four-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-Half of a Yellow Sun.epsIn 1967 the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria, one of the largest single ethnicities in Africa, broke away from the country to form the independent nation of Biafra. A bloody civil war raged until 1970; an estimated one to three million people died from starvation and illness. This horrific story, defined by violence, ethnic strife, and power politics, is told from the perspectives of three individuals: 13-year-old Ugwu, an intelligent Igbo houseboy from a poor village who works for a revolutionary-minded professor, Odenigbo; Olanna, Odenigbo’s beautiful lover from a wealthy, educated Igbo family; and Richard, an idealistic young Englishman who takes up with Kainene, Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. Each character reflects an aspect of Nigeria’s tumultuous, bloody history.
Knopf. 448 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400044162

Minneapolis Star Tribune 5 of 5 Stars
"Among other things, it is a stealthy and subtle piece of work; it can take the reader some time to realize that the book is destined to become a classic. … This book confirms the notion that if you want to understand a country’s past, certainly you should read historical and economic texts. If you want to understand its soul, however, read its fiction." Emily Carter Roiphe

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Between her extensive readings and her family’s memories of these events, Adichie clearly has the background and understanding to write such a novel. … With searching insight, compassion, and an unexpected yet utterly appropriate touch of wit, Adichie has created an extraordinary book, a worthy addition to the world’s great tradition of large-visioned, powerfully realistic novels." Merle Rubin

New York Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Taking its title from an emblem on the flag of Biafra, the book sustains an intimate focus and an epic backdrop as Biafra secedes from Nigeria and genocidal hell breaks loose. Half of a Yellow Sun is not a conventional war story any more than is A Farewell to Arms or For Whom the Bell Tolls." Janet Maslin

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Half of a Yellow Sun … covers the war and the years leading up to it in a sweeping story that provides both a harrowing history lesson and an engagingly human narrative. … Adichie, born seven years after the war, puts a powerfully human face on this sobering story, which is far from over." Mary Brennan

Critical Summary

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Purple Hibiscus (2003), was born in Nigeria in 1977 into a well-educated Igbo family. Drawing on her family’s experience and Nigeria’s history a decade before her birth, Adichie has written an ambitious, astonishing novel that succeeds on all levels. In her exploration of ethnic, religious, and class prejudices and genocide, Adichie focuses on the personal experiences of a few memorable individuals experiencing the drama of the conflict and the new nation. Her manipulation of point of view and time, from the years before and during the war, adds depth and perspective to her timely novel as secessionist tensions in the former Biafra persist.