“Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For one of my book groups, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun tells the story of the Biafran war in late-60’s Nigeria. It was a time and event I knew nothing about other than that Biafra is not currently a country in Africa, so I could guess the broad strokes of the ending. The story is told through three main narrators, Ugwu, a village-born houseboy; Olanna, an upper-class Igbo woman; and Richard, a British ex-patriate who adopts Nigeria, then Biafra, as his home. Of the three, Ugwu was the most interesting and sympathetic to me, though the others were satisfyingly complex.

Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair. Ugwu’s aunty said this in a low voice as they walked on the path. “But he is a good man,” she added. “And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day.” She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed on the grass.

Ugwu did not believe that anybody, not even this master he was going to live with, ate meat every day. He did not disagree with his aunty, though, because he was too choked with expectations, too busy imagining his new life away from the village.

Together, their stories and the ones of those around them form a striking narrative of a terrible time in history, perhaps the origin of the phrase “starving children in Africa.” It’s a long book that moves slowly at first, then has many events in the last hundred pages. But the shift in pacing makes some sense; it gives a vivid portrayal of life before, during and immediately after the war. I found this book moving and informative, though didn’t really fall in love with it.

Wondering: why is there a whole sun on the cover when “half of a yellow sun” is in the title?

One Response to ““Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie”

  1. sm Says:

    i loved a book where i learn about a piece of history i know (virtually)nothing about. so, for me, this book was wonderful. i also thoroughly enjoyed peter godwin’s 2 memoirs of growing up in zimbabwe (then rhodesia)