Half Of A Yellow Sun-a Review

Half Of A Yellow Sun-a Review

This review might feel a bit like the rant of crazy guy (hehehe) but read on as I give you my thoughts on Chimamanda Adichie’s book.

I have finally finished Chimamanda Adichie’s book, Half Of A Yellow Sun, after slugging through hard exams. I started off from where I’d left off while listening to ‘End Of The Beginning’, a song by Thirty Seconds To Mars. And I daresay it suited the part from where I started off, very well.

Half Of A Yellow Sun is not your normal Fiction. It is more of a multi-faceted, character-driven narrative that brings to reality the experiences of a group of people during the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War. This book is not just about war; it is about a host of different things.

Family.

Love.

Bonds.

Perseverance.

Change.

Uncertainty.

The book starts off by introducing Ugwu, a young boy from an Igbo village whose life and character will be irrevocably changed by the events that follow, like the other characters in the book. Chimamanda shows us the daily struggle of a family that has to send off one of its own to another, in the hope of a better future. And so we are thrown headlong into the fierce world of Odenigbo, a self-styled Revolutionary who is also hopelessly in love with a beautiful lady, Olanna, from an enigmatic family. The story shows us the traditional fears of a mother who is afraid of something, or someone she doesn’t understand, and the lengths she will go to remedy that. I am referring to Odenigbo’s mother here, and her decision to take matters into her own hands in the quest for a Grandchild, and a Daughter-in-law she will have control over.

We are also let into the world of the Ozobia family, and the sibling rivalry that exists between the twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene. The twin sisters are as twin as an apple and an orange, but in time, the nature of their twinhood (creative license, hehehe) is revealed to be internal, and is this facilitated by the events that throw them together. Soft-spoken Olanna is the sister everybody likes, who is good not because she wants attention, but because it is who she is. She symbolizes people with the wool of naivety thrown over their eyes. Kainene is the cynical one, who symbolizes those who had to grow into the machinations of the world early in life, and who understood them.

Richard is the outsider who falls in love with a foreign culture, and falls even harder for the enigma that is Kainene. In a strange land, he opens himself, and his heart, and tries to find the thread that connects all of humanity. I daresay he succeeds in doing this.

So many characters shape this novel, but these are the principal players in this orchestra of love and war.

Half Of A Yellow Sun is a story about love and the bonds that define us as people. It tells the tales of the fierce and assured love of Odenigbo, the blind love of Olanna, the searching and hungry love of Richard, and the reluctant and cynical love of Kainene. It is a tale of the respect of Ugwu for his Master and his wife, and the bond he forms with their daughter, Baby. It is a tale of the acceptance of the situation of Eberechi, Ugwu’s love interest later in the book. It is a tale of survival, and the tenacity of the human nature to hold onto bonds, family or otherwise, when all else is falling apart.

The war depicted in the novel shows us the perseverance of people, in the face of insurmountable odds. And it also gives us a glimpse at the hardship encountered: the displacement, the hunger, the loss of lives and property, the loss of the future, and the folly of it all. It shows us the changes that can occur as a result of war, and the way it affects lives. This is shown in the withdrawal of Odenigbo, the growing awareness of Olanna, the reluctant but abrupt change in Ugwu during the war, the gradual melding of the lives of Kainene and Richard, among others.

Half Of A Yellow Sun is not just a novel. It is more of a fact-finding mission than it portrays itself to be. It asks some pertinent questions, like in this segment culled from the book:

WERE YOU SILENT WHEN WE DIED?

Did you see the photos in sixty-eight

Of Children with their hair becoming rust

Sickly patches nestled on those small heads

Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust?

 

This segment, written by Ugwu (surprisingly) is part of a longer poem which is more than a picture in the sitting room of the story. It is one of the many questions asked in this book, at the neglect of the situation at the time. These are questions about the actions of the past, as well as questions about the neglect of the effects of the war. These questions still hold true today, and are a political statement in this time of volatile relationships and under-education of the present situation.

