Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


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A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.

            With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.           

           Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780676978124
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication date: 09/12/2006
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. It was also short-listed for the Orange Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta and The Iowa Review among other literary journals, and she received an O. Henry Prize in 2003. She is a 2005–2006 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University and divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

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Half of a Yellow Sun

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Random House

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1400044162

Chapter One

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 expectation, too busy imagining his new life away from the village. They had been walking for a while now, since they got off the lorry at the motor park, and the afternoon sun burned the back of his neck. But he did not mind. He was prepared to walk hours more in even hotter sun. He had never seen anything like the streets that appeared after they went past the university gates, streets so smooth and tarred that he itched to lay his cheek down on them. He would never be able to describe to his sister Anulika how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they lookedlike tables wrapped with leaves.

His aunty walked faster, her slippers making slap-slap sounds that echoed in the silent street. Ugwu wondered if she, too, could feel the coal tar getting hotter underneath, through her thin soles. They went past a sign, ODIM STREET, and Ugwu mouthed street, as he did whenever he saw an English word that was not too long. He smelled something sweet, heady, as they walked into a compound, and was sure it came from the white flowers clustered on the bushes at the entrance. The bushes were shaped like slender hills. The lawn glistened. Butterflies hovered above.

"I told Master you will learn everything fast, osiso-osiso," his aunty said. Ugwu nodded attentively although she had already told him this many times, as often as she told him the story of how his good fortune came about: While she was sweeping the corridor in the mathematics department a week ago, she heard Master say that he needed a houseboy to do his cleaning, and she immediately said she could help, speaking before his typist or office messenger could offer to bring someone.

"I will learn fast, Aunty," Ugwu said. He was staring at the car in the garage; a strip of metal ran around its blue body like a necklace.

"Remember, what you will answer whenever he calls you is Yes, sah!"

"Yes, sah!" Ugwu repeated.

They were standing before the glass door. Ugwu held back from reaching out to touch the cement wall, to see how different it would feel from the mud walls of his mother's hut that still bore the faint patterns of molding fingers. For a brief moment, he wished he were back there now, in his mother's hut, under the dim coolness of the thatch roof; or in his aunty's hut, the only one in the village with a corrugated iron roof.

His aunty tapped on the glass. Ugwu could see the white curtains behind the door. A voice said, in English, "Yes? Come in."

They took off their slippers before walking in. Ugwu had never seen a room so wide. Despite the brown sofas arranged in a semicircle, the side tables between them, the shelves crammed with books, and the center table with a vase of red and white plastic flowers, the room still seemed to have too much space. Master sat in an armchair, wearing a singlet and a pair of shorts. He was not sitting upright but slanted, a book covering his face, as though oblivious that he had just asked people in.

"Good afternoon, sah! This is the child," Ugwu's aunty said.

Master looked up. His complexion was very dark, like old bark, and the hair that covered his chest and legs was a lustrous, darker shade. He pulled off his glasses. "The child?"

"The houseboy, sah."

"Oh, yes, you have brought the houseboy. I kpotago ya." Master's Igbo felt feathery in Ugwu's ears. It was Igbo colored by the sliding sounds of English, the Igbo of one who spoke English often.

"He will work hard," his aunty said. "He is a very good boy. Just tell him what he should do. Thank, sah!"

Master grunted in response, watching Ugwu and his aunty with a faintly distracted expression, as if their presence made it difficult for him to remember something important. Ugwu's aunty patted Ugwu's shoulder, whispered that he should do well, and turned to the door. After she left, Master put his glasses back on and faced his book, relaxing further into a slanting position, legs stretched out. Even when he turned the pages he did so with his eyes on the book.

Ugwu stood by the door, waiting. Sunlight streamed in through the windows, and from time to time a gentle breeze lifted the curtains. The room was silent except for the rustle of Master's page-turning. Ugwu stood for a while before he began to edge closer and closer to the bookshelf, as though to hide in it, and then, after a while, he sank down to the floor, cradling his raffia bag between his knees. He looked up at the ceiling, so high up, so piercingly white. He closed his eyes and tried to reimagine this spacious room with the alien furniture, but he couldn't. He opened his eyes, overcome by a new wonder, and looked around to make sure it was all real. To think that he would sit on these sofas, polish this slippery-smooth floor, wash these gauzy curtains.

