Biafra tried to seperate itself from Nigera in a horrible civil war, from 1967 – 1970. 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, MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res, 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.