As I approached the end of the book, the song ‘Uncertainty’ by The Fray came on, and though the entire song helped reinforce the feeling of dislocation in the story, these lines struck home to the heart of the story:

Thousands are lost, maybe more
The question remains, what is this for?
Maybe it came unexpected
Maybe I’m left unprotected
Oh and that’s the last place
Yeah that’s the last place…

What the last pages of the story, and the lines above combined to say was the uncertainty of the future after a major conflict; the uncertainty that surrounds us all, as echoed in the lives of Odenigbo, Ugwu, Olanna, Richard, Baby, as they all search for Kainene, who has just become closer to her twin sister than they’d ever been in their lives. Richard searches for the one anchor in his life, while Olanna searches for a future of companionship and love with her only sibling. Odenigbo searches for the firmness of his past as he loses the brightness of the future, and Ugwu tries to come to terms with the loss of his innocence. And in the middle of it all stands Baby, who has had to endure a childhood that changed from safe to being filled with fear, death, dislocation and uncertainty. And she takes everything with the heart of a child, which is what helps keep her sanity intact.

With regards to the book itself, Chimamanda has produced a Masterpiece. I am not a fan of Literary Fiction, and though I grew up reading likes of Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo, Chukwuemeka Ike, and the book ‘The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (which I read countless times), I am now fully immersed in the world of Popular Fiction. However, this book struck a chord within me for the reasons outlined above, and more.

Chimamanda knows how to write, simple. She didn’t make much use of dialogue in this book, but where she did she did so with clarity, and simplicity. And her words flow like fine wine, reminiscent of Anne Rice’s hypnotic style (my modern influence speaking). With deft skill, she takes us through the turbulent years, making sure not to forget the little issues in the lives of the characters while still keeping the thread. She creates an air of suspense regarding the affair of Baby, Olanna, Richard and Odenigbo, and just when you think it’s going to go on, she takes you back to the earlier years, which makes you feel like the novel cannot put a foot wrong.

Chimamanda might be a young woman, but in my opinion, Half of A Yellow Sun has already taken a place on the shelf reserved for Nigerian Classics. I can already see this being used as a Teaching Tool in schools on Literature, in the future…unless the sex scenes will be a problem for the Teachers and Parents then.

One (pleasant) surprise I had at the end of the book was the fact that the little notes at the end of each chapter are attributed to Ugwu, which further portrays the long, hard road he has travelled in such a short period of time. It also underlines the brilliance of Chimamanda.

Now the sun is coming up and as I listen to OneRepublic sing of a Lullaby, I can’t help but try to revisit the world which Chimamanda showed, draw parallels with the world I was transported to as a kid from stories my Dad told me, and try to make sense of the present and the future. And one thing I know is that this book has cemented by belief in one fact.

War is an unpleasant, dirty business.



52 thoughts on “Half Of A Yellow Sun-a Review” by Raymond (@raymond)

  1. I have read this book and I agree with you on all the points. You read this book, drop it, and finds it following you around for days on end. IT IS A MASTERPIECE! AMEN!

    1. Yes, it is…

  2. Nice one Raymond, I keep hearing good reviews of this book and thanks bto you too I am finally convinced I need to buy one and savour the experience.

    1. Please do…Thanks for dropping by.

      1. I sure will

  3. Excellent review Raymond. I haven’t read the book yet but I have read Purple Hibicus. She’s sure a prolific writer.

    1. Thanks bro. Yeah, U should read it.

  4. You said evrything, half way through i was like “THIS GUY DIE NOT TALK ABOUT HER WRITING STYLE” and then i read further. Yes she’s that good, another person, me for example could have written the same story and it would turn out as rubbish. Is it a bad thing that i see writing style as the most important aspect of a novel. Her writing was straight forward, even though she did a lot of showing instead of telling, she did a really good jo with it. I love her but at times i wonder if we in Nigeria would have accepted her if she hadn’t been selling already in America, or is it the other way around, IDK. she’s good though. i wish i could ATTEND HER WORKSHOP

    1. @JJ, I understand. Well, actually, in stories, U r supposed to ‘show’, not ‘tell’. That is what makes ur story richer. And yes, writing style is VERY important. It is like the Identity of d writer. As for the acceptance part, well, U know 9ja…Always going for Established institutions n people. We are so Risk-Averse that it stifles growth.