"Kedu afa gi? What's your name?" Master asked, startling him.

Ugwu stood up.

"What's your name?" Master asked again and sat up straight. He filled the armchair, his thick hair that stood high on his head, his muscled arms, his broad shoulders; Ugwu had imagined an older man, somebody frail, and now he felt a sudden fear that he might not please this master who looked so youthfully capable, who looked as if he needed nothing.

"Ugwu, sah."

"Ugwu. And you've come from Obukpa?"

"From Opi, sah."

"You could be anything from twelve to thirty." Master narrowed his eyes. "Probably thirteen." He said thirteen in English.

"Yes, sah."

Master turned back to his book. Ugwu stood there. Master flipped past some pages and looked up. "Ngwa, go to the kitchen; there should be something you can eat in the fridge."

"Yes, sah."

Ugwu entered the kitchen cautiously, placing one foot slowly after the other. When he saw the white thing, almost as tall as he was, he knew it was the fridge. His aunty had told him about it. A cold barn, she had said, that kept food from going bad. He opened it and gasped as the cool air rushed into his face. Oranges, bread, beer, soft drinks: many things in packets and cans were arranged on different levels and, and on the topmost, a roasted shimmering chicken, whole but for a leg. Ugwu reached out and touched the chicken. The fridge breathed heavily in his ears. He touched the chicken again and licked his finger before he yanked the other leg off, eating it until he had only the cracked, sucked pieces of bones left in his hand. Next, he broke off some bread, a chunk that he would have been excited to share with his siblings if a relative had visited and brought it as a gift. He ate quickly, before Master could come in and change his mind. He had finished eating and was standing by the sink, trying to remember what his aunty had told him about opening it to have water gush out like a spring, when Master walked in. He had put on a print shirt and a pair of trousers. His toes, which peeked through leather slippers, seemed feminine, perhaps because they were so clean; they belonged to feet that always wore shoes.

"What is it?" Master asked.

"Sah?" Ugwu gestured to the sink.

Master came over and turned the metal tap. "You should look around the house and put your bag in the first room on the corridor. I'm going for a walk, to clear my head, i nugo?"

"Yes, sah." Ugwu watched him leave through the back door. He was not tall. His walk was brisk, energetic, and he looked like Ezeagu, the man who held the wrestling record in Ugwu's village.

Ugwu turned off the tap, turned it on again, then off. On and off and on and off until he was laughing at the magic of the running water and the chicken and bread that lay balmy in his stomach. He went past the living room and into the corridor. There were books piled on the shelves and tables in the three bedrooms, on the sink and cabinets in the bathroom, stacked from floor to ceiling in the study, and in the store, old journals were stacked next to crates of Coke and cartons of Premier beer. Some of the books were placed face down, open, as though Master had not yet finished reading them but had hastily gone on to another. Ugwu tried to read the titles, but most were too long, too difficult. Non-Parametric Methods. An African Survey. The Great Chain of Being. The Norman Impact Upon England. He walked on tiptoe from room to room, because his feet felt dirty, and as he did so he grew increasingly determined to please Master, to stay in this house of meat and cool floors. He was examining the toilet, running his hand over the black plastic seat, when he heard Master's voice.

"Where are you, my good man?" He said my good man in English.

Ugwu dashed out to the living room. "Yes, sah!"

"What's your name again?"

"Ugwu, sah."

"Yes, Ugwu. Look here, nee anya, do you know what that is?" Master pointed, and Ugwu looked at the metal box studded with dangerous-looking knobs.

"No, sah," Ugwu said.

"It's a radiogram. It's new and very good. It's not like those old gramophones that you have to wind and wind. You have to be very careful around it, very careful. You must never let water touch it."

"Yes, sah."

"I'm off to play tennis, and then I'll go on to the staff club." Master picked up a few books from the table. "I may be back late. So get settled and have a rest."

"Yes, sah."

