Monday 8 September 2008

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I've had this book for a while and it was in my read soon pile but every time I found it at the top the teeny tiny print on the pages scared the living daylights out of me and I moved it to the bottom. After reading yet another article about what an amazing book it was, I dove in and have never regretted for a moment taking that leap.

The book is set in Nigeria during the 1960s to early 1970 when the locals rose up and fought the Nigerian military in what is now referred to as the Biafran War. The book begins by painting as exquisite picture of the life of ordinary, middle class citizens living a peaceful and comfortable life. They are well educated, well travelled, and well off.

There is no one main character although the story does revolve around the lives of the people associated with 2 twin sisters, Olanna and Kaneine. Ugwu is a boy from village who is fortunate enough to find a job as a houseboy with a university lecturer, Odenigbo, who also happens to be Olanna's lover. Richard is an English expatriate captivated by Kaneine but hypnotised by Olanna.

As Biafra declares independence from Nigeria, their normal lives descend into chaos: starvation, bearing witness to murders, rape, torture, the selfishness and selflessness of war time.

They all love. They all hurt the ones they love. They are all just struggling to survive that minute with a shred of dignity.

I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about the Biafran Wars before I started this book and at first it was hard to remember the African names. But the style of Adichie's writing is straight forward and blunt. Her descriptions are not melodramatic or over the top. I had the most vicious visions of the events and characters.

The story is heartbreaking and I can't even now bear to write about the ending (besides I wouldn't give it away)! It's not what you think it might be. But then nothing in this book is as you think it might be. Not unlike The Kite Runner.

Highly recommended. (433 pages)

1 comment:

Janell said...

This sounds like a good one.