, Nigeria erupted in riots. The powerful Hausa people massacred the Igbo minority, whom they considered to be enjoying more benefits than was due them (see anything familiar here?), and the Igbo declared independence from Nigeria, and the state of Biafra was born. However, Nigeria could not let go of the oil-rich south: so war was declared. In a bitter battle which lasted two and a half years which left a million dead and the country devastated, Biafra was subjugated and wiped off the map. Ms. Adichie passes the harsh white light of history through the prism of individual experience to create overlapping rainbows of narratives. In this, her style is similar to that of Paul Scott; however, whereas Scott’s narrative is an Indian tapestry where one has to search among the intricate coloured strands to see a pattern (or multiple conflicting patterns), Chimamanda’s work has all the blunt beauty of African art: the uncomplicated lines and the simple patterns which makes the medium all but transparent so that the narrator is talking directly to the listener. Scenes of utter despair and brutality are described very matter-of-factly, in almost Hemingway-esque prose. We are all sitting around a metaphorical campfire, listening to the author telling her story in uncomplicated prose. But it does not mean that there are no nuances. The name, Half of a Yellow Sun, itself signifies separation, a paring; the fact that it is a reference to the Biafran flag makes it all the more significant. One of the three main characters through whose viewpoints we experience the tale, Olanna, is one of set of fraternal twins. Like twins in a fairy tale, the sisters are of diametrically opposite natures - Olanna is beautiful, revolutionary and optimistic; while her sister Kainene is plain, cynical and pessimistic. Of course, things are not so simple as they seem, and the sisters’ characters unfurl as the story progresses: showing us more and more layers, as the siblings move through their lives, facing love, hatred, betrayal, separation and loss against a nation that is slowly coming apart at the seams. Another character through whose eyes we see the tragedy of Biafra is Richard Churchill, Kainene’s lover – an Englishman who has “gone native”. Richard is interested in Igbo pottery, and is ostensibly researching it. He is also trying to write a book which never seems to take shape – like character from a Kafka story, Richard plods on, reaching nowhere. But for me, the character who holds the novel together is Ugwu, houseboy of Odenigbo, Olanna’s boyfriend. As we move across the Nigeria of the early sixties to the Biafra of the late sixties and then again, back to a unified Nigeria in 1970, Ugwu grows from child to man – in more ways than one. In the end, he becomes Richard’s spiritual heir of sorts, telling the story of the Igbo people of Nigeria, which Richard could never accomplish. The story goes on.

  6. 4 out of 5

    F

    Really loved this book. Some of the characters were a bit bland and boring but it still kept me interested in them. Loved Igwu. Wish there was a book just about him.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Milan/zzz

    She did it again. And she did it (again) masterfully! While reading this novel I was often thinking of García Márquez’s words: ”The worst enemy of politicians is a writer” and I would amplify that with not only of politicians. Now, I’m not sure if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had intention to accuse (probably not) but you cannot avoid truth and, as always truth is hurting so badly. Half of a Yellow Sun (related with Biafran flag, look the photo) is a story about birth and short life of Biafra, li She did it again. And she did it (again) masterfully! While reading this novel I was often thinking of García Márquez’s words: ”The worst enemy of politicians is a writer” and I would amplify that with not only of politicians. Now, I’m not sure if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had intention to accuse (probably not) but you cannot avoid truth and, as always truth is hurting so badly. Half of a Yellow Sun (related with Biafran flag, look the photo) is a story about birth and short life of Biafra, life that ended in one of the worst possible way while “the world was silent when they died” . Before reading this book I didn’t know much about Biafra, I didn’t even know it was an independent country (*blush* I should know that!). For me Biafra was a synonym for starvation, for hunger, misery, I was always picturing children with huge bellies and limbs like toothpicks. Now I know the word for that: ”kwashiorkor”, difficult word isn’t it? Everything started 1960 when Nigeria independence from British colonialism; few years later there was a coup d’état led by Igbo tribe. Since Nigeria was the country with many clans ethnic tension started to sparkle between Muslim Hausa and Christian Igbo clans and eventually resulted with ethnic cleansing of Igbos that were living in the north of the country with Muslim majority. Because of that atrocity Igbo clan has proclaimed independence of theirs own country named after Biafran Bay in the southeast of Nigeria (the problem was, as one of the characters said was the fact that Biafra has huge oil reserves). Few countries have recognized new country, however the most powerful ones (i.e. United Kingdom and Soviet Union) supported Nigeria with military supplies and after three years (1967-1970) the war of Biafra secession ended in a humanitarian catastrophe as Nigerian blockades stopped all supplies, military and civilian alike, from entering the region. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) people died in the resulting famine. The story has been told through the lives of three very different people: Ugwu,13 year old boy from some remote village who is starting to work as a houseboy in the house of university professor with revolutionary aspirations. Ugwu is a magnificent source of Nigerian (African?) folklore and mythology. His superstitious-ness is beautiful, pure and incredibly authentic. Being uneducated his provincialism and thinking of everything authentically African as inferior comparing with everything British is very strong! (I sound as if I’m justifying his attitude with that “being uneducated”, well it’s really hard dislike Ugwu) Olanna, young women with university diploma from London, member of Nigerian aristocracy who rejected privileged life and follow her heart. Strong, modern, enthusiastic woman with strong vision of her future life liberated from the chains of her family’s expectations. Third one is Richard, man I identified myself with. He’s an Englishman who came in Nigeria because he fell in love with the ancient piece of local art (I think I could do the same). Man who being white has had to put much more effort to prove himself as true Biafran and was doing this in the best possible way. What I especially like is that all three main characters are real humans; they are not flawless. On the contrary, they are making horrible mistakes which might be even unforgivable under different circumstances. But this is not only story about the war. War with its horror is scenery for the story of love, loyalty, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness about fight and survival. It is very universal story placed in one precise historical context. Truth, some of the scenes are so graphically described that I had to close the book and take a deep breath before continue. But of course why should she use euphemism for truth? In spite that this is really page turner. I was little afraid after warning from the back cover “I wasted last fifty pages, reading them far too greedily and fast, because I couldn’t bear to let go…” but I’ve done the same (and of course then reread them). This is one testimony of the things that mustn’t be forgotten! And oh, don’t be surprised if you find your eyes filled with tears. In spite the fact that last sentence wasn’t surprise for me, that I expected that, I couldn’t help myself...

  8. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    5★ “At the gates, Biafran soldiers were waving cars through. They looked distinguished in their khaki uniforms, boots shining, half of a yellow sun sewn on their sleeves.” This story tracks a family as they transition from a position of influence and privilege with large, comfortable homes in Nigeria, to become citizens of the newly formed republic of Biafra. After a slow (to me) beginning, I ended up fascinated by the story, the family, the people on the fringes of the family, the history, the cu 5★ “At the gates, Biafran soldiers were waving cars through. They looked distinguished in their khaki uniforms, boots shining, half of a yellow sun sewn on their sleeves.” This story tracks a family as they transition from a position of influence and privilege with large, comfortable homes in Nigeria, to become citizens of the newly formed republic of Biafra. After a slow (to me) beginning, I ended up fascinated by the story, the family, the people on the fringes of the family, the history, the culture, everything. The family circle shrinks from a large, influential group before hostilities arise, to smaller units as they separate to escape and hide. They don’t know whom to trust and are reduced to living in slums. This part reminded me of the Jews during WW2, gradually cut off from business and mainstream society, then confined to their homes, then pushed into cramped ghettoes as their homes were requisitioned by the Nazis, then . . . you know the horrifying rest. In Biafra, young men were captured and uniformed, not by the Nigerian enemy, but by their ‘own’ Biafran army – those “distinguished” looking soldiers above. Women were raped regularly under all sorts of pretexts – collusion, wrong accent, whatever handy excuse - by soldiers from both sides. This was Biafra, where the people were starved into submission to bring them back into Nigeria. Of course I ‘knew’ about starving kids in Biafra. Sure I did - the same way I ‘know’ about a lot of things – superficial awareness of photographs and articles about something happening a long way away from me and mine. I didn’t read reviews before reading this book, but I liked Adichie’s Americanah and was aware this was also about Nigeria and had won some prizes. For the first third or so of the story, I was a little impatient with the mix of family story and politics, where characters seemed to suddenly go from local gossip (about hairstyles, etc) to sudden heated conversations about government, saying things like: . . .“pan-Africanism is fundamentally a European notion.” As the story moved on, I also got a little confused by so many names beginning with O. I expect that’s just my unfamiliarity with the names, as a non-English speaker could have trouble with characters named Marianne, Margaret, and Marty. So I did have to backtrack occasionally to remember who was who. Adichie uses many Igbo words, always in italics, and sometimes translates phrases when she thinks it’s necessary. I’d have liked a little glossary just because I enjoy languages, but I eventually recognised some and got enough of the gist not to mind. There are 520 languages spoken in Nigeria (Wikipedia, footnoted reference), and when people speak each other’s language, there may prejudice when an accent is noticed. In the US, a strong New York accent might sound foreign (and suspect) in the deep South. In the UK, a Cockney accent might be considered unsuitable in executive offices. What a judgemental lot we are. Illustration of main language groups of Nigeria (from News of Nigeria) The Igbo (some say Ibo) are the group our characters belong to. They are interesting, as are the family dynamics and the class structure of Nigeria, with its very privileged and its dirt-poor peasant servants. Twin sisters Olanna and Kainene look and behave differently. Olanna is our focus, she whom a young servant boy, newly arrived from his village, describes with worshipful wonder. “. . . she looked like she was not supposed to be walking and talking like everyone else; she should be in a glass case like the one in Master’s study, where people could admire her curvy, fleshy body, where she would be preserved untainted. . . . There was something polished about her voice, about her; she was like the stone that lay right below a gushing spring, rubbed smooth by years and years of sparkling water, and looking at her was similar to finding that stone, knowing that there were so few like it.” Olanna’s partner is Odenigbo, a ‘revolutionary’ professor (pro-independence), while sister Kainene works with their father, negotiating lucrative, (possibly questionable?) government contracts. They are the privileged. Kainene's partner is Richard, a white Englishman, interested in antiquities and art, who would like to see more equality in Nigeria, but who is entranced by Kainene's powerful personality. They represent the fundamental difference between political ideologies. Responding to Richard’s suggestion that socialism could lead to economic justice, Kainene declares: “‘Socialism would never work for the Igbo.’ She held the brush suspended in mid-air. ‘Ogbenyealu is a common name for girls and you know what it means? “Not to Be Married by a Poor Man.” To stamp that on a child at birth is capitalism at its best.’” I wish I’d had a map to refer to, because I didn’t know where places were when skirmishes escalated into war and there was a border as Biafra proclaimed itself a country, with soldiers, uniforms and flag (as in the first quote). Biafra was roughly the southeast corner of Nigeria. Map of Nigeria (2015 election) and Biafra and inset with Africa From Geocurrents To give you some idea of the size of Nigeria compared to the US, here’s a map, which also shows Americans what the different American accents might be in an area like this. Map of Nigeria superimposed over USA From waitbutwhy.com As I write in 2017, civil wars seem even more of a threat, as each cultural and language group strives for recognition, at least. Not only those in Africa, but the First Nations people of many countries are trying to salvage something from the ruins of colonialism. This was in important book when it was written, and I think it’s worth reading now, to see what can happen when ideologies bump up against each other in your part of the world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Orsodimondo

