Amy Reads Books

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (3.5)Half of a Yellow Sun is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel, which won the Orange Prize in 2007, and it was also the novel that my mum distributed as part of World Book Night. It tells the story of the Nigerian Civil War, as her characters struggle to fight for Biafra, the Southern section of Nigeria that attempted to become an individual country. The story is told from the perspectives of Ugwu, a poor village boy who becomes servant to Odenigbo, a revolutionary university professor in Nsukka; of Olanna, a woman who comes from a wealthy family in Lagos who abandons her life to live with Odenigbo and of Richard, an Englishman who falls for Kainene, Olanna's twin sister.I was a little disappointed by this novel, but it had it's good points too. Ngozi Adichie's writing was truly wonderful, she managed to bring to life Nigeria and Biafra with ease, I could almost feel the humidity. Her descriptions of the abject poverty and desperation that faced many civilians in the latter days of the war, bring to life a situation that many of us could not even dream of.The novel also gave me a far better grounding in the events of the Nigerian war than I had before. The only thing I really understood about Biafra was the starvation; I was not even aware that it was part of the Nigerian war. Ngozi Adichie makes the events of the war far more accessible to the average reader than perhaps a history book would and I found it a really helpful way of gaining more of an understanding of the political history of Nigeria. Plus, it revealed a little more about England's post-colonial past with the news that, reminiscent of our current dealings with Libya and Yemen, UK weapons were apparently used against the Biafran rebels.However, the major problem I had with the book was that I had little sympathy with many of the characters. Whilst I felt that Ugwu, the young houseboy was brilliantly bought to life; many of the other characters seemed a little flat to me. Olanna was pretty much 'good' throughout, despite her snobbishness towards others who lived in poverty and Richard was a pretty cowardly character, almost reminding me of William Rackham in The Crimson Petal & The White, and most of the time I just wanted to yell at him. I did enjoy Kainene when she was involved in the plot, although unfortunately I felt that we didn't see enough of her. I'm not sure how to word my issue; it just left me emotionally detached from the horrific events that unfolded; I struggled to really have a response; which is incredibly rare for me.In general though, I do feel that Half of a Yellow Sun is a good book in as much as it gives an insight into the turbulent history of Nigeria; and is worth reading in light of the continuing troubles in North Africa, and in the work of Southern Sudan to become independent from the northern part. Plus, Ngozi Adichie's writing is stunning (and she looks almost exactly like I imagine Olanna to), so I certainly won't write her off, I think I may try again with Purple Hibiscus, her debut novel.