After Ugwu watched Master drive out of the compound, he went and stood beside the radiogram and looked at it carefully, without touching it. Then he walked around the house, up and down, touching books and curtains and furniture and plates, and when it got dark he turned the light on and marveled at how bright the bulb that dangled from the ceiling was, how it did not cast long shadows on the wall like the palm oil lamps back home. His mother would be preparing the evening meal now, pounding akpu in the mortar, the pestle grasped tight with both hands. Chioke, the junior wife, would be tending the pot of watery soup balanced on three stones over the fire. The children would have come back from the stream and would be taunting and chasing one another under the breadfruit tree. Perhaps Anulika would be watching them. She was the oldest child in the household now, and as they all sat around the fire to eat, she would break up the fights when the younger ones struggled over the strips of dried fish in the soup. She would wait until all the akpu was eaten and then divide the fish so that each child had a piece, and she would keep the biggest for herself, as he had always done.

Ugwu opened the fridge and ate some more bread and chicken, quickly stuffing the food in his mouth while his heart beat as if he were running; then he dug out extra chunks of meat and pulled out the wings. He slipped the pieces into his shorts pockets before going to the bedroom. He would keep them until his aunty visited and he would ask her to give them to Anulika. Perhaps he could ask her to give some to Nnesinachi too. That might make Nnesinachi finally notice him. He had never been sure exactly how he and Nnesinachi were related, but he knew they were from the same umunna and therefore could never marry. Yet he wished that his mother would not keep referring to Nnesinachi as his sister, saying things like "Please take this palm oil down to Mama Nnesinachi, and if she is not in leave it with your sister."

Nnesinachi always spoke to him in a vague voice, her eyes unfocused, as if his presence made no difference to her either way. Sometimes she called him Chiejina, the name of his cousin who looked nothing at all like him, and when he said, "It's me," she would say, "Forgive me, Ugwu my brother," with a distant formality that meant she had no wish to make further conversation. But he liked going on errands to her house. They were opportunities to find her bent over, fanning the firewood or chopping ugu leaves for her mother's soup pot, or just sitting outside looking after her younger siblings, her wrapper hanging low enough for him to see the tops of her breasts. Ever since they started to push out, those pointy breasts, he had wondered if they would feel mushy-soft or hard like the unripe fruit from the ube tree. He often wished that Anulika wasn't so flat-chested--he wondered what was taking her so long anyway, since she and Nnesinachi were about the same age--so that he could feel her breasts. Anulika would slap his hand away, of course, and perhaps even slap his face as well, but he would do it quickly--squeeze and run--and that way he would at least have an idea and know what to expect when he finally touched Nnesinachi's.

Excerpted from Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Excerpted by permission.
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Reading Group Guide

“A gorgeous, pitiless account of love, violence and betrayal during the Biafran war.”

The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Half of a Yellow Sun, a richly imagined story of the disastrous war between Nigeria and Biafra, largely forgotten in the West, which won the 2007 Orange Prize in Britain and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

1. Ugwu is only thirteen when he begins working as a houseboy for Odenigbo, but he is one of the most intelligent and observant characters in the novel. How well does Ugwu manage the transition from village life to the intellectual and privileged world of his employers? How does his presence throughout affect the reader’s experience of the story?

2. About her attraction to Odenigbo, Olanna thinks, “The intensity had not abated after two years, nor had her awe at his self-assured eccentricities and his fierce moralities” [p. 36]. What is attractive about Odenigbo? How does Adichie poke fun at certain aspects of his character? How does the war change him?   

3. Adichie touches very lightly on a connection between the Holocaust and the Biafran situation [p. 62]; why does she not stress this parallel more strongly? Why are the Igbo massacred by the Hausa? What tribal resentments and rivalries are expressed in the Nigerian-Biafran war? In what ways does the novel make clear that these rivalries have been intensified by British interference?

4. Consider the conversation between Olanna and Kainene on pp. 130-131. What are the sources of the distance and distrust between the two sisters, and how is the rift finally overcome? What is the effect of the disappearance of Kainene on the ending of the story?

5. Discuss the ways in which Adichie reveals the differences in social class among her characters. What are the different cultural assumptions—about themselves and others—made by educated Africans like Odenigbo, nouveau riche Africans like Olanna’s parents, uneducated Africans like Odenigbo’s mother, and British expatriates like Richard’s ex-girlfriend Susan?

