Half of a Yellow Sun


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WINNER OF THE BAILEYS PRIZE BEST OF THE BESTWinner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, this is a heartbreaking, exquisitely written literary masterpieceThis highly anticipated novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is set in Nigeria during the 1960s, at the time of a vicious civil war in which a million people died and thousands were massacred in cold blood.The three main characters in the novel are swept up in the violence during these turbulent years. One is a young boy from a poor village who is employed at a ...

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Aug 27, 2018

Out Of Africa

Chimamanda Adichie's highly -- praised 2006 novel "Half of a Yellow Sun" is based upon the Nigerian Civil War of 1967 -- 1970 between the central government of Nigeria and the would-be secessionist state of Biafra. Adichie grew up in Nigeria. She was born well after the end of the war, with many of her close relatives fighting for Biafra. In 2008. Adichie received a MacArthur Fellowship "Genius" Award. She divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

In some respects. Stephen Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" is a close parallel to "Half of a Yellow Sun". Crane and Adichie both wrote their books when young, and both described large and brutal Civil Wars that they had not seen. Both authors used stories from witnesses, their own reading, and their powers of imagination and language to recreate the war each described for their readers.

Adichie's book on the Nigerian Civil War is much longer and slower-paced than Crane's short, impressionistic novel of the American Civil War. "Half of a Yellow Sun" includes a large developed group of central characters and moves between personal experience and the larger story of the war. In 1960, Nigeria attained independence from Great Britain with high hopes. There were great tensions among the various groups pushed together in one nation. These tensions soon erupted into a long difficult conflict bringing brutality and starvation in its wake.

Adichie's book has five major characters, all of whom are drawn from the Biafran side of the war. The characters include two fraternal twin sisters, Olanna and Kaienene, Olanna's lover and eventual husband Odenigbo, a mathematics professor strongly committed to the revolution, Richard, an Englishman and writer and lover of Kaienene, and Ugwu an adolescent from a poor rural area who becomes Odenigbo's houseboy. The book begins with a middle-class intellectual environment in the fledgling new nation of Nigeria. It develops slowly, showing the relationships of the five characters and focusing on their economic and cultural differences. Adichie gradually weaves her characters into the unfolding story of coups, massacres, secession, and civil war. The book shifts between the early optimistic days in the early 1960s of the new Nigeria to the years of the war in the late 1960s. A long flashback chapter is sandwiched in the middle of the book. The settings have a slow cumulative impact and work gradually to bring together the personal and political aspects of the story.

The lengthy book drags in places, but the overall impact is moving and strong. The author's sympathies clearly lie with the people of Biafra in their efforts to establish their own nation. Adichie shows the war primarily from the perspective of Biafra. She captures to fortitude and suffering of Biafra's war effort and the horrific experiences of Biafra's people. The book allows the reader to see the situation that produced this terrible war and the suffering of the people of Biafra without necessarily forming a full, dogmatic judgment. The reader is given some sense of the experience.

I was fortunate to read this book after reading two books in Oxford University Press' "Very Short Introductions" series: the first about African history, African History: A Very Short Introduction" and the second about African religions, African Religions: A Very Short Introduction". These books stimulated my interest in Africa and showed me how much I don't know. Adichie's book is about a part of the world and about a conflict that do not receive the focus they deserve. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about the Nigerian Civil War and to think about Africa that Adichie offers in her book.

Robin Friedman


Jul 16, 2009

Right on

This book describes the period of the Biafra war and the emosional trama of the people in Nigeria


Apr 10, 2008

Excellent Read

This book was an excellent read - compelling, well-written, and a wonderful insight into Nigeria's troubled past the impact on her people.

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