      1. i meant the other way round Raymond sorry, it was supposed to say, even though she did a lot of telling not showing,, she did it well

        1. Ok. I am not an expert at dissecting that area…yet.

      2. you have said it all @raymond..if you keep showing and not telling, the story becomes more cumbersome than you can imagine

        1. I think U need to find a balance between the 2.

            1. U need to learn it too, @jacob. It’s really important.

              1. even me still dey develop my skills in that line

  5. a wonderful review, i loved the poem in the book a lot

    1. Me too. Thanks.

  6. this review said almost all there is to say. makes me want to fix my eyes on the pages again

    1. Me too bro. I know I will go back to it someday….but most probably not this year though, hehehe…But it is a Classic, that’s for sure.

      1. Classic it is, no doubt

        1. kai, I didn’t want to comment or say anything again but who can do that when the vampire twins are chanced to be at the same gathering talking…and now I have forgotten what I wanted to say…kai.

          1. Su’eddie, ROFLMAO!!!

        2. oga Su’eddie you want make @raymond start with you abi?

  7. i read Purple Hibiscus a while back so when I saw Half of a Yellow Sun i knew it was a must read. i wasnt disappointed. Great Review

    1. Thanks febby.

    2. Same here…but saw Half of a Yellow Sun first…though I didn’t complete it before getting Purple Hibiscus…lovely book. Have you read the story ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’? Nice one…The lady is good but there are fears that she might have given us her best…for good. WHat you think @Febby , Ray and all?

      1. Well, the thing with the public is that we jump to conclusions pretty quickly. Why don’t we wait for her? After all, her Career as a Writer has only just begun.

      2. i refuse to believe she has given us her best..she writes like she has a great well within and as Raymond said her career as a writer has only just begun…me am on the look-out for many more of her books….doesnt she have a 3rd one sef??

        1. Yeah she does.’ The thing around Your Neck’, that’s the title.

  8. A good and detailed review. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Kiru.

  9. Very nice review, but what converted me to an Adichie’s fan was her book, The Thing Round Your Neck.

    1. Well, when I can, I will read that one. Which will be quite a while…Thanks though.

      1. Ray, you seriously haven’t read it? Chai..it is a lovely collection of stories but at some point, you feel like they are the same…The best of mine in the collection is ‘The Headstrong Historian’ … Get the book sharp…By the way, this is a nice review…Was Adichie crazy at a point and I must say I learnt a lot from her. Even learnt second person narrative from her…Well, well done Sir.

        1. i learn a lot from Nigerian authors, trust me

          1. Well, I didn’t. I had to learn from foreign Authors, Writing Sites, and through Constant Writing.

        2. I’ll try, Su’eddie. I have about 11 Novels to read right now, not to talk of the Endless number of Journals to read for my Dissertation. And I have to Write as I’m doing all this. I’ll get to it in time. And thanks for the compliment bro.

  10. Oh, and by the way I meant I was ‘Adichie crazy’ before you misquote me somewhere…I know you. :) Sha, nice review…no rantings enough to declare you officially mad though I know we soon might :)

    1. HAHAHAHAHA!!! Me, there are only a few Authors I know I am somewhat crazy about. Stephen King (My Mentor), Peter Straub, Eric Van Lustbader, Daniel Silva, Brent Weeks, Lee Child, Anne Rice, Dennis Lehane, and maybe another handful…And don’t worry. I’ve always known I was mad, right from time, hehehe…

  11. Chimamanda did a better one with this one, and Raymond good job

    1. Thanks Casey.

  12. The book is a masterpiece no doubt. But it would never stop being subjected to controversy: The Voice of the East over the North. The only regret I have however is not having a personal copy on my shelf, I read from a borrowed copy.

  13. You are not a fan of literary fiction?……….now you’ve made me sad, you don’t like my best genre. This is a very good review you have here Raymond. Like Sueddie, I am still Adichie crazy. I attend her literary evening every year and I won’t miss this year’s own,God willing.

    Well done!!!

    1. Thanks Bro. Yes, I am not a fan of literary fiction. Used to read them, but not so much now.

  14. Ok o. There’s a new guy here called Ekwe. His writing is similar to yours, perhaps you two could hook up or somthing?

    1. I’ll check him out then.

  15. Now this a review!

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