Half of a Yellow Sun

Last night, I finished the second book in my Chunkster Challenge, Half of a Yellow Sun, in which the author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of the small, short lived nation of Biafra.

Biafra tried to seperate itself from Nigera in a horrible civil war, from 1967 Р1970. Nigeria received support from the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, while Biafra was supported covertly by France, Rhodesia and South Africa. While Nigeria certainly had military superiority, they mainly won victory by shutting off borders and shooting down relief planes, causing a famine that killed over a million people. It was from the horrors of Biafra that the humanitarian group, M̩decins Sans Fronti̬res, was born.

Half of a Yellow Sun tells the story of this civil war from the point of view of three characters. Olanna, a wealthy woman who leaves her life of security and wealth behind to live with her revolutionary lover, Odenigbo. Richard, a British writer who comes to Africa because he falls in love with the art, and wishes to study it, and ends up falling in love with Olanna’s twin sister, Kainene. Ugwu, a young peasant from a village who comes to work as a houseboy for Ogenigbo.

There are some books that take awhile to pull you in, and when you read them, you’re not sure whether you will become involved with the story or not. Not to worry, Half of a Yellow Sun sucked me in from the first page:

Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair. Ugwu’s aunty said this in a low voice as they walked on the path. “But he is a good man,” she added. “And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day.” She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed on the grass.

Ugwu did not believe that anybody, not even this master he was going to live with, ate meat every day. He did not disagree with his aunty, though, because he was too choked with expectation, too busy imagining his new life away from the village. They had been walking for a while now, since they got off the lorry at the motor park, and the afternoon sun burned the back of his neck. But he did not mind. He was prepared to walk hours more in even hotter sun. He had never seen anything like the streets that appeared after they went past the university gates, streets so smooth and tarred that he itched to lay his cheek down on them. He would never be able to describe to his sister Anulika how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they looked like tables wrapped with leaves.

The story is hauntingly told, with moments of moral despair that threaten to pierce your soul. Perhaps that is overly dramatic, but parts of this book were horrible to read, and yet I was pulled back to the narritive. Ms. Adichie is clearly a gifted writer, and I am looking forward to reading her first book, Purple Hibiscus. Thanks to Lotus for recommending this book. I also highly recommend it.

16 thoughts on “Half of a Yellow Sun

  1. I also loved this book – and went on to read Purple Hibiscus, which is also excellent but not as good as Half Of A Yellow Sun. I hear Adichie is in the process of writing her third novel, and I will be one of the first readers to buy it!

  2. “The story is hauntingly told, with moments of moral despair that threaten to pierce your soul.”

    I do believe that you are a gifted writer, as well. 🙂

  3. I am so pleased you liked the book,J and thank you for your review and for the mention as well! I agree, some parts were really hard to read, but read we must because this is a little-known event for many of us here in North America. Apparently, it is not well known or discussed in Nigeria either and that is why this young author felt it incumbent upon her to write a book about this subject matter. You will be very moved by “Purple Hibiscus” but it is an altogether different read. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.

    J, I also wanted to let you know that you won a book at my blog. Congratulations! Do let me know which book you would like and where you would like us to send it. Thanks for participating!

  4. This seems like a book that would be a tough read. The subject is not the most uplifting, but from the sample you provided, the author certainly has a gift of painting a sense of wonder some people have when confronted with displays of western materialism.

  5. Hey, blogroll game-ing:
    It was such a fabulous book. I want to read her other book too.
    Also, from further down, why didn’t Charlie go outside with Desmond and then shut the door?

  6. I really liked this book, too, but I wish the author had spent more time with the house boy rather than some of the less important characters (like Richard and his stupid rope pot).

  7. Hi J I’m here from playing Dewey’s blogroll gaming as well. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun as much as I did! It is a heavy read but I find Adichie does well at conveying the resilience of humanity in the face of an overwhelming conflict.

    I’m one of those who find the craft displayed in her first novel superior to this one though — in fact it definitely ranks as one of my top favourite books I’ve ever read. I do hope you enjoy it as well.

  8. I’m looking forward to interviewing you about this book, and to reading it myself eventually.

    And I keep wanting to say when I come here, so I think I’ll just go ahead and do so… I love your photo! You look a little like Meryl Streep, but warmer. It’s a very welcoming photo.

  9. Another book for my list of books I want to read. Thanks for the review of it. Now if you could just find a way to help me read all these books on my list… 🙂

  10. Pingback: Half of a Yellow Sun: an interview with Jules : the hidden side of a leaf

  11. Pingback: Thinking About… » Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wins the Orange Prize for Half of a Yellow Leaf!

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