A little peruse through my book shelves recently brought me across “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I was first introduced to her work in one of my University courses, which instilled a curiosity in me to read more about her world on paper and this novel is one of my favourites. Plunging into the depths of history and pulling you back to the present, Adichie honours the memory of a war, largely forgotten by those not in Nigeria, except only to be associated with a time of ravaging famine. Her art of story-telling and heart wrenching prose makes this novel definitely one to add to your reading lists and I hope this review will help convince you why.
Today’s post is also in collaboration with the lovely Alanna from Iamagalaxygirl. Her blog is full of thoughtful, well written posts that are as genuine as their author. She has written a review on her book of the month as well, so head over to her blog to read more!
Olanna and Kainene, members of the Igbo elite, are the protagonists of the novel and share an intensely complex relationship laced with on-again-off-again mistrust and betrayal. Attached to men with different constitutions, the world of our characters is shaken when rumors of war and Biafran conflict arrive. Stepping into the shadows of Olanna and Kainene’s privileged world, we are also introduced to the drastically different world that Ugwu inhabits, the houseboy from a rural village.
Adichie’s plot hums with life as she embarks on a journey illustrating the paradoxes of loyalty and betrayal. “Half of a Yellow Sun” explores these themes through the sisters’ uneasy relationship. Their lives are inevitably joined together, like many other postcolonial people of Nigeria, as they and the nation at large struggle to come to terms with a fragile unity and a fraught political arena.
While Adichie did not live through the civil war herself, her imagination seems to have been highly impacted by it: reading articles on her biography shows us that while some of her own Igbo family survived Biafra, others did not. As is the norm with most authors drawing upon the ravages of war for creative inspiration, Adichie draws upon her country’s past violence with a careful fusion of ancestral disassociation and familial obsession.
This blend of detachment and intimacy gives “Half of a Yellow Sun” an empathetic tone that never succumbs to the simplifying impulses of literature. Unlike many mainstream authors, Adichie ensures that even the most noble of her characters have humanizing flaws, thus making them as human as you or me. She understands that novels, above all war novels, cannot easily survive a rush to judgment, as to do so not only trivializes the nature of her story but also the memory of the time she is alluding to.
“Half of a Yellow Sun” takes us inside ordinary lives laid waste by the all too ordinary unraveling of a nation ravaged by war. This novel has never been more relevant than it is now, in a day an age when political turmoil reigns supreme and the answer to every solution is another air strike. The novel stands as a measure of Adichie’s mastery of small things — and of the mess the world is in — that we see in country after country, again and again, with every page we turn. Its a harrowing read but well worth the time, and one that you’ll struggle to put down once you start.
Disclaimer: All reviews are honest opinions. I am not affiliated with any links mentioned above, unless otherwise stated. All photographs above have been taken by the author.