    DIO NON FALLIRÀ? I protagonisti del film omonimo, Chiwetel Ejiofor e Thandie Newton. Hanno abolito le province italiane (ma è successo davvero?) e molti hanno protestato, si sono appellati alle grandi differenze tra Pisa e Livorno, o tra Savona e Imperia. Nel caso dell’Africa, continente non provincia, e caso mai colonia, l’unica differenza che sembriamo in grado di fare è tra Africa del nord e Africa nera o subsahariana. Per il resto, è una massa unica, è l’Africa: e non gli infiniti paesi e popol DIO NON FALLIRÀ? I protagonisti del film omonimo, Chiwetel Ejiofor e Thandie Newton. Hanno abolito le province italiane (ma è successo davvero?) e molti hanno protestato, si sono appellati alle grandi differenze tra Pisa e Livorno, o tra Savona e Imperia. Nel caso dell’Africa, continente non provincia, e caso mai colonia, l’unica differenza che sembriamo in grado di fare è tra Africa del nord e Africa nera o subsahariana. Per il resto, è una massa unica, è l’Africa: e non gli infiniti paesi e popoli che la compongono. Il film è stato diretto da Biyi Bandele nel 2013. Questo libro racconta una delle millanta storie dell’Africa, la nascita e la morte del Biafra, stato autoproclamatosi all’interno della Nigeria, la guerra tra il 1967 e il 1970 (le prime immagini di bambini con le pance gonfie dalla fame…) che si portò via un milione di morti, e si dice quasi altri due milioni per la fame. E all’inizio, che sorpresa!, non è la solita Africa delle carestie, della fame, delle malattie (dei bambini con la pancia gonfia…): ma è un’Africa, o meglio, è la Nigeria con i suoi salotti borghesi, gli ambienti universitari in cui si parla di poesia, di filosofia e di politica. Nella seconda parte, però, possiamo tornare tranquilli, è l’Africa che conosciamo, che ci rassicura: ci sarà la guerra, i morti, e i bambini con la pancia gonfia, per le solite ragioni di religione (musulmani contro cristiani) o di etnia [Hausa contro Igbo]. Molto diverso da Sozaboy che racconta gli stessi avvenimenti, non raggiunge quelle vette, ma è ugualmente un gran bel romanzo, un’ottima lettura. PS ‘Dio non fallirà’ è il significato della parola igbo Chimamanda, il nome di questa scrittrice. La metà di un sole giallo è la bandiera del Biafra (1967-1970).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    Something of a disappointment It is not often that a novel comes to hand that has been prized, praised and pre-inflated. Half of a Yellow Sun was in that category when I opened it and began to read. And I was captivated immediately. I read the first hundred pages at a pace, delighting in the ease with which the Chimanada Ngozi Adichie used language to draw me into the middle-class clique centred on the University of Nsukka which provides the core characters of her book. Their infidelities, their Something of a disappointment It is not often that a novel comes to hand that has been prized, praised and pre-inflated. Half of a Yellow Sun was in that category when I opened it and began to read. And I was captivated immediately. I read the first hundred pages at a pace, delighting in the ease with which the Chimanada Ngozi Adichie used language to draw me into the middle-class clique centred on the University of Nsukka which provides the core characters of her book. Their infidelities, their inconsistencies, their desire, despite the servants, for equality and freedom are symptomatic of their time. The dissimilar twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, one imagines will provide a vehicle for parallel and different lives, providing contrast and metaphor, and I eagerly awaited their stories to unfold. The book’s sections alternate between the early and late 1960s, the latter period in Nigeria, of course, being the Biafran War. And, yes, the characters live through the war, and their lives and their natures, and along with them their country, are transformed by it. Perhaps even their own identity is redrawn, especially once the promise of a recognised nationality is promised and then denied. Eventually there are vivid scenes of the war’s brutality, its double standards, its compromises, its cynicism, its racism and its starvation. The images are graphic and vivid, unforgettable even, and the ability of war to undermine utterly and profoundly any assumption that an individual might harbour about an imagined future is movingly portrayed. So why then was I so disappointed with the book? All I can offer, I’m afraid, is that eventually I found it shallow. Its apparent concentration on the domestic lives of the characters undermined their credibility as members of an intellectual elite and rendered them two (or perhaps even one) dimensional. Chimanada Ngozi Adichie carefully tells us that Odenigbo is a mathematician and in love with his subject. He covets his personal library, which he loses in the war and then has replaced by a benefactor. But in my experience, mathematicians are passionate people – and are usually passionate about mathematics. No mathematician I have ever met avoids all mention of personal academic interests in social settings as scrupulously as Odenigbo. I didn’t want the novel to become a textbook, but if characters were ballet dancers, surely we would expect to hear of the roles they had danced and the music that had moved them. Of Odenigbo’s academic character we hear nothing. Why is he therefore endowed with knowledge and interest that is never explored? Perhaps he only exists as a character to interact with the twin sisters. And the problem is repeated with Richard Churchill who, we are told is an Igbo-speaking English radical. I knew a lot of sixties radicals and they were never slow to offer an opinion or, indeed, place themselves squarely in a space on the ideological chessboard. In Half of a Yellow Sun, we never learn if Richard is a Marxist, Maoist, Leninist or Trot. He never mentions Castro or Ho Chi Minh. He doesn’t appear to have any position on capitalism, society, business, the Third World, South Africa, Central America or even Viet Nam. I found myself wondering which sixties decade saw his radicalisation. When Chimanada Ngozi Adichie tells us that he travels to Lagos to attend a function in honour of the state funeral of Winston Churchill (perhaps no relation), I began to wonder if he was an early- (or indeed late) born radical Tory. I have been an expatriate myself, so I can forgive him his attendance of the function, but not his total silence on the issues of the day. This becomes especially problematic when both Britain and the Soviet Union are mentioned as assisting the Federal Forces in the destruction of secessionist Biafra. What sixties radical, given the inevitability of his assumption of a Cold War bifurcated paradigm to underpin his ideological position, would not have pondered and discussed this at length, even in bed? Eventually we also have to read along with continued adulation of Ojukwu. His Excellency might even be the Great Helmsman, himself, given that his free-thinking minions seem unable to mention a criticism of an historical character who eventually fled to Ivory Coast to save his skin and live his life in relative comfort after leaving millions of his own people dead. Perhaps he had to be preserved to fight another day, as he eventually did, if in a different way, but surely no sixties radical would have left his role unquestioned. It doesn’t ring true, and an opportunity to develop a character like Richard through his own and inevitable disillusion was ignored. And then we are presented with a pair of American journalists that the radical Richard has to greet and service in his role as a promoter of the Biafran cause. They are both called Charles and apparently have the same nickname, Chuck – which surely should have been Charlie of the “right” variety to enhance the farce. They are simply not credible. We can probably accept as deadly accurate that the majority of Americans neither knew where Biafra was nor cared a jot about its plight, since the attentions of the politicised were focused elsewhere at the time. But the presentation of a pair of foreign correspondents as crass as these is surely incredible, as is, equally, Richard’s apparent patience in dealing with them. I did also become mildly annoyed at what became quite extensive use of Igbo words when they seemed to offer no extra flavour, meaning or understanding. I have no problem with the use of local terms to enhance a feeling of place and sound, but their over use tends to obfuscate. We really wanted to know what these people thought, but we were never told. So what are we left with? Half of a Yellow Sun is a beautifully written, beautifully composed domestic tale of fidelity, infidelity, loyalty and opportunism. The contrast between the characters’ and therefore the nation’s lives at the start and the end of the decade is engaging. But because their psyches are never really explored, we never understand any motives or, therefore, any consequences. Reading Half of a Yellow Sun was a thoroughly enjoyable experience which, with hindsight, I would have foregone.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    “If she had died, if Odenigbo and Baby and Ugwu had died, the bunker would still smell like a freshly tilled farm and the sun would still rise and the crickets would still hop around. The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with a frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter.” For the first few pages, this reminded me of a social novel, a novel of manners, like which Adichie demonstrates in Ame “If she had died, if Odenigbo and Baby and Ugwu had died, the bunker would still smell like a freshly tilled farm and the sun would still rise and the crickets would still hop around. The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with a frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter.” For the first few pages, this reminded me of a social novel, a novel of manners, like which Adichie demonstrates in Americana. The story begins with a young houseboy, a live-in servant brought from the countryside named Ugwu. There are two twin sisters, Olenna and Kainene, who could not be more different in their tastes. Olenna starts up an affair with a radical university professor, Kainene becomes interested in a British writer ostensibly here to write about Igbo pottery. This is an interesting premise in peacetime - the intellectuals talk about what Africa and Nigeria are, the two sisters find places for themselves, the houseboy is shocked by the existence of electricity and refigeration. Richard, the Englishman, probably likes this place, but feels himself an outsider to it. Then there is a coup in 1966, where the country's first prime minister is shot, along with several of his colleagues. A military government takes over dominated by Muslim northern officers. By next year, the country is in civil war, as the more Christian Igbo in the southeast chafe under military rule, and the novel begins its long descent into hell. It is brutal in its detail, and I won't go too much into it; it won't talk or moralize in the abstract and the details are horrifying and sometimes horribly familiar. A little girl has a swollen belly - it might be pregnancy or kwashiorkor. We see traumatized soldiers, mass looting of shops and houses, and severed heads in boxes, with their braids still neatly tied. But to say this is a blood and guts novel understates the scope of Adichie's approach. She maintains a strong current of empathy, which does not grant absolution to people, nor does she demonize them. The world is hard and cruel, and people are complicit or cannot resist it, and she gives the most honorable and good characters their sins and the most foul ones their causes and pleasant justifications. Identity and the shifting sense of self. Identity is private and public - what you tell your neighbors is different from what you tell your parents or your spouse or your children, which is different from what you think about yourself. On top of personal identity, there is tribal allegiance, political affiliation, or national. Of course the nation itself is a creation of British imperialism, but the intellectuals of Nigeria debate whether there is such a thing as 'black' which is more than 'not-white', as there are so many other identities out there - and in all of these different tribal/ethnic groups but still there is enough difference in the distribution and use of power that one resents and fears the other. What else is there to say about this book? It is a Nigerian's attempt to look back upon the bloody past which is still there, in a sense, even if she has never lived through it. It is an exposition of ordinary persons in the 'ordinary' or at least unrelenting battery of war. It is a mastery of the grand picture of war and the details. Ugwu thanked him and shook his head and realized that he would never be able to capture that child on paper, never be able to describe well enough the fear that dulled the eyes of mothers in the refugee camp when the bomber planes charged out of the sky. He would never be able to depict the very bleakness of bombing hungry people. But he tried, and the more he wrote the less he dreamed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    First read: February 7-19, 2014 Second read: November 19-23, 2016 Updated Review: My thoughts on this after reading it a second time didn't change much. If anything, it made me love Adichie even more than I already did. This confirmed that she's absolutely one of my all-time favorite authors. She's so observant and able to convey human emotion in such a relatable way, even when describing experiences I have never come close to experiencing. A wonderfully, heartbreaking story and one of my favorite First read: February 7-19, 2014 Second read: November 19-23, 2016 Updated Review: My thoughts on this after reading it a second time didn't change much. If anything, it made me love Adichie even more than I already did. This confirmed that she's absolutely one of my all-time favorite authors. She's so observant and able to convey human emotion in such a relatable way, even when describing experiences I have never come close to experiencing. A wonderfully, heartbreaking story and one of my favorite historical fiction novels. I'm going to bump this up from 4 to 4.5 stars. Original Review: I was assigned to read this for a World Literature class this semester, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I went into reading this book not having many expectations or real knowledge of the subject matter. In my International Rhetoric class that I'm studying this book in, we were discussing the myth of Africa, the Westernized view of a single African nation that is dramatized, romanticized, and convoluted against what Africa, the continent, made up of 54 separate countries, really is. Literature, then, especially a lot of Western literary fiction, has distorted the 'true' Africa, whatever that may be. In her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie works to break that mold, the stereotype of poor, starving, tribal Africans that Achebe, Wainaina, and others have attempted to break away from as well. [For further info from the author herself, look up her TEDTalk "The Danger of a Single Story." Excellent] The story follows three narrative voices: Olanna, the mistress to a university professor; Ugwu, the professor's house boy; and Richard, the lover of Olanna's twin sister. Following these characters lives and perspectives through the tumultuous 1960's with the rise and fall of the nation of Biafra in Southeastern Nigeria, we experience grief, love, death, pain, betrayal, and suffering. Characters: This story is all about development. It goes back and forth between the early and late 60's, and Adichie utilizes that narrative shift to really move plot as well as character development along. The heart and soul of the story is Ugwu; he begins and ends the novel, and he really ties everything together. He experiences the most change in the story, going from houseboy to cook to teacher and writer and more. Olanna and Richard, along with the respective partners, Odenigbo and Kainene, also establish themselves as unique characters. They do not fit the stereotypical mold expected in African literature, which is exactly what Adichie hopes to achieve. The plot was interesting for me mainly because I didn't even know about Biafra, the nation that lasted only barely 3 years in the 60's, before reading this novel. I learned a lot historically, and the story also opened my eyes to a part of the world that I would normally know very little about. It allowed me to see how much all humans have in common and also caused me to reconsider how I see Africa. I think discussing this for 2 weeks in a classroom really helped me unpack a lot that I can't put into words exactly here. I think if you are a fan of world literature, African literature, or strong character development driven books, you would enjoy this story. Know that most of the plot revolves around war, sexual/love relationships, and some other adult/traumatic elements, if that bothers you. 4/5. Enjoy!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sawsan

