By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Completed July 4, 2008
Admittedly, it was with trepidation that I selected Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for my personal challenge to read Orange prizewinners. So many of my reading friends raved about this book. When a book is so highly regarded, I worried that it would be too high up on the reading pedestal – and in the end, it would disappoint. Furthermore, when I finally got this book, I scowled (just slightly) at its length – 541 pages. Chunksters (what I consider books over 350 pages) rarely hold my interest. Indeed, I was worried.
However, once enveloped in this book, my worries quickly ceased. Half of a Yellow Sun was a book worthy of its praise and its long length. Quite simply, it was an astonishing, gut-wrenching read.
Briefly, it’s the story of the effect of Biafra’s (in southeastern Nigeria) quest for independence in the late 1960’s. It’s also the story of family – both biological and assumed – and how those ties know no bounds. Colorful and unforgettable characters filled each page: Ugwu, the houseboy; Odenigbo, the revolutionary-minded professor; Olanna, Odenigbo’s beautiful lover and her twin sister, Kainene; and Richard, who is in love with Kainene. The reader was swept into Nigerian cultures and lifestyles. Without a doubt, it was an illuminating read.
Adichie did not sugarcoat how war affects civilians. People died, family members went missing, homes destroyed, women raped and children became ill. This book is not for the weak of heart. As a reader, I was torn by my need to take a break from the content and my desire to continue reading because I was so caught up in the story.
I highly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun to anyone interested in reading a profound novel about war, family and the effects of nationalism. ( )