6. Excerpts from a book called The World Was Silent When We Died appear on pp. 103, 146, 195, 256, 296, 324, 470, and 541. Who is writing this book? What does it tell us? Why is it inserted into the story in parts?  

7. Adichie breaks the chronological sequence of her story so that she can delay the revelation that Baby is not Olanna’s child and that Olanna had a brief liaison with Richard. What are the effects of this delay, and of these revelations, on your reading experience?

8. Susan Grenville-Pitts is a stereotype of the colonial occupier with her assertion that “It’s quite extraordinaryÉ how these people can’t control their hatred of each other. . . . Civilization teaches you control” [p. 194]. Richard, on the other hand, wants to be African, learns to speak Igbo, and says “we” when he speaks of Biafra. What sort of person is Richard? How do you explain his desires?

9. Adichie makes a point of displaying Olanna’s middle-class frame of mind: she is disgusted at the cockroach eggs in her cousins’ house reluctant to let Baby mix with village children because they have lice, and so on. How is her privileged outlook changed by the war?

10. The poet Okeoma, in praise of the new Biafra, wrote, “If the sun refuses to rise, we will make it rise” [p. 219]. Does Adichie seem to represent the Biafran secession as a doomed exercise in political na•vet? or as a desperate bid for survival on the part of a besieged ethnic group? Given the history of Nigeria and Britain’s support during the war, is the defeat of Biafra a foregone conclusion?

11. The sisters’ relationship is damaged further when Olanna seduces Richard [p. 293]. Why does Olanna do this? If she is taking revenge upon Odenigbo for his infidelity, why does she choose Richard? What does Kainene mean when she bitterly calls Olanna “the good one” [p. 318]?

12. How does being witnesses to violent death change people in the story—Olanna, Kainene, Odenigbo, Ugwu? How does Adichie handle descriptions of scenes of violence, death, and famine?

13. What goes through Ugwu’s mind as he participates in the rape of the bar girl [p. 457]? How does he feel about it later, when he learns that his sister was also gang-raped [pp. 497, 526]?

14. The novel is structured in part around two love stories, between Olanna and Odenigbo and between Kainene and Richard.  It is “really a story of love,” Adichie has said (Financial Times, September 9, 2006). How does Adichie handle romantic and sexual love? Why are these love plots so important to a novel about a war?

15. The story begins as Ugwu’s aunty describes to Ugwu his new employer: “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” [p. 3]. It ends with Ugwu’s dedication of his book: “For Master, my good man” [p. 541]. Consider how Ugwu’s relation to his master has changed throughout the course of the story.

16. How is it fitting that Ugwu, and not Richard, should be the one who writes the story of the war and his people?

17. In a recent interview Adichie said, “My family tells me that I must be old. This is a book I had to write because it’s my way of looking at this history that defines me and making sense of it.” (She recently turned twenty-nine, and based parts of the story on her family’s experiences during that time and also on a great deal of reading.) “I didn’t want to just write about events,” Adichie said. “I wanted to put a human face on them” (The New York Times, September 23, 2006). Why is it remarkable that a woman so young could write a novel of this scope and depth?