    هل تستطيع الكلمات أن تجعل الحياة أجمل وأكثر إنسانية رواية عن تفاصيل الحياة والناس في نيجيريا فترة ستينيات القرن العشرين وكأغلب البلاد الأفريقية تبدو الجوانب السلبية واضحة, الفساد والاستبداد والجهل ويتعايش التعليم والتطور البطئ بجانب الموروثات القبلية البدائية بداية الستينيات تبدأ حكايات آجوو الصبي القادم من القرية للعمل في بيت أودينيبو أستاذ الجامعة الثوري نتعرف على الروابط بين الشخصيات, علاقات الحب, المناقشات السياسية بين الأصدقاء الاختلاف بين معيشة القرية والمدينة, وحتى الخرافات والعادات السائدة و هل تستطيع الكلمات أن تجعل الحياة أجمل وأكثر إنسانية رواية عن تفاصيل الحياة والناس في نيجيريا فترة ستينيات القرن العشرين وكأغلب البلاد الأفريقية تبدو الجوانب السلبية واضحة, الفساد والاستبداد والجهل ويتعايش التعليم والتطور البطئ بجانب الموروثات القبلية البدائية بداية الستينيات تبدأ حكايات آجوو الصبي القادم من القرية للعمل في بيت أودينيبو أستاذ الجامعة الثوري نتعرف على الروابط بين الشخصيات, علاقات الحب, المناقشات السياسية بين الأصدقاء الاختلاف بين معيشة القرية والمدينة, وحتى الخرافات والعادات السائدة وفي نهاية الستينيات ترصد الكاتبة أحداث الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية المعروفة بحرب بيافرا التي استمرت 3 سنوات بكل تفاصيلها من بشاعة وطائفية وقتل ودمار تكتب تشيماماندا أديتشي بأسلوب عذب وقدرة تعبيرية وتصويرية على نقل عالمها بوضوح وسلاسة والجميل في الشخصيات انها تعرض مختلف الطوائف والطبقات وأساليب التفكير والسلوكيات أما المبادئ والقناعات فأحيانا تحتاج للاختبار في الواقع للتأكد من جدية الإيمان والالتزام بها, أم تظل مجرد كلام وشعارات

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    When Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960, it stood to be one of the most prosperous, productive, and influential nations on the continent. Rich with natural resources, including vast reserves of oil, it possessed an educated middle class and a cultural life that blended multiple ethnic groups, languages and religions in a vast and vibrant collective. Like many African nations colonized by Europeans, its borders had been drawn with little regard for political and cultural realiti When Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960, it stood to be one of the most prosperous, productive, and influential nations on the continent. Rich with natural resources, including vast reserves of oil, it possessed an educated middle class and a cultural life that blended multiple ethnic groups, languages and religions in a vast and vibrant collective. Like many African nations colonized by Europeans, its borders had been drawn with little regard for political and cultural realities. In Nigeria, those realities were the political divisions that fell largely along ethnic lines: a mostly Muslim population in the North, dominated by Hausa and Fulani; Igbo in the southeast; Yoruba in the southwest. Only six years after independence, Nigeria began to fall apart. A coup destroyed the fragile trust between these ethnic groups and a portion of eastern Nigeria declared itself the free state of Biafra. In July 1967, the Nigerian Civil War, known more colloquially as the “Biafran War,” began. Thirty months later over one million Biafrans had died from fighting and famine. In January 1970, Biafra surrendered and was reabsorbed into Nigeria. It is an epic story that few outside of the region or African Studies departments on European and American university campuses recall, much less make sense of. This is why we have always needed storytellers. This is why, in this age of scroll-and-skim journalism, we need storytellers more than ever. Let's be honest. How many of us would pick up a work of narrative non-fiction, no matter how well-written, to learn about the Biafran War? Do we know the first thing about Nigeria—hell, about Africa? This is how fiction changes the world. Despite our best efforts at ignorance, fiction brings the world to us, takes us inside the lives of those whose histories, realities, battles are so very different from our own. The imagined stories lead us to the factual ones. We find ourselves searching out the history, reading the articles, the long-form journalism pieces, perhaps even the books, asking, “How did this happen and I knew nothing about it? What is this place? Who are the Igbo, the Hausa, and why does it matter now.” Let Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tell you why this nation, the war, this story matters. Let her characters into your heart and wince as they break it, over and over again. Half of a Yellow Sun—which takes its name from the emblem of Biafra—reveals a Nigeria that could have been, before it became a nation split by war. Set in the early and late 1960s, the narrative revolves around twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, members of the Igbo élite. Both women are single and live independently from their Lagos-based parents. Olanna and her lover Odenigbo share a home in the southern city of Nsukka, where they teach at the university. Kainene manages her father’s business affairs from her home in Port Harcourt and falls in love with a British writer, Richard. Olanna is the story’s principal voice, but it is Odenigbo’s young houseboy, Ugwu, who provides the most poignant perspective, while Richard offers a detached counterpoint of someone yearning to fit in, but whose very skin signals, “Outsider.” Half of a Yellow Sun is magnificent in detail. I heard, smelled, saw, felt, tasted the world that Adichie painstakingly creates. Her heart beats with such fierce love for and pride in Nigeria that the country becomes a character in its own right, and as a reader, you witness its tearing apart with such dread and sorrow. Adichie was born in 1977, but she lost family members to war and famine and surely was raised in the shadow of tragedy. Yet her goal is not to tell a history of the political struggle, but to let us feel the human conflict. The plot framework is built on the conflict between ethnic groups and political factions, but the story rises from the families and lovers separated by cultural, moral, and emotional borders. There is a slight dip and drag to the pace as we learn the depths of misunderstanding and animosity between the sisters, or witness the unraveling of the radical Odenigbo, or dip into Richard’s ingratiating attempts to be accepted by Nigerians. Adichie’s paintbrush drips thick, rich colors that swirl together in a dense mix of characters and details. But everything about her writing is so warm and lush and welcoming, you just want her to go on and on, filling every inch of the canvas with her beautifully-crafted phrases, her characters full of curves and silky skin, her streets vibrating with High Life music. And when sorrow and brutality and suffering come, and come they will, you will want to look away. You will not want to believe that this really happened. But happen it did. Happen it does still. Still a powerful, vibrant nation with vast natural resources, Nigeria is once again in the headlines. And the news is not good: NPR: Boko Haram Fighters Seize Nigerian Army Base JANUARY 05, 2015 5:02 AM ET Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Too often we turn away from these current events because we don’t understand the complexities of nations too distant to cause a ripple in our morning coffee. Because we have disaster and conflict fatigue. These places matter only when we’ve been touched personally by events. Outside of time spent living in a place, reading a great work of literature, one that makes the political personal and the foreign familiar, is the best way to ensure we remain aware of and moved by the world around us. For Nigeria’s sake, Half of a Yellow Sun is just such a book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Margitte

    Finished reading July 03, 2013 Brilliant book - once again. "The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave."Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in detail and manages to keep the reader glued to the book. For those who want to understand what the African Renaissance is all about, this is the kind of book that will shed some valuable light on the current challenges being addressed. It is huge, brutal, dangerous and probably nevere Finished reading July 03, 2013 Brilliant book - once again. "The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave."Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in detail and manages to keep the reader glued to the book. For those who want to understand what the African Renaissance is all about, this is the kind of book that will shed some valuable light on the current challenges being addressed. It is huge, brutal, dangerous and probably neverending. So by the way, I do not think colonialism is over. It just changed outfits. This battle is not over at all. For those readers, interested in Africa, this book illustrates what Colonialism and neo-colonialism is all about in an easy, compassionate read. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows how to mix race, history, politics and family in this Nigerian saga in such a way that the reader is subtly conned into a narrative, filled with drama and suspense, where reality is presented with kindness, empathy and an almost brutal honesty, without realizing it at first. From the 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.By the time the true message in the book is revealed it is too late to withdraw from it if you are not into this kind of genre. It is history, reality and fiction intermixed masterfully by a kind-spirited author. The book is gripping. It touches all senses. The different social strata of the clashing Nigerian Christian Igbo, as well as the Muslim Hausa societies in 1960, during the founding of Biafra, an independent(still unrecognized state), is presented by thirteen-year-old house boy Ugwu; the intellectual revolutionary professor, Odenigbo; his wife, Olanna; and Richard a British researcher of Igbo arts, in love with Olanna's sister, Kainene. During a turbulent, violent period filled with anxiety, anger, famine and family upheaval, the writer managed to still keep their destitute and angst on a readable, almost endurable level for the reader, although the tale leaves one breathless in the end. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie captures the spirit of Africa, the warmth, the kindness, the energy. She has the ability to present the poverty, hardships, and other challenges with compassion. The cultures are rich; the people endearing; the story uplifting.

