Half of a Yellow Sun (Review)

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Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2006
528 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
December 2008

This is a favorite book—an all time favorite, the kind that makes you stand in awe of the stunning power of literature.

Adichie has converted a tragic global event—the secession from Nigeria of ill-fated Biafra (1967-70)—into a rich, complex human drama, one that makes readers care deeply for the characters and their fates.

The story is told through the eyes of three characters, caught up in Nigeria's civil war—Ugwu, a young uneducated houseboy; Olanna a university professor of the Igbo tribe; and Richard, an British writer. Each responds to events in a manner surprising to themselves and to those who love them—including us, the readers.

Adichie's artistry transforms what might have been an impersonal political novel into a work that revels in its own intimacy. One very human, yet politically revealing moment occurs when Ugwu's mother, a tribal peasant, smells something vile on the breath of the beautiful Olanna: an odor enough to make her vomit she complains. It's just toothpaste, Ugwu tells her! Still, his mother disapproves—as much as she disapproves of all educated Africans in their eagerness to adopt Western ways. Even her own son can be found reading English novels in the midst of his country's disintegration. It's all part of the colonial legacy, in which all things Anglo exist on a higher plane than what is African.

Completely absorbed by Adichie's story, I hated having to end this book. I wanted it to continue. So maybe I'll just turn around and read it again, from the beginning. On second thought, you read it for me—you'll be happy you did!

See our Reading Guide for Half of a Yellow Sun.

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