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Half of a Yellow Sun 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 159 reviews.
LBanks More than 1 year ago
This book had me on the edge of my seat for much of the story. It's incredible and moving.
Staticman More than 1 year ago
This book hits home . Being a kid that went through the Nigeria / Biafra civil war, the narrations in this book brings back true memory of experiences of that civil war . Two words....... Well written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Half of a yellow sun was an amazing book. It is an epic story with a great plot. The story takes place in Nigeria during the Biafran war. The writer uses themes such as loyalty and betrayal, and describes in-detail what each of the character's thoughts and feelings are. I enjoyed seeing how the characters progressed and changed throughout the story. I didn't know much about Nigeria before I read this story, but this story taught me a lot about Nigerian history. Since the author is Nigerian, she wrote the story very realistically, and explained the events that the characters went through as if they had actually happened. I would recommend this book for high school students or adults, because of some of the adult themes that are in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Half of a Yellow Sun was a good book, it took place during the Biafran War and it showed the hardships of moving from place to place because of war and that even high class people had to throw everything they had away and abandon their homes to reach safety. It also showed how people were in the military, and how people were enlisted from the streets and thrown into combat and they just had to deal with it and try not to die. Old and young, it did not matter. Overall I gave this book a 4, it was a good read but a lot of the content was drawn out and boring, where some content was exciting. There could have been a more equal amount of interest in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The blurb caught my attention and the fact that the story is on the Nigerian Civil war I was researching at the time made me go for this book. I am glad I did. This story of the poor Ugwu leaving the life he had known in his home village to work as a house help in Enugu, where he got trapped in the world of educated and refined people whose worlds and past mirror the complexities of Nigeria before, during and after the civil. The writing makes understanding the civil war a lot easier, and gives an insight of the various ethnicities (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani), especially the major ones, whose squabbling and shortsightedness plunged the land into so much misery that it is yet to fully recover from. The story spans four decades and tells a story of Nigeria that is exemplary. It comes with Disciples of Fortune, and Things Fall Apart as novels I enjoyed this summer. Stories that provide an insight into African life in this manner win my heart deeply.
The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
Rich, Tragic, and Beautiful Half of a Yellow Sun takes place in Nigeria during the Nigeria/Biafa civil war. The narrative follows 3 characters: Ugwu, a village boy who is taken in by some politically-inclined academics as a house boy; Olanna, Ugwu's mistress and a rich heiress; and Richard, a British expat who desperately wants to be accepted by the Biafrans as one of them. The stories of these three characters are superbly and tragically woven together on a backdrop of war, racial hatred, and famine. This is one of the most impressive books I've read in quite a while. The characters were so deep that I felt I knew them. The events described had an eerie realism to them that comes from the author's intimate knowledge of the history and people. This is one of those books that makes you feel like every incident described is important and well-planned. This is a story not only of war, but of people--their dreams, their loves, their fears, their strengths and weaknesses. Half of a Yellow Sun is a must-read for anyone interested in international literature.
HuskerGrandma More than 1 year ago
This is a haunting book. It is beautiful in its love story; horrific in its brutality; poignant in its humanity. The writing is superb and the story catches your heart very quickly.
guyrn2 More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to purchase this book because the story was based during the war. I was expecting a long boring description of the war but wow! it blew me away!I could not put this book down! Nothing was predictable! The reader was just as surprised as the characters in the book when a bomb exploded. Cleverly written! Great plot!
Patito_de_Hule More than 1 year ago
A wonderful novel based on events of the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970. In May, 1967, after a widespread massacre of Igbos, the Igbos seceded to form the state of Biafra. This novel begins in the early sixties with three closely connected characters Ugwu, Olanna, and Richard and follows their lives and suffering, as well as the intense suffering of the Igbos, through the end of the civil war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is incredible. Very engaging; i felt the joy, anger and hope of the characters. Best West African book i ever read. Learned a thing about the Biafran war in Nigeria. Wow... all these happened not so long ago and no one talks about it. I realized as i read the book, "pidgin english" was not spoken even by the illiterates.... This was not just a great story to enjoy but an educative one. I cannot even decipher the deeper meaning of this book in a half page of review.....
akemilydawn More than 1 year ago