  16. 4 out of 5

    B the BookAddict

    For my review, I have selected a poem featured very near the end of this devastatingly real and haunting novel. Written by the character Okeoma who apparently is based on the real poet Christopher Okigbo. The World Was Silent When We Died Did you see photos in sixty-eight Of Children with their hair becoming rust: Sickly patches nestled on those small heads, Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust? Imagine children with arms like toothpicks, With footballs for bellies and skin stretched thin. It wa For my review, I have selected a poem featured very near the end of this devastatingly real and haunting novel. Written by the character Okeoma who apparently is based on the real poet Christopher Okigbo. The World Was Silent When We Died Did you see photos in sixty-eight Of Children with their hair becoming rust: Sickly patches nestled on those small heads, Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust? Imagine children with arms like toothpicks, With footballs for bellies and skin stretched thin. It was kwashiorkor—difficult word, A word that was not quite ugly enough, a sin. You needn’t imagine. There were photos Displayed in gloss-filled pages of your Life. Did you see? Did you feel sorry briefly, Then turn round to hold your lover or wife? Their skin had turned the tawny of weak tea And showed cobwebs of vein and brittle bone: Naked children laughing, as if the man Would not take photos and then leave, alone I was totally unprepared for the force of this story about the birth of Biafra; how the impact of the awful reality of those years would strike me. Searing and unforgettable. Most Highly recommended. 5★

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed

    هل سمعت عن جمهورية بيافرا؟ هل نمى إلى علمك شيء عن الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية؟ نعم كان هناك حرب وهناك دعم عربي-مصري بالدرجة الأولى- لأحد الأطراف ودعم اسرائيلي لطرف آخر. قراءة أدب الشعوب القصية سيفتح عينيك على أمور لم تكن تعرفها، ستتعرف على ثقافات وحقب تاريخية لم تكن تعرف أنها وُجدت؛ ستتعلم الكثير. تطل الحرب بوجهها الأشد بشاعة، ووجهها دائما قبيح، غير أنها أشنع عندما تكون حربا غير متكافئة. فبينما يدفع أحد الأطراف ثمنها عرقا ودماءاً، يضحي بأجلها بقوت أطفاله، بدواء والدته، بهنأة نومه وفناء أحباءه، يعتبره هل سمعت عن جمهورية بيافرا؟ هل نمى إلى علمك شيء عن الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية؟ نعم كان هناك حرب وهناك دعم عربي-مصري بالدرجة الأولى- لأحد الأطراف ودعم اسرائيلي لطرف آخر. قراءة أدب الشعوب القصية سيفتح عينيك على أمور لم تكن تعرفها، ستتعرف على ثقافات وحقب تاريخية لم تكن تعرف أنها وُجدت؛ ستتعلم الكثير. تطل الحرب بوجهها الأشد بشاعة، ووجهها دائما قبيح، غير أنها أشنع عندما تكون حربا غير متكافئة. فبينما يدفع أحد الأطراف ثمنها عرقا ودماءاً، يضحي بأجلها بقوت أطفاله، بدواء والدته، بهنأة نومه وفناء أحباءه، يعتبرها الطرف الآخر مجرد رياضة عنيفة، تأكل من يومه بعضه ثم يأخذ بعدها حماما دافئا وينسى كل شيء. ياله من أمر مؤلم! تعرفتُ على تشيماماندا أديتشي لأول مرة عن طريق خطاب في مؤتمر تيديكس، تحدثت فيه عن خطورة النظرة الأحادية لبلد أو عرق أو شخص. خطاب شيق رشيق الفكر، سيعطيك لمحة عن طريقة تفكير هذا المرأة الفريدة: http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_a... ذلك الخطاب شجعني على قراءة أحد أهم أعمال الكاتبة: نصف شمس مشرقة، رواية أقل مايقال عنها أنها ناضجة. ناضجة من حيث المضمون بحيث ناقشت موضوعا في غاية الأهمية والحساسية بمثل هذه الجدية والبحث الدؤوب. ناضجة من حيث التمثيل على مستوى الشخصيات حيث انتقت شخصيات تنتمي إلى طبقات مختلفة من المجتمع: أكاديميون، أثرياء، ريفيون وذوي الانتماء العسكري. وعلى الرغم من أن الرواية خُلقت لتكون في صف جمهورية بيافرا، إلا أنها لم تتوان عن كشف حقائق لها علاقة بالفساد المستشري في أوساط مقاومة بيافرا نفسها. راودت الكاتبة موضوع الحرب بتأن وبصيرة. فقد افتتحت الرواية بتصوير الحياة قبل الحرب: طموحات الناس، علاقات العرقيات مع بعضها، كعلاقة (أولانا) بطلة الرواية بمحمد، حبيبها المسلم. كذلك لم تنس التوطئة لأسباب المجزرة التي أدت إلى الحرب ألا وهي الإنقلاب الأول الذي أدى بشكل ما للمجزرة التي ارتكبها النيجيريون بحق الأيبو. قلة من الكتاب يتجشمون عناء شرح التدرج المنطقي للأحداث. تماما كما قال مريد البرغوثي-وهي نفسها استشهدت بهذا الاقتباس في خطابها الذي ذكرت- أن بوسع أي راوٍ أن يقلب الحقائق بمجرد أن يتجاوز أولا إلى ثانيا، أي ان يقفز إلى سرد النتائج دون التمعن في الأسباب. كأن تشجب هجوما للهنود الحمر على الرجل الأبيض متجاوزا كل ما ارتكبه الرجل الأبيض بحق السكان الأصليين. الخلاصة هي أن أديتشي أحسنت صُنعا بتمثيل الخير والشر في أغلب عناصر الرواية. حتى أنها لم تكتف بتقديم صحفي أمريكي واحد بل اثنين، أحدهما مستهتر عنصري والآخر متعاطف مشدوه. أتمنى ان يقرأ خالد حسيني هذه الرواية ويتعلم ولو قليلا على هذا الصعيد. ما أعجبني أيضا هو التدرج في سيرورة الأحداث، حيث ينكشف الستار في مستهل الرواية عن أشخاص عاديين يعاقرون هموما ومشاكل يومية، ثم تبتلعهم دوامة الحرب فتصبح هي شغلهم الشاغل، وتقلب كل شيء، فتهين كم من عزيز وترضي كم من لئيم. كما أرفع للكاتبة القبعة لبراعتها في تصوير الوتيرة التي تذوي بها الحماسة للحرب، تبدأ بطبول ورقصات وقصائد، وتمر بخسائر وحرائق ورعب، ثم تنتهي بنحيب صامت. في حرب بيافرا كما في مجزرة راوندا كما حصل ويحصل في كثير من بقاع العالم الثالث، ثمة بذرة استعمارية نجسة، اصطفت عرقية أو ديانة معينة وأوهمتها بالفوقية، وما إن يتألب عليها بقية العرقيات حتى يرفع الاستعماري يده قائلا إني بريء منك إني أخاف الله رب العالمين. صحيح أن وسوسة المستعمر هي الدافع ولكن لا نبرئ الآذان التي أنصتت والعقل الذي لم يستوعب بعد بدعة التعايش والمواطنة المتساوية. أنوه اخيرا بأن وتيرة السرد متأنية، لذا قد يضيق بعض القراء بها ذرعاً. ليست مملة ولكن متمهلة كما يجدر برواية تطرح موضوعاً بهذه الحساسية. كفاني ثرثرة!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    An extraordinary novel about a time/place that I know little about except - as the author mentions through one of her characters - as the device used by Western parents to get their children to finish their dinners. What is amazing about this novel is how Adichie creates a set of characters involved in regular domestic affairs (working, studying, falling in love, being in love, cheating or worried about cheating, finding an identity, growing up, just generally living, etc. etc.) within the conte An extraordinary novel about a time/place that I know little about except - as the author mentions through one of her characters - as the device used by Western parents to get their children to finish their dinners. What is amazing about this novel is how Adichie creates a set of characters involved in regular domestic affairs (working, studying, falling in love, being in love, cheating or worried about cheating, finding an identity, growing up, just generally living, etc. etc.) within the context of Nigeria's civil war and the creation (and starvation) of Biafra. Then, within the set of characters, she subtly arranges them so that they exist in social strata that we rarely see or give credit to, when conducting our armchair political analysis from afar. Ever so gently, but oh-so-directly, she explains the West's complicity in allowing a level of suffering that is almost unimaginable. Yet - she stays within the framework of a conventional, domestic drama. She takes us back and forth in time from the pre-revolutionary early 60s to the midst of the Biafran war in the late 60s. This structure works for a whole bunch of different reasons, one of which is that the events of the novel unpeel in a way that both reveals and adds layers of complexity, with the effect that we really get to know these characters over time - without the thing bloating up to be a huge, epic, family drama. We live their history with each other, with them. We see their shifting alliances, their conflicts, their individual idiosyncrasies, their humanity. But with each switch in time (and a couple of other devices that I'll leave you to find out) - we also see the day-to-day horror as it unfolds. Subtle details that foreshadow and then recall key events that mark each phase of each character's decline as the war unfolds. So it is a domestic drama - very conventional - within a novel about a truly horrific series of events, with these almost surreal, grisly details shown to the reader through the eyes of these characters - privileged characters, for the most part. We see how their relative privilege declines - how society 'evens out' in a time of great deprivation. We see, as one character says, "There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable." Technically, I think this novel is almost perfection. But ultimately what I love most about it is how much I cared for these characters, how much I felt for each of them as their stories unfolded. This Adichie, she can really write.

