Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun led me first to Wikipedia to get a little background on Biafra:
The Republic of Biafra was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria. Biafra was inhabited mostly by the Igbo people (or Ibo) and existed from 30 May 1967, to 15 January 1970. The secession was led by the Igbo due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria and the creation of the new country, named after the Bight of Biafra (the Atlantic bay to its south), was among the complex causes for the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War.
That's Wikipedia's introduction to its section on Biafra. Half of a Yellow Sun, goes far beyond the dry facts. Adichie tells the story of the Igbo people, who were determined to establish a nation independent from Nigeria. The book starts before the civil war, when optimism is high and excitement fuels the people, and ends with the devastating defeat of Biafra.

The novel contains two intertwining stories: that of upper-class Olanna and her revolutionary husband, Odenigbo, and their houseboy, Ugwu; and that of Olanna's wealthy twin sister, Kainene, and her white lover, Richard. From lavish meals to roasted rats, Adichie follows the two families from the height of success to the daily struggle to survive.

Adichie is a phenomenal writer. Her language is lyrical, her descriptions rich, her dialog true. Her power to portray the images of Africa is astounding: the sights and smells of a country and its people are nearly palpable. The lushness of the first section of the book contrasts sharply and effectively with the starkness of latter two-thirds. We go from black party dresses to ripped rags, from a baby dressed in clean white linen to a little girl playing with shrapnel:
"Baby joined the thin children who ran around with their naked bellies wreathed in brown. Many of the children collected pieces of shrapnel, played with them, traded them. When Baby came back with two bits of jagged metal, Olanna shouted at her and pulled her ear and took them away. She hated to think that Baby was playing with the cold leftovers of things that killed."

This is an amazing book, haunting and memorable; a book that one cannot read without being staggered by the strength and will of humans to survive.

Other reviews of this book:
Caribous Mom
Jill at The Magic Lasso
Gautami at the Reading Room

(If you have reviewed this book and would like me to link to your review, please leave a link in the comments.)

5 comments:

Jill said...

This was a great book. I read it over the summer: http://mrstreme.livejournal.com/51189.html

Have a great day!
Jill =)

rjsbooklady said...

I'll be reading this in the coming months for the Book Awards Challenge, and I can't wait. Thanks for a great review.

Marci Johnson said...

I'm enjoying your reviews, as I am always looking for new books to read. I'm also a homeschooling mom, and a poet with an MFA degree. My blog is at http://marcijohnson.blogspot.com/.

NathanKP said...

Wow! That sounds like a very interesting book. I may consider adding it to my reading queue.

NathanKP - Imagination Manifesto

gautami tripathy said...

I have been reading short stories by Adichie. You can check those out on my blog by clicking on the short story review link on the top right sidebar. I love her writings.

I have read this as well as Purple Hibiscus.

Here is my review link of it:

Half of a Yellow Sun