We read this book for an MA-level fiction course, and afterwards I bought my sister a copy for personal reading. Adichie challenges, provokes, and touches her reader through very personal stories of five characters. Adichie lost both grandfathers in the Biafran revolution in Nigeria, and writes her novel to help us remember and to foreground human love. I never found myself bored, never willing to put the book down. I'm not a very "verbal" reader but found myself gasping aloud (much to my fiance's confusion). You will not regret this book, but prepare yourself for an intense experience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Half of a Yellow Sun was a great book. It was filled with hope, love, death, and betrayal. It was emotional and hard to think of the things they all had to go through, with moving from home to home, to losing loved ones. Seeing each person's take on the war and how they were each affected by it was a clever idea by the author. It helped set the mood for each chapter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a full and good representation of the early history of Nigeria and of course what led to the rise and fall of the land of 'THE HALF OF A YELLOW SUN', outlining the challenges of a a young republic and the fight for liberation among its own people. Nothing could be more dramatic than the action that unfolds from the uniqueness of the well chosen characters. Not forgetting the Epilogues that follows the sections 'The World Was Silent When We Died'. Chimamanda simply lives beyond her time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After writing a critically acclaimed first novel, it is almost customary to write a dud as a follow-up. Only a few writers succeed in writing a novel better than their first novel Chimamanda Adichie is among the few. Every novelist has a unique story simmering in her (his) head, a story that she feels she must write. Arundhati Roy had ¿The God of Small Things¿, V. S. Naipaul had ¿A House for Mr. Biswas¿, and Chimamanda Adichie had ¿Half of a Yellow Sun¿. ¿This is a book I had to write,¿ Ms. Adichie has said. ¿I have been thinking about this book my whole life.¿ When a writer thinks of a story for years, and then sets out to write it with care and passion, the prose flows as heartfelt, and the novel shines. As a result, long after you finish reading this novel, you will feel your mind lit with the light of this powerful, frightening and also deeply moving novel. Written in simple but elegant prose, her style reminded me of the great Indian writer R. K. Narayan: ¿He looked up at the ceiling, so high up, so piercingly white. He closed his eyes and tried to reimagine this spacious room with the alien furniture, but he couldn't. He opened his eyes, overcome by a new wonder, and looked around to make sure it was all real. To think that he would sit on these sofas, polish this slippery-smooth floor, wash these gauzy curtains.¿ And like R. K. Narayan, who was well-known for his short stories, Chimamanda also has written short stories as well. (She has been compared with Chinua Achebe, but I haven¿t read any of Achebe¿s novels.) In Nigeria, in the late 1960s, there was a civil war between the Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, in the state of Biafra. Ethnic cleansing and massacre of Biafrans followed. As a result, Biafrans tried to secede from Nigeria. The half of a yellow sun refers to the emblem of the flag of the state of Biafra. Using this war as the background, the author has written a story involving five central characters: Ugwu, aged 13, who arrives at professor Odenigbo¿s house to work as a houseboy, and Olanna, a beautiful young woman who chooses to become Odenigbo¿s mistress, and Olanna¿s not so lovely twin sister Kainene, who is in love with Richard, an Englishman. Because other reviewers have narrated the story in brief, I do not feel the need to narrate it again. There are beautiful, subtly erotic passages, as well as graphic passages depicting sex and violence and blood-curdling brutality. I have no doubt that similar incidents, as depicted here, did indeed occur in Biafra. But you need to have an iron stomach to be able to read these passages without feeling sick and fearful. I wish to conclude on a cheerful note however, because I really admired this novel, and so here is a passage I wish to quote. Even though it is slightly erotic, I found it quite lovely: ¿But he liked going on errands to her house. They were opportunities to find her bent over, fanning the firewood or chopping ugu leaves for her mother's soup pot, or just sitting outside looking after her younger siblings, her wrapper hanging low enough for him to see the tops of her breasts.¿ This is truly an impressive and memorable novel. It¿s even more impressive and more accomplished than her critically acclaimed first novel, ¿Purple Hibiscus¿. And it is gripping and searing. But it¿s certainly not for the weak-hearted. Also, ¿Half of a Yellow Sun¿ is an apt title but the novel, however, is luminous like a full moon.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the late 1960s civil war devastates the Igbo people who formed the independent nation of Biafra having broken away from Nigeria. Thirteen year old peasant Ugwu has survived so far even being forcfully conscripted into the shabby Biafran army currently he works as a houseboy for Professor Odenigbo.-------------------- At the same time the lad endures life and death, a savage slaughter of the affluent leaves twin sisters Olanna and Kainene without any other family member left alive. Both choose similar paths to safety the only ones available to young orphaned females. Olanna becomes mistress to Professor Odenigbo, who loathes the Europeans for what their occupation has wrought to his homeland Kainene, on the other hands, selects British writer Richard, who is writing a book on the civil war impact on the Igbo, as her protector. Ugwu and Kainene form a relationship, but she becomes outraged when he spends a drunken night with her twin, putting all three at risk.---------------- Readers will feel and ¿see¿ the impact of war on the innocent in this superior historical novel. Using the Biafra civil war of the 1960s as the influence that directly impacts her three prime characters and to a lesser degree the two support players, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie paints a vivid condemnation of war in which peasants below the frey easily become collateral damage and survivability is everything. Readers (except VP Cheney, who would find a connection to 9/11) will appreciate this powerful look at real world surviving.------------ Harriet Klausner