  19. 5 out of 5

    James

    This book came as somewhat of a revelation to me and also a huge relief. This was after having recently read and been disappointed in: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) – a similarly high profile book lauded with both critical and popular acclaim, also set against a (very broadly speaking) similar backdrop of a war torn country – albeit Afghanistan rather than Nigeria / Biafra. ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is an extremely well written, very human story and emotionally authentic story told from very dif This book came as somewhat of a revelation to me and also a huge relief. This was after having recently read and been disappointed in: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) – a similarly high profile book lauded with both critical and popular acclaim, also set against a (very broadly speaking) similar backdrop of a war torn country – albeit Afghanistan rather than Nigeria / Biafra. ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is an extremely well written, very human story and emotionally authentic story told from very different perspectives of the main characters of the onset, effects and immediate aftermath of the Nigeria / Biafra civil war (1967-70). The story is told in a very believable way with authentic and real feeling characters, of the futility and pointlessness of war, of the ensuing cruelty, barbarism and the real human cost – very much up close and personal. It’s about how war changes (irrevocably?) the countries involved and the surviving people within those countries. The novel successfully highlights and evokes devastation on both macro and micro levels. There are shocking, sickening and very powerful images herein of the immediate and direct effects of violence, expertly conveyed, which I think will stay with me for a very long time. Whilst providing a wider perspective on this period of history – importantly the historical side never dominates or overwhelms the central and very human stories providing the basis for this novel. The strength and power of the narrative contains and strongly conveys the real dramatic power of the events, both big and small, contained and linking the bigger story. It is the way in which the main characters are so strongly defined and contrast so well with each other, and yet their stories effortlessly inter-mesh with each other in an entirely believable and convincing way which is so masterly. At times poetic, dramatic (never melodramatic) at others prosaic (in a positive way) this is a very well written, well-constructed, unpredictable, absorbing and compelling book which is without doubt a ‘must read’. To my shame I knew very little about this war and period of Nigerian / Biafran history – I now at least have one fascinating perspective on the disturbing events and aftermath of this period. Based on the strength of this novel, I will without a doubt be reading this authors ‘Americanah’ and ‘Purple Hibiscus’ – hopefully in the very near future.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    4.5 stars for showing me how uneducated I was (am). Gonna cry now, thank you. Also, men are trash and that is all. TW - graphic violence, graphic rape, war

  21. 4 out of 5

    Emer

    “The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with the frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter. She would no longer exist limply, waiting to die.” Half of a Yellow Sun follows the lives of ordinary people in Nigeria during the 1960s; the time just before the Nigeria-Biafra war and during the war itself. It is an unflinching account of the tolls war takes on regular people. We see good peop “The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with the frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter. She would no longer exist limply, waiting to die.” Half of a Yellow Sun follows the lives of ordinary people in Nigeria during the 1960s; the time just before the Nigeria-Biafra war and during the war itself. It is an unflinching account of the tolls war takes on regular people. We see good people do good things and good people do bad things. That’s the thing about war, it changes everyone. No one knows how they will come out the other side…or if indeed they will come out the other side. I loved this book. I just utterly loved it. Loved loved loved LOVED!! Just…. it was just breath taking…. I don’t know how Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does it but this is my second time reading a book by her and this is my second time giving her a five star rating… I DON’T GIVE THEM OUT THAT EASILY!!!!!!!! *shocked face*… Oh I don’t know… my emotions are all over the place after this book. I have so many feelings, this book DESTROYED me!!! UTTERLY destroyed me!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved these characters and at times I hated them, I hated what war did to them….I HATED THIS BOOK!!! Ok blatant lie …but OH MY GOD DID IT MAKE ME FEEL SO VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh there were times when I thought my heart would burst… Ok I shall endeavour to calm down and make some sort of sense with this review… You will have to forgive my knowledge of Nigerian history, it is very limited but this is my basic understanding of the background to the Nigerian Civil War. Please correct me if I am wrong. Nigeria in the 1960s was just extricating itself from British colonial rule. However, it was a country that was made up of a multitude of different ethnic groups including the Igbo in the South East, the Yoruba in the South West and North Central, and the Hausa in the North. Despite gaining its freedom there was still a great deal of influence from Nigeria’s colonisers who wanted to maintain a hand in its resources and these influences had a strong hold in the Northern-dominated federal government. A civil war broke out in the years 1967 to 1970 when the Republic of Biafra was declared in the south east. “The real tragedy of a postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.” Half of a Yellow Sun begins in the early 1960s and we are introduced to a poor, young Igbo boy named Ugwu. Ugwu has just been employed as a houseboy for the ‘Master’, a man called Odenigbo. Odenigbo is middle class and a maths professor at the university in Nsukka. He is also a radical. Every evening he and his friends partake in political debate and he takes Ugwu under his wing and encourages him to read. Soon after beginning working for the Master, Olanna, Odenigbo’s lover comes to live with them. Olanna is the daughter of a wealthy Lagos businessman and she has been educated in London. The book also introduces us to Olanna’s twin sister Kainene. Where Olanna is incredibly moralistic and passionate with her heart, Kainene is more closed-off, more protected. Kainene is in a relationship with a British man called Richard. The story that follows builds up to the Nigerian civil war…. We see the romantic relationships of these characters in happier pre-war times; "This was love: a string of coincidences that gathered significance and became miracles." We see the closeness of the sisters, the education of Ugwu, we see the development of friendships, the daily on-goings of regular life but we are always keenly aware of the political unrest ticking away underneath the surface and when the massacres of the Igbo people in 1966 begin life for our main characters changes irrevocably. When I read those scenes I felt so physically ill….just gut wrenching…. Loyalties are then tested, bonds are broken and the once close group of characters splinters apart. To see a family divided… War… what it does to people… oh there are no words… “After the rally, she and Odenigbo drove to the staff club. Students had gathered on the hockey field nearby, burning paper effigies of Gowon around a glowing bonfire; the smoke curled into the night air and mixed with their laughter and chatter. Olanna watched them and realised with a sweet surge that they all felt what she felt, what Odenigbo felt, as though it were a liquid-steel instead of blood that flowed through their veins, as though they could stand barefoot over red-hot embers.” No one comes out unscathed from war. NO ONE. And that is well evidenced in this novel. We see wrong doings on all sides…colonial interference, genocide and starvation as war tactics on one side, and atrocities committed against their own people on the other. No one is blameless. Adichie doesn’t shy away from showing the violence and excessive cruelty committed against the every-day ordinary citizen. At a more personal level there is betrayal among our characters: they make good decisions, and bad decisions. The family rips apart. The book tells of youths becoming soldiers, people feeling trapped… There is so much hopelessness, depression, anger, hatred, love, loyalty, forgiveness… This book demonstrates the complexities of what it means to be human and how war makes us both unhuman and even more human at the same time. Again, no one is ever blameless after war. “There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable” Adichie writes such vivid multi-layered characters. No one is perfect, no one is idealised; they are all utterly human and fallible. In this book characters you have fallen in love with will test that love; this book will hurt your soul…as Adichie says in her author’s note ’agha ajoka’, war is very ugly. I wept openly reading this book. I loved the characters fiercely and I experienced pain and suffering with them. This is all down to Adichie’s wonderful writing. She showed me as a reader the horribleness of the Nigerian civil war through personal tragedies. So I connected whole heartedly with all the characters and their plight. “Is love this misguided need to have you beside me most of the time? Is love the safety I feel in our silences? Is it this belonging, this completeness? Ugwu however, was my personal favourite. I loved him. Here was a young boy just trying to make his way in the world and to be caught up in war and politics and see how it changed him, scarred him… See the decisions he made, decisions he did not make… No character has ever made me feel as much as he did. He made me feel love, he made my heart sore and then he took it and crushed it and rebuilt it once more… I just can’t explain it, you have to read this book. “…the casual cruelty of this new world in which he had no say grew a hard clot of fear inside him.” A quote from the book that I want to share regards the character Richard. Richard is British and a writer. On one occasion he meets with other Western journalists who are writing about the civil war but becomes greatly disillusioned by them when they ask for more information about the death of a foreign national. This passage haunted me…it sadly rings so true. “Richard exhaled. It was like somebody sprinkling pepper on his wound: thousands of Biafrans were dead, and this man wants to know if there is anything new about one dead white man. Richard would write about this, the rule of Western journalism: 100 dead black people equal one dead white person.” To me when someone says Biafra I think about starvation. I think about why Médecins Sans Frontières was founded. I think about all those horrible photographs of malnourished children. At the beginning of the book we see middle-class Odenigbo and upper class Olanna and Kainene as having plenty of food…the latter stages of the book drastically contrasts this and we are shown how the people in the Republic of Biafra were left to starve, how food channels were cut off from them. Children suffered from kwashiorkor, a severe form of malnutrition and were left to die in refugee camps. “Kainene took the baby inside and gave it to another woman, a relative of the dead woman whose bony body was quivering; because her eyes were dry, it took Olanna a moment to realise that she was crying, the baby pressed against her flattened, dry breasts.” The struggles of Olanna to attempt to get food for her family are particularly harrowing. We see a once proud woman beg and risk her life over a simple tin of corned beef… It was shocking, moving, horrific…all of the above. "…his eyes saw the future. And so she did not tell him that she grieved for the past…” Ok maybe I’ve made this book sound so negative as if it is all doom and gloom… But the human spirit is resilient. And good God are these characters and these people ever so resilient! So while they live through the most extreme horrors this book is also strangely uplifting in that people rising from the ashes kind of way. Never underestimate the strength of character of the oppressed. To me this is a book about forgiveness; forgiveness between peoples and between individual people. It is a book about healing divisions and reuniting what was once splintered and broken. Oh this book….. I know I’ve probably over quoted in this review but I just could not help myself…and there are so many more passages and quotes that I wanted to use….. Oh this book…. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was well written, well researched, had a wonderful plot, characters that felt alive, stories that made my heart burst…I just loved it and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to any reader. Five stars “She told them about the Biafran flag. They sat on wooden planks and the weak morning sun streamed into the roofless class as she unfurled Odenigbo's cloth flag and told them what the symbols meant. Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the north, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future.” PS THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN ANNE FOR RECOMMENDING IT TO ME!!!!!!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Did you see the photos in sixty-eight Of children with their hair becoming rust: Sickly patches nestled on those small heads. Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust? _____ _____ _____ _____ I would have been in grade school, or just entering high school. Adolescent discomfiture was the main thing on my mind. What I knew of the larger world came from photojournalism: Life magazine pictures. Those images, it turns out, were permanent: fire hoses turned on in the South; bombs mushrooming above an Did you see the photos in sixty-eight Of children with their hair becoming rust: Sickly patches nestled on those small heads. Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust? _____ _____ _____ _____ I would have been in grade school, or just entering high school. Adolescent discomfiture was the main thing on my mind. What I knew of the larger world came from photojournalism: Life magazine pictures. Those images, it turns out, were permanent: fire hoses turned on in the South; bombs mushrooming above an Asian jungle. And Biafran babies. Sitting in the dirt, stomachs distended, enormous eyes indifferent to the buzzing flies. It was the Nigeria-Biafra War, 1967-70, that created those images. Yet, until I read this book, I couldn't tell you what it was all about. Now I know. Or think I do. It began with British rule, as these things often do. A rough country was carved out, and named, by Great Britain. Nigeria was formed by three distinct groups or tribes: the Igbo in the southeast, the Hausa in the north, and the Yoruba in the southwest. The Hausa were feudal and Islamic, ruled by emirs. The Igbo, by contrast adopted the British democratic system and Christianized. Britain encouraged these religious, linguistic, and ethnic differences to enhance its colonial grip. In the 40’s and 50’s, however, Nigeria gained its independence, largely on the efforts of the Igbo and Yoruba. The Hausa, fearing domination by the other Westernized groups, acquiesced only upon the condition that Nigeria remained divided into three distinct regions, the north having the clear majority. In 1966, an attempted coup by Igbo junior military officers resulted in the execution of major Hausa political leaders. A counter-coup resulted in the massacre of tens of thousands of Igbo. It was then that the Igbo attempted a succession. They would name their new country Biafra. They never had a chance. Like every country everywhere and at every time, the Biafran leaders waged a publicity campaign telling their own people they were winning. At gunpoint, Biafran military stopped their own people from fleeing enemy bombs because they couldn’t allow panic. That’s when the babies sat in the dirt. That’s when the look of hunger, a look beyond despair was captured. It was then that Britain increased its military support of Nigeria, and the lingering Biafran resistance was shattered. _____ _____ _____ _____ Imagine children with arms like toothpicks. With footballs for bellies and skin stretched thin. It was kwashiorkor--difficult word. A word that was not quite ugly enough, a sin. _____ _____ _____ _____ A historical novel should teach history and provide art. Well, this taught much history. And what I am ashamed to say took me over 40 years to finally understand. It made me go to other sources to corroborate what was written here and to answer - What now? _____ _____ _____ _____ You needn’t imagine. There were photos Displayed in gloss-filled pages of your Life. Did you see? Did you feel sorry briefly. Then turn round to hold your lover or wife? _____ _____ _____ _____ I was less thrilled with the characters. Each was fascinating in their own was and important to the story. Yet this was Igbo focused and University set. So the revolution was plotted in dining rooms by insufferable professors, ‘masters’ served by a lesser strata. Yes, sah. Westernized relationships of power plays, self-interest. A failure of understanding and communication. Two American journalists show up near the end. They smell bad, have their conclusions fully formed before asking a single question. They are overweight, red-headed, cowardly and both named Chuck. Was that necessary? Really? But there’s no denying the power of the story, and it has its own lingering images. _____ _____ _____ _____ Their skin had turned the tawny of weak tea And showed cobwebs of vein and brittle bone; Naked children laughing, as if the man Would not take photos and then leave, alone. _____ _____ _____ _____ The Half of a Yellow Sun comes from the short-lived Biafran flag. The book has a secondary title, a book within the book. It is what the children in the picture are saying. It is what the poem is called: The World Was Silent When We Died.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    How long do you think it would have taken Europe to move past the Middle Ages had there been no crusades or colonialism or any other garroting movement of one culture extending into another and taking back what it sees fit? What explains the disparity between the defeat of Germany and the crushing of Biafra beyond the matters of infrastructure and economic needs of cosmopolitan borders? Why is it that I have childhood memories of eat up, eat up, the children in Africa are starving, and it is onl How long do you think it would have taken Europe to move past the Middle Ages had there been no crusades or colonialism or any other garroting movement of one culture extending into another and taking back what it sees fit? What explains the disparity between the defeat of Germany and the crushing of Biafra beyond the matters of infrastructure and economic needs of cosmopolitan borders? Why is it that I have childhood memories of eat up, eat up, the children in Africa are starving, and it is only now that I discover the reality behind it? You say it was my fault that I didn't educate myself enough beyond the white-washed gilt of my blowhard Americanisms of the Millennial world; I ask what the fuck was all my schooling and 'respectable upbringing' for, if that wasn't a guarantee. There is a reason for the swamp of World War II pathos in entertainment, for the sniffing at "affirmative action" and "academics", for the pretenses of post-racism post-feminism post-"quality literature", and it's not me. I am a sucker for meaning and prettied up prose, I will grant you that. What I will refuse you is the promise that this work is more of the same. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a gift, a gift, and she more than deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. I'd be angrier about the old white men ubiquity of that shiny shiny shit for credibility if I thought it deserved her. Everyone knows the race question, the gender question, the power wielded through physiognomy and character definition, but few know how to deal with it. Fewer are those who can incorporate all that into a narrative that acknowledges the pain without focusing the guilt. If you get your hackles up over Adichie's portrayal of any of the humans here, make sure you take the time to reflect on the hows and wherefores, for unless you have a connection to Biafra lined with blood and guts instead of photographs and TIME magazine, she didn't write it for you. What a wonder, then, that this work has gotten the recognition it deserves. Almost a sign of hope for the myriad of worlds that are being continually passed over for the same old facile bigotry, but hey. Let's not get comfortable here. 'The war isn't my story to tell, really.' Ugwu nodded. He had never thought that it was. Rare is the work which shows every character's flaws in an ugly world without ever declaring its citizens the same. Rare is the author who embodies a fundamentally different persona without extenuating bitterness, removing the question of 'objectivity' and all its lying obfuscation from the table completely in her effort to tell a story of her heritage. There is an evil in these pages of hers that she refuses to separate out into a single entity, a lazy route that denies the reality of succulent coercion and silent conformation and relegates our lives along the lines of political ignorance and feel good charity. You are as compromised as I, and if you think I point this out due to vindictive holier-than-thou, forget it. My incentives are helplessness and rage, my methods are writing and contextualization, and if recent misogynistic extremism fuels my efforts more than Adichie's prose, well. Knowing my audience, you'll pay attention regardless. Ugwu thanked him and shook his head and realized that he would never be able to capture that child on paper, never be able to describe well enough the fear that dulled the eyes of mothers in the refugee camp when the bomber planes charged out of the sky. He would never be able to depict the very bleakness of bombing hungry people. But he tried, and the more he wrote, the less he dreamed. There is redemption here in all the right ways, but not for you. The bigger the gaping maw in your chest, the better.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Zanna

