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Half of a Yellow Sun Paperback – September 4, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria seceded in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra, a bloody, crippling three-year civil war followed. That period in African history is captured with haunting intimacy in this artful page-turner from Nigerian novelist Adichie (Purple Hibiscus). Adichie tells her profoundly gripping story primarily through the eyes and lives of Ugwu, a 13-year-old peasant houseboy who survives conscription into the raggedy Biafran army, and twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, who are from a wealthy and well-connected family. Tumultuous politics power the plot, and several sections are harrowing, particularly passages depicting the savage butchering of Olanna and Kainene's relatives. But this dramatic, intelligent epic has its lush and sultry side as well: rebellious Olanna is the mistress of Odenigbo, a university professor brimming with anticolonial zeal; business-minded Kainene takes as her lover fair-haired, blue-eyed Richard, a British expatriate come to Nigeria to write a book about Igbo-Ukwu art—and whose relationship with Kainene nearly ruptures when he spends one drunken night with Olanna. This is a transcendent novel of many descriptive triumphs, most notably its depiction of the impact of war's brutalities on peasants and intellectuals alike. It's a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing. (Sept. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From The New Yorker
Based loosely on political events in nineteen-sixties Nigeria, this novel focusses on two wealthy Igbo sisters, Olanna and Kainene, who drift apart as the newly independent nation struggles to remain unified. Olanna falls for an imperious academic whose political convictions mask his personal weaknesses; meanwhile, Kainene becomes involved with a shy, studious British expat. After a series of massacres targeting the Igbo people, the carefully genteel world of the two couples disintegrates. Adichie indicts the outside world for its indifference and probes the arrogance and ignorance that perpetuated the conflict. Yet this is no polemic. The characters and landscape are vividly painted, and details are often used to heartbreaking effect: soldiers, waiting to be armed, clutch sticks carved into the shape of rifles; an Igbo mother, in flight from a massacre, carries her daughter's severed head, the hair lovingly braided.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Essentially, the book is about chronicling the tone and feel of the Biafran conflict. She leaves the reader wanting Biafra, needing Biafra, and feeling remorse for the consequences of its failure (not a spoiler – her plot is carved into history). Nigeria in the 1960s was a society entangled in ethnic troubles and then civil war. The genocide inflicted on the Igbo people is horrible and tragic. Through the war they suffered and starved, eventually bringing Biafra to its knees. This part of her story is one of the most powerful, and where Adichie really flexes her literary muscles. How she is able to have starvation permeate her imagined world, effecting each character and the world around them, is fantastic. How Adichie was able to capture the pain and torment in such a realistic way is beyond me. Her depth of research also becomes apparent here, regularly – but not obnoxiously – dropping in facts and names of organizations and people who were there during the conflict.
Adichie’s argument and motive for writing such a work was to chronicle with as much accuracy as possible the tone and feel of that conflict. She leaves the reader wanting Biafra, needing Biafra, and feeling remorse for the consequences of its failure (not a spoiler – her plot is carved into history). I can guarantee you will put down this book and go straight to your computer to research this event.
The length of the work is one of the few complaints I have. In Adichie’s obsessive need to create the world of Biafra as realistically for the reader as possible, her details can slow the pacing. This is an emotional novel, and she builds the emotions over time. Also, don’t be expecting to laugh – you barely will.
Yet, if you are looking for a work that will move you and your worldview, this is the one. I highly recommend.
This was also my introduction to the Biafran War. I took a detour from the novel to read about the war and some of the main players so that I would have a context for some of the story. I think that this was very helpful. In fact I really got lost in the politics of the war for a little while.
I think that unlike many people who may read this book I find that the lives of the servant class are more interesting then other characters. I am also a die hard romantic. Even though we don't know much about Ikejide, I am heart broken by his death. Why couldn't it have been Harrison with his "Uncle Tom" ways. I love Ugwu. But I wish that he had stayed dead because I am not sure what to do with the lie he told the family regarding the reason for his conscription. And I put the book down for several days when he raped the young girl. I just knew that he was going to stand above the fray. My husband and I talked quiet a bit about this part of the book. I still love Ugwe's intellect, commitment to the family, and his aspiration to be a writer.
My reason for giving the book four stars instead of five is because I do like nice tidy endings. I do miss Kainene. Her character was not perfect, but she was strong and the family needs her. Always. No one in the book seems to be interesting without her. Even Baby only has a name if Kainene is in her life. Though the book is finished I could imagine all of the characters going on with their lives as long as Kainene was with them. However, without her, they all cease to be. Anyone else could be missing and I would feel as if that the others existed in Nigeria today. In my mind, since Kainene is missing all of the other characters exist in time only as frozen gray characters.