Anonymous 9 months ago
Amazing book! Was very hard to put down. Even peaked my interest in Nigerian history
presto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the 1960s, leading up to the and through the Nigerian¿Biafra war, Half of a Yellow Sun follows the lives of a small group of the break away nation. The main characters include Olanna and Kainene, twin sisters, well educated the daughters of a wealthy Chief. Both are tall and slender, Olanna is beautiful and caring but Kainene lacks her good looks, and by contrast she is efficient and ruthless. Richard is a young Englishman captivated by Africa, tall and handsome, he falls for Kainene. Odenigbo is a university lecturer and Olanna¿s lover, a passionate revolutionary and supporter of Biafra. Then there is Ugwu, the first character we encounter as the young village boy is on his way to meet Odenigbo and hopefully be employment as his houseboy. Written in the third person, it is however through the perceptions of the main characters that we follow the story, very much through the eyes of Ugwu as well as through Olanna and Richard. Ugwu is only thirteen when he starts as Odenigbo¿s houseboy; part educated but unacquainted with many modern conveniences he proves true to his claim when first meeting Odenigbo: ¿but I learn fast, sah¿. He is loyal and devoted to his master and Olanna when she eventually moves in, and subsequent events prove their love for him. While far from perfect, these main characters have many redeeming features, and as the story unfolds one becomes increasingly drawn to them and soon passionately involved in their lives. Inevitably the story touches on the tragedy of the war, and while it does not involve itself with the actual warfare to any extent, it does touch on the politics of the war and the international response both in terms of arms support and to the suffering in Biafra, and it also highlights the terror of the war and the atrocities carried out; each horrifying in its own way. But this is only ever in as much as is required to lend authenticity to the story. It is a beautiful and outstanding novel, a story of love and loyalty, at times a traumatic story as the ravages of war take their toll, but always a story with hope. As the book draws to its conclusion, as each tries to come to terms with the aftermath it is at times very sad and very moving; but just as we think the book will leave us feeling down, and perhaps feeling that Ugwu has been forgotten by the writer, the very last line is bound to bring a smile to out lips.
gailparis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a story of love, family and class with the backdrop of the Biafra separation movement. The characters are so alive and you see them change both because of personal events (love and loss thereof) and the world around them. An excellent read which also educates (without being pedantic).
wendyrey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Complex well written novel set before and during the Biafran war .Evocative but somehow cold and distant descriptions of the effects of starvation .Yes I know that sounds daft but it seems to present starvation in a cerebral and emotional way but somehow misses the visceral physicality of hunger.Interesting and readable
dawnlovesbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a heartbreaking tale through the wrenching events of a country at war and the effects it has on the people involved. i was intrigued by this book from the first to last page. the characters and african culture and landscape were so vivid they practically came to life. what a wonderful and amazing book!
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With all the glowing reports on this "must read" book, I certainly expected more. Frankly, I had to drag myself through it and kept getting sidetracked by more interesting books. It seems to take forever for anything much to happen; the book could have been just as powerful at 100-150 pages less. The main characters are crafted well and the book presents a strong portrait of the Biafran wars and their effects. But overall, I was rather disappointed.
kambrogi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This tale of life in Nigeria during the Biafran war is both historically accurate and personally insightful. Adichie¿s most brilliant move was to balance the tale told through the educated eyes of an upper-class Nigerian woman with the perspective of a bright but undereducated village boy as well as that of a white male British journalist. The people are complex, multi-faceted and diverse, and their communities overlap with each other and many additional communities in Nigeria and England. Ultimately, this picture of the Biafran War, what came before and what came after, is as complicated as it still is in retrospect today. Having interacted with several of those communities myself, I found every last detail as real, and as heartbreaking, as the history deserves.
Gary10 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well written, plot driven epoch of war torn Nigeria in the 1960s. Weaves together the lives of two twin sisters struggling through a brutal civil war. The characters are full of life, close and vivid.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
susiekessler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
really helped me to understand the Biafran conflict which I vaguely remembered, but only from a child's point of view.