    War cuts across class, gender, race. The privileged Igbo woman. The Igbo houseboy from the village. The white Englishman in love with Igbo art. Three voices for this story, three hearts cut by the grief of a war from which are all somewhat protected: Olanna by her familiy's wealth, Ugwu by the status and resources of his employers, and Richard by his whiteness and foreign-ness. Yet their passions, their attachments, not least for Biafra itself, leave them exposed, vulnerable to the wounds they c War cuts across class, gender, race. The privileged Igbo woman. The Igbo houseboy from the village. The white Englishman in love with Igbo art. Three voices for this story, three hearts cut by the grief of a war from which are all somewhat protected: Olanna by her familiy's wealth, Ugwu by the status and resources of his employers, and Richard by his whiteness and foreign-ness. Yet their passions, their attachments, not least for Biafra itself, leave them exposed, vulnerable to the wounds they could have run to escape. To love is fiercely courageous, for in love we are at risk. But for many sunny chapters there is no war, only romance joyful and at times frustrated, jealousies, family quarrels silent and spoken, critique of (neo)colonialism, sexism, materialism, class oppression, old bigotries under scrutiny. This is important: what I love about fictions written around histories of horror is that they offer the pre-disaster openings of stories worth hearing, stories that I want to know the next chapter and the end of, stories I mourn when they are crushed, exploded, torn to shreds by the catastrophe. Adichie does it here, as Radwa Ashour does (magnificently, though very differently) in The Woman from Tantoura . Here, the calm before the storm has an additional political function as it works against the racist notions voiced by foreign journalists and media and indicts colonialism and its legacy for the conflict. Another satisfying element is physical description that affirms the beauty of blackness. Olanna and her sister are both lovingly described as dark-skinned and Olanna, regarded as more attractive, as full figured, rounded and curvy. Their mother's face is said to be so exquisitely lovely that her friends nickname her 'Art', a detail that throws light on the cultural location of and relationship between creative endeavour and aesthetic appreciation among this sophisticated milieu. Adichie's warmth and compassion as a writer infuse her characters and their trajectories. It's significant to me that Olanna in particular is stunned and sickened by brutality towards people she personally hates for their earlier behaviour towards her, and often suppresses distaste and anxiety to spare the feelings of others. Olanna's sister Kainene and Richard are also shown to have this deeply felt ethical sense, and it is this quality that is missing from the people who are mocked and villified by their own words in Adichie's light: it is empathy here that divides the vile from the virtuous, not style, not charm. Kainene is blunt, taciturn, often scornful, and her friend, the army General Madu, is tactless and unfriendly, but Adichie proves their high worth. The most execrable characters, the appallingly racist Susan and some of the other whites, are unable to relate to or recognise black Africans as people. This is precisely the sociopathy of whiteness. Between these poles are the small kindnesses, cruelties, foibles and prejudices of ordinary folk, generously and colourfully painted in Adichie's lively, naturalistic style. For me the most intriguing and touching relationship is between Olanna and her twin Kainene, but both of the central romantic loves are also compelling, since Adichie's choice of narrative voice has Richard, insecure and besotted, worrying over his relationship with Kainene, whose thoughts always have to be guessed at, and Olanna and Odenigbo enjoy a passion that brings them both to blazing life (it's very erotic). The device of having only one partner narrate also enables her to show intense trauma from the perspective of the afflicted when Olanna breaks down because of what she has witnessed, and later from another side when Odenigbo withdraws into silent depression after a personal loss. I think Adichie's ability to give shape to so many different qualities and depths of connection between people is exceptional. If character and relationships are what stand out about the writing here, rendering a large cast believeable and beloved, then that isn't at the expense of suspenseful plotting. Adichie makes full use of the dramatic potential of having three voices converge, retreat from each other, track back over different memories, cover different ground. Ugwu's perspective works his identification with Olanna and especially her love partner Odenigbo to elaborate the amusing, affectionate sketch of his personality , but also bears witness to ugly undersides of events. Richard's consciousness often reveals a sense of entitlement and egotism, but he also has humility and a redeeming capacity for love. Adichie suggests that whites involved with Africa have hard learning to do. Richard and Ugwu are both 'educated' in the course of events, and in a sense their learning obliges them to exchange roles, a politically significant resolution gracefully attained. While the braided structure has non-linear elements and multivalent descriptive modes, the three narrators are all reliable and the narrative has a certain slightly fatalistic obediance that eases towards comfortable novelistic cliché. For me this results in a cosiness that makes a harsh world more habitable, just as cliche makes a language more speakable, makes relating ourselves easier, if less precise. It is reassuring that the stories corroborate; this happened. For a history still suppressed, a steadfast bearing witness feels necessary. Yet there is an edge of postmodernist sensibility here, an internal commentary and second handedness emerging as another writer is imagined remaking the tales. Thus, Adichie, who has purported to speak for three people, gently reveals the illusion, and reminds us again of the danger of the single story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The thing about Chimamanda Adichie is, she's so appallingly good. This is the second book I've read by her and both times I'm just, like, the whole way through, I can't believe how fucking good this book is. She's perfectly positioned to be one of the great writers of our time, with her global heritage and global stories - she was born in Nigeria and continues to split her time between there and the US. She is exactly the way novels are going. And she's so good at writing them! We're watching on The thing about Chimamanda Adichie is, she's so appallingly good. This is the second book I've read by her and both times I'm just, like, the whole way through, I can't believe how fucking good this book is. She's perfectly positioned to be one of the great writers of our time, with her global heritage and global stories - she was born in Nigeria and continues to split her time between there and the US. She is exactly the way novels are going. And she's so good at writing them! We're watching one of the greats create herself, and that's very exciting. For Half of a Yellow Sun, her second book, she reaches back to her parents' lives, into the catastrophic Biafran War of the 60s. It's a war novel. Not at first - she spends about the first half introducing us to her characters: twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, their husbands the intellectual Odenigbo and the white guy Richard, and Olanna's houseboy Ugwu. The perspective shifts chapter by chapter between Ugwu, Olanna and Richard. All are interesting; Adichie pulls off the immense feat of making this part fully engaging, so you're not just waiting for the war. Of course she pulls it off, she's fucking balls. But the war does come, and you get - oh, Adichie would love this comparison - sortof a Gone With the Wind collapse from wealth to poverty. The family is Igbo - those are the people who seceded from Nigeria, fighting against the Yoruba, the other major Nigerian ethnic group, and also the Hausa. This second half is nasty stuff, so be warned: as Adichie's father would say, agha ajoka. War is very ugly. It's an actual epic, like they used to make in the olden days, ambitious and powerful. I still like Americanah just slightly better, but I wouldn't want to have to choose just one. Appendix: Soundtrack Music is important to Adichie - she's one of the rare writers who can really talk about music - and here the soundtrack is the Nigerian Highlife genre, a brand of Afropop. It's awesome and there's a compilation available on Spotify and Youtube. Sound quality is absolute shit on it; Vol. 2 is slightly better quality, but it has less Rex Lawson and it's missing this glorious cover of "Grazing in the Grass," which I only knew from this awesome psychedelic soul version. Turns out they just made up those lyrics, who knew.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed

