Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the latest “hidden gem” author I discovered … hidden meaning that, despite her popularity, until recently she was totally out of my bookish radar. After reading Americanah and enjoying her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story“, I wanted to discover more – Half of a Yellow Sun was up next!
Half of a Yellow Sun in a nutshell
The book tells the story of 3 main characters from Nigeria in the context of the Biafran civil war from 1967-1970. We get to know them before the war, then get even closer to the characters during the war, and understand a bit how their life continues after the war.
There is Olanna, beautiful and educated, daughter of a rich family. There is Ugwu, a young man from a very poor family, who gets the opportunity to become servant for a university teacher. And there is Richard, an English writer who comes to Nigeria to explore local art. Each has a unique story, a unique way to cope with the war and the radically changed world they experience.
By the way, the name of the book represents the symbol of the Republic of Biafra – the flag with a half of a yellow sun.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a masterpiece. Be warned, you’ll suffer and cry together with the characters. You’ll feel the injustice and the pain, the hope and the bravery. You’ll fear for them when bomb raids happen and smile when a relief flight manages to land with provisions.
For me, it was also a challenging read. On one hand, reading about the war is never easy – however, the characters and their journeys kept me going. Secondly, I felt that the narrative style was a bit more difficult to follow compared to Americanah (my review).
Oh, the war …
Once again, I found it terrifying how the world turns upside down during war times – property rights and bank accounts are nullified, people give up their principles, everybody tries to protect their family as much as possible, people die in unexpected ways.
And when we think that war and political instabilities are not a thing of the past – just look at Yemen, Afghanistan, Irak – things get even more frightening.
This was my third novel set in Nigeria (completely or partially), the other two being The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (my review) and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (my review). Each book brought a different perspective, but I also identified some common narratives.
Just as Adunni from The Girl with the Louding Voice, Ugwu has the chance to be in a context where education is not impossible, where he can reach something more than domestic slavery.
Also, Kainene, the twin sister of Olanna, reminded me of Ifemelu from Americanah – strong, more brave than other women from their social circles.
Half of a Yellow Sun – the movie
I was very excited when I found out there’s a movie made after the book. However, the movie turned up to be not as magical as I expected – it only follows the simplified storyline, and the narrative flow is very fragmented. A classic example of when the book is so much better than the movie.
While watching the movie with my husband I felt the need to share some more insights from the book, otherwise it would have been quite difficult to appreciate the beauty of the story.
To conclude, I recommend reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is rich and captivating, a brilliant blend of history and fiction. Read it if you are interested in historical fiction or if you want to discover the amazing Nigerian culture. Or if you want to discover Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – this is one of her most famous books, being awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2007.
If you read Half of a Yellow Sun – what’s your opinion on it? What other books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did you read?
‘Till next time … happy reading!