    إذا فهذه إفريقيا (التى ننتمي إليها إسما فقط) , هى إفريقيا التى نادراً ما تقابلها أو تشاهدها أو حتى تسمع عنها . إفريقيا الساحرة , حقا إنها لساحرة , فهى المجتمع الغامض , الجامع لشتى الحضارات والثقافات والثروات الغنية فى خليط ممتع, ولسؤال الأهم , هل يستطيع عمل أدبى ما فى تقديم ذلك السحر ؟ هذا ما ستقابله فى هذا العمل الفريد. ببساطة : نيجيريا الستينات , بطائفيتها القبيحة المدمرة السافكة للدماء . رواية واقعية (حقيقية) ليس فقط الانتماء لفن الواقعية كنوع روائى ما , بل هى الواقعية الحية التى تضعك فى قلب ال إذا فهذه إفريقيا (التى ننتمي إليها إسما فقط) , هى إفريقيا التى نادراً ما تقابلها أو تشاهدها أو حتى تسمع عنها . إفريقيا الساحرة , حقا إنها لساحرة , فهى المجتمع الغامض , الجامع لشتى الحضارات والثقافات والثروات الغنية فى خليط ممتع, ولسؤال الأهم , هل يستطيع عمل أدبى ما فى تقديم ذلك السحر ؟ هذا ما ستقابله فى هذا العمل الفريد. ببساطة : نيجيريا الستينات , بطائفيتها القبيحة المدمرة السافكة للدماء . رواية واقعية (حقيقية) ليس فقط الانتماء لفن الواقعية كنوع روائى ما , بل هى الواقعية الحية التى تضعك فى قلب الحدث , الرواية تحكى المواقف وتصف الأشخاص والأحداث , لا تُقدم لك الرواية حكم الحياة , بل تقدم لك الحياة نفسها لتستخلص أنت موعظتها . رواية بسيطة . ببساطة مطلقة : من خلال شخصيات تنتمى لمختلف الاتجاهات والتيارات والخلفيات الثقافية المختلفة(والحيوات) الغريبة عن بعضها , من خلال تلك الشخصيات قدمت لك الكاتبة مجتمع بأكمله تضافرت الظروف الداخلية منه والخارجية عنها , والتى اضطرته , تضافرت كل تلك العوامل فى تشكيله , تشكيل غريب ومخالف للناموس الطبيعى فى تشكيل المجتمعات , مما أدى إلى النتيجة المحتومة والطبيعبة وهى أن يسفك دماء بعضه. أعتقد من الظلم أن نركز الضوء على شخصية معينة فى العمل , لأنها كلها شخصيات محورية ساهمت فى تشكيل العمل , عن من نتحدث : عن الأستاذ الجامعي الثورى صاحب حس الفقر الملازم له فدفعه إلى الاهتمام بقضاياهم , أم عن الأختين (التوأم) وكل واحدة منها مختلفة عن أختها اختلاف شاسع , أم عن الصبى (الخادم) , أم عن (ريتشارد) ذلك الإنجليزى التائه الحالم بعمل عن تلك الأرض التى سحرته , أم عن الأشخاص المكونة للأحداث النيجيرية السياسية من جنرالات الجيش ورجال السياسة ورجال الأعمال , وكلهم برعت الكاتبة فى تصوير شخصياتهم بطريقة متمكنة مبدعة. وان كانت بعض الأحداث معبرة أكبر التعبير : كعجز الأوروبى (الجنسى) أمام جميلته الإفريقية التى استاطعت السيطرة الكاملة عليه , أم عن عشق الخادم الصغير (الخفى ) وما إلى ذلك من الأحداث ذات الدلالة الكبيرة. برعت الكاتبة فى تصوير المجاذر الطائفية بكل مهارة , برعت فى تقديم تلك الاضطرابات العِرقية البغيضة , براعة صادقة صادمة . من حيث اللغة : أعتقد أن الترجمة جيدة رغم بعض الهفوات البسيطة فى ثنايا العمل . التطور فى الأحداث سلس جدا ومتسلسل بصورة منطقية جيدة. فى المجمل : عمل مميز وممتاز وممتع .

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole~

    The world has to know the truth of what is happening because they simply cannot remain silent while we die. - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Adichie's novel illuminates the reality and disintegration of Nigerian life in wartime during the 1960s. The Biafran war waged between 1967-70 was Nigeria's politically and ethnically charged battle of North vs South, specifically the southeastern region, where the unsuccessful fight for secession left 1 million civilians dead. Half of a yellow sun describes the The world has to know the truth of what is happening because they simply cannot remain silent while we die. - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Adichie's novel illuminates the reality and disintegration of Nigerian life in wartime during the 1960s. The Biafran war waged between 1967-70 was Nigeria's politically and ethnically charged battle of North vs South, specifically the southeastern region, where the unsuccessful fight for secession left 1 million civilians dead. Half of a yellow sun describes the Biafran flag; it symbolized the struggle of its people for independence and a brighter tomorrow. Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future. The novel features the daily lives of Igbo people of different social levels from the well educated and bourgeois to illiterate country peasants. Adichie's characters are strongly defined individuals whose personal lives and interrelationships go through fragmentation and change, their rise and fall in violent tandem with the country's horrific civil war. There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.. Although the story centers on the love-hate conflict between twin sisters Olanna and Kianene, moving from jealousy, betrayal, and distrust, the more compelling tale belonged to Ugwu - the good natured, loyal houseboy - who rose up through better education, but miserably fell when, conscripted in the army, his vicious regrettable action would leave him self-loathing, morally decayed and damaged forever. This was the most visceral war novel I've read in a while, on a region not well known to me. Adichie's voice is powerful, genuine, resonant in the narrative of Biafra's painful victory and defeat; in the story of the resulting broken lives, and a country's blood -soaked odyssey. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard. - James Baldwin ************* Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I had no interest in writing a polemic. I was aware that the book would in the end reflect my world view--it would be a book concerned with the ordinary person, a book with unapologetic Biafran sympathies, but also a book that would absolutely refuse to romanticize the war. I wanted to avoid making Biafra a utopia -in -retrospect, which would have been disingenuous-- it would have sullied the memories of all those who died. - African "Authenticity" and the Biafran Experience by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from Transition, No. 99 (2008)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sally Howes

    HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is a very important and very readable postcolonial novel. Centering on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-70, it has a lot to teach both about postcolonial Nigeria and about the art and import of storytelling. Language is a central concern in this book, including the occasional tongue-in-cheek play on words, such as Richard being (emotionally) "stirred" by a ropework pot. I got the sense that the author was almost deliberately deceptive in the simplicity of her language, covering HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is a very important and very readable postcolonial novel. Centering on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-70, it has a lot to teach both about postcolonial Nigeria and about the art and import of storytelling. Language is a central concern in this book, including the occasional tongue-in-cheek play on words, such as Richard being (emotionally) "stirred" by a ropework pot. I got the sense that the author was almost deliberately deceptive in the simplicity of her language, covering a much greater facility and more playful attitude to language than is at first apparent. The language used is unsophisticated, which makes the occasional moments of searing insight or incisive statements so much more striking. For example: "He [Richard] laughed. The sound spilt out of him, uncontrolled, and he looked down at the clear, blue pool and thought, blithely, that perhaps that shade of blue was also the colour of hope." The tone and cadence of each chapter matches that of the point-of-view character, despite being written in the third person. There is something characteristically African about Olanna's and Ugwu's chapters, something more straightforward but no less deeply felt, whereas Richard's chapters have a more introverted, tentative, sometimes even wishy-washy feel to them. While the language of the narrative does change in accordance with the age and nature of the current point-of-view character, overall it is endearingly artless - simple but not simplistic, with subtle shades of color to it. Adichie often displays a keenly observational, witty turn of phrase, especially in her descriptions of people. I found this sentence both humorous and evocative: "She began to look more and more like a fruit bat, with her pinched face and cloudy complexion and print dresses that billowed around her body like wings." In general, this book follows the "show, don't tell" method, so that it is unburdened with large chunks of information but is, rather, an intriguing puzzle to be deciphered bit by bit as you read. Each chapter introduces a new character who is within the orbit of the focal character of the previous chapter. In this way, the characters are enabled to comment on and give contrasting perspectives of each other, so that the reader does not have to dogmatically accept a given view of each character but can draw their own conclusions instead. Is Odenigbo a passionate revolutionary or a deluded idealist? Is Olanna sweet and smart or hopelessly naive? Is Kainene a cold fish or a woman of mysterious depths? You decide. There is a definite feeling that the characters in this book are there as conduits through which a larger lesson about Nigerian history is delivered. The characters cover almost every possible viewpoint - there is Odenigbo the "revolutionary lecturer"; Olanna, his sweet, beautiful lover from a privileged family; Ugwu, their houseboy from a very poor family; Kainene, Olanna's cynical businesswoman sister; and Richard, Kainene's white English ex-pat lover, the earnest outsider. The older person's perspective is provided by a host of minor characters. Olanna, Ugwu, and Richard are the three point-of-view characters, which offers the most diverse range of viewpoints. Thus, I very much felt that the characters of HALF OF A YELLOW SUN were vehicles for the plot rather than necessarily being themselves the focus of the story. This is one example of how Olanna's life is inextricable from the war she is trying to survive: "It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter. She would no longer exist limply, waiting to die. Until Biafra won, the vandals would no longer dictate the terms of her life." This is another: "... she felt as if she were about to turn a corner and be flattened by tragedy." If the characters are vehicles for lessons in Nigerian history and politics, they are first-class vehicles. They make these lessons heartfelt and very personal. I will have a hard time forgetting "the second coup," especially thanks to Olanna's experience with it. However, paradoxically, I also often felt a certain detachment from the characters in this book, although this was more pronounced with some than with others. Ugwu was the easiest to feel affection for, and, to an extent, Olanna; but Odenigbo remained quite inscrutable throughout for me, followed closely by Kainene. I found it to be a real shame that these so potentially complex characters were not developed much more fully. It was odd to feel a sense of detachment from the characters yet at the same time recognize how often the narrative provided exceptionally astute insights into human nature. For example, at one point when Olanna is considering Odenigbo: "Then she wished, more rationally, that she could love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying; need was the choicelessness she often felt around him." Perhaps overshadowed by the meta-narrative about Biafra and by the romantic tales woven through it is the fact that this is also very much a story about sisters - how much they share, how much they are willing to forgive, how strong their bond is: "'There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable,' Kainene said." Something I was not expecting was for this book to be funny, but the wry observations of Ugwu's childish perspective provide plenty of levity. For example: "'He's one of these village houseboys,' one of the men said dismissively, and Ugwu looked at the man's face and murmured a curse about acute diarrhoea following him and all of his offspring for life." For the white, Western reader, HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is a gentle but persistent reminder that theirs is not the only valid point of view, that there is a whole other world out there full of very different but equally important cultures and perspectives. This is gently introduced by Ugwu's careful and often awestruck exploration of his new home, which is extremely vivid, providing a sense of newfound wonder at the "mod cons" we take for granted every day. One of the more humbling realizations for the Western reader of HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is just how much African cultures have to teach about family, community, generosity, and hospitality. This book is also enough to make those of us who only speak one language ashamed of our arrogance! HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is rich with non-English phrases and allusions to the many languages of Africa. Again, Ugwu provides a most evocative example: "Master's Igbo felt feathery in Ugwu's ears. It was Igbo coloured by the sliding sounds of English, the Igbo of one who spoke English often." There is a lot of information about Nigerian history and politics in this book, but it is quite easily digestible because it is presented in such diverse ways - from informal academic debates to conversations between lovers to the outline of a book. Discussing such issues with friends and colleagues in his home, Odenigbo says: "'... the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe ... I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.'" In the most basic terms, the politics of the book center on tensions between three groups: the Igbo, the Muslims, and the "marauding Europeans." After all of the horror stories we in the West have heard about Biafra, it is refreshing to be reminded by HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (whose title refers to the central symbol on the Biafran flag) that the country's secession from Nigeria began as an act of great hope. At one point, Olanna explains the significance of their new flag to a class of children: "... she unfurled Odenigbo's cloth flag and told them what the symbols meant. Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future." The dramas of the characters' personal lives are punctuated throughout by historical and political triumphs and disasters. Seeing the profound effects of these events on the characters in the book just highlights the fact that real Nigerians' or Biafrans' lives would have followed a similar course, with little distinction between the public and the private. The following remark is a chilling affirmation of how many lives were affected by the war: "'The foreigners said that one million died,' Madu said. 'That can't be ... It can't be just one million.'" In this stridently postcolonial book, Adichie uses the character of Richard to assert quite vigorously that only African people have the right and the ability to tell African stories well. I was slightly affronted by this. I do agree and appreciate that African people will most often be the best at telling the stories of their people - at one point, Kainene says to Richard in this context: "'And it's wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It's possible to love something and still condescend to it'" - but I dispute the inference that this is ALWAYS the case, without exception. (I would cite Barbara Kingsolver's THE POISONWOOD BIBLE as one such exception.) At the beginning of the feminist movement, the best women's literature was written by women - but there were exceptions, and they were important. There were some male authors who possessed the necessary respect, understanding, and skills to tell women's stories, and this is much more common today (an excellent recent example being Michel Faber's THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE). Perhaps Adichie considers post-colonial literature to be more raw and relevant today than feminist literature? That is just a question that occurs to me, I don't mean to put words into her mouth. However, I do wonder if her attitude to African literature is a little too divisive and exclusionary. Still, there is no denying the outsider's question: "How much did one know of the true feelings of those who did not have a voice?" HALF OF A YELLOW SUN gives a lilting but powerful voice to those who experienced the creation and collapse of Biafra, as well as to all the color, vigor, passion, gentleness, idealism, and community of Nigerians and Biafrans in the latter twentieth century. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who wants an engaging story to teach them about a different time and a different culture. ★This review can also be seen on my blog at feelthepowerofstory.wordpress.com★

  29. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    After reading "Americanah" earlier this year, I finally picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun". I had heard so many great reviews, I was worried it wouldn't live up to my high expectations, but I am very happy to report that it has. "Half a Yellow Sun" tells the stories of a cast of intriguing, flawed and very real characters around the years of the Biafran War. I have to admit, this conflict was, shockingly, not one I knew much about. It was not mentioned in my history clas After reading "Americanah" earlier this year, I finally picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun". I had heard so many great reviews, I was worried it wouldn't live up to my high expectations, but I am very happy to report that it has. "Half a Yellow Sun" tells the stories of a cast of intriguing, flawed and very real characters around the years of the Biafran War. I have to admit, this conflict was, shockingly, not one I knew much about. It was not mentioned in my history classes, not in school and not in university, and so I approached this book with little understanding of what I was about to learn. About a quarter of the way through, I kept feeling the urge to lay it aside and research some of Nigeria's history. Adichie has crafted a book that is hard to place into a genre. It is literary fiction, certainly, because this woman can write, but it is also history in the way it so thoroughly and thoughtfully illustrates the lives of all manner of different people during this horrible crisis. Like many children in the developed world, I grew up being told to eat what was on my plate, the image of the African child with its spindly arms and distended belly a present image to teach us to appreciate what we have. I did not know, however, that this image was even named Biafran Child, an effect of the starvation the Biafran's were subjected to. The characters in this book were very different from those in "Americanah". There was less humor, which would have felt ill at place in this story, and they all seemed somehow more adult that Ifemelu and Obinze in Adichie's other book. The story was well plotted, though at times, a little repetitive. I liked that it wasn't all hopeless and miserable, that the characters, even if they suffered, did not become caricatures of martyrs or victims, but rather survivors, which added a further dimension to them, developed them and made them into people I could easily consider real. "Half a Yellow Sun" is one of those books that will linger with me for a long time. I read a lot, and a lot of books sort of blur and fade in my memory, but there are some like this that stand out in one way or another - they have fascinating characters, exceptional writing or teach me something I didn't know before. I would recommend this to anyone! Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vani

    Half of a Yellow Sun and what it meant as inscribed on the flag of Biafra: ‘Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future’ --- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun The book is based on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-70, when millions of Biafrans died even as the world watched in silence (quite aptly also the title of a book within t Half of a Yellow Sun and what it meant as inscribed on the flag of Biafra: ‘Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future’ --- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun The book is based on the Nigeria-Biafra War of 1967-70, when millions of Biafrans died even as the world watched in silence (quite aptly also the title of a book within this book written by Ugwu, a houseboy, ‘The World was silent when we died’). Well, more than just a book about the war and how it affected lives of millions in Biafra, their relationships, their feelings of brotherhood, their livelihoods, 'Half of a Yellow Sun' is about human emotions, it is about things believed in, of causes fought for and then to see them all coming to a naught right in front of one’s eyes. In the author’s own words: ‘the histories of many African countries are similar. They show how passionately people believed in ideas that would eventually disappoint them, in people that would betray them, in futures that would elude them...what happens when the shiny things we once believed in begin to rust before our eyes?’ The prose is wonderfully vivid and the story is congruous with the problems prevailing in the country during that time. The author has created memorable characters, each with a voice of its own and the story line progresses smoothly. Use of multiple POVs leaves the reader with a better sense of understanding about the key characters and the turmoil going on in their lives. Kainene and Olanna are twins and aside their birth, they have nothing in particular that unites them. Once they come of age, while Kainene decides to assist her rich father in his splendid business, preferring as her boyfriend, a young white writer called Richard; Olanna choses to marry a revolutionary, a University Professor, Odenigbo. For some years, they live a happy life, away from each other, in their nests that they have tucked away in quiet corners of the country, Kainene in Port Harcourt and Olanna in Nsukka where her husband teaches at a University. They have all the comforts of life and a vivacious social circle with good food, merriment and entertainment in abundance until violent attacks on a particular community of Africans called Igbos forces war on their country. As thousands of Igbos are slaughtered by other communities, the ones remaining declare secession from Nigeria, declaring their state as another country, naming it Biafra. Being from the Igbo community themselves, both Kainene and Olanna are thrown into the middle of the war along with their families. What follows then is the story of how Kainene and Olanna’s families face the grim realities of war and what ensues in the aftermath, including extreme starvation, hunger, disease and dislocation. Unfortunately, Biafra does not get any recognition from any of the countries in the West, including US and the UK, and thus, at the end, it cedes control to Nigeria. But what about Kainene and Olanna and thousands like them? Will their life ever be normal again after witnessing the horrors of war and destruction? How has the war changed them as people? Are they more close now than they were before the war started? What does a war do to a nation, to its people, to its children? Africa today is a nation torn apart by strife and there’s no better text to understand what happens at ground zero than this book. A truly magnificent read, I must say:)

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