Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

This book is sooooo good.
Like, I don’t even know how to describe how good it is.
Let’s start with the characters:
There is Odenigbo, the strong revolutionary academic with high minded ideas about his country and people,
There is his lover Olanna, beautiful and barren,
There is Olanna’s twin sister Kainene, not as beautiful, but sassy than a mofo,
There is Richard, Kainene’s white British lover,
There is Baby, Odenigbo’s daughter
and there is Ugwu, Odenigbo’s houseboy.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel has more characters that color the story, but these six are the main ones that are set against each other in the plot of the book. It is set in the late sixties as Nigeria (and the rest of the African continent) shakes off the colonial rule of Europe and the intertribal rivalries start to reach a boiling point. Every one of the main characters is devoted to something or someone: Ugwu is devoted to Odenigbo, Odenigbo is devoted to the idea of a free Biafra, Olanna is devoted to her lover, Kainene is devoted to being a smart ass and a business woman, Richard is devoted to Kainene, and Baby is devoted to Ugwu. The interesting stuff happens when all these devotions get disrupted by literal outside forces (war, famine) and emotional forces (family pressure, resentment).
Adichie does a good job of grabbing the reader by the heart with the way she paces the action in the story – the Biafran War boils up and throws the solidly middle class characters into complete chaos. No longer can they sit and argue policies and politics in their living rooms over wine, they actually are living it. The Biafran War serves as the backdrop for most of the story and truly exposes the horrors of war to the reader, and you realize how little it takes to toss an otherwised civil society into turmoil. It is through war that we see Odenigbo’s high and mighty ideologies put the the test and his subsequent dillusionment; we see the power of forgiveness that Kainene has towards her sister for the doing her dirty, and we see Olanna’s tough-as-nails spirit shine through as she fights to keep her family together.
Also, it should be noted that the s3x in the book is really, really good. Like, usually literary s3x is boring or over the top and never really captures the essence of the act. I believe Adichie uses s3x with purpose, to show how it is used as a sign of love between lovers, as a weapon for revenge, and as a tool of power via rape.
Reading this book reminded me a bit of “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze” and “The Kite Runner”, with the themes of war and family in foreign countries teaching you more about a history that you never knew of (the power of fiction!!). You begin to see how war changes people, breaks them down and reveals who they are. That said, you really need to read this book and change your life. Check out the homies of the NBR bookclub tomorrow @ 9PM eastern as they discuss the last few chapters of the book and see for yourself how electrifying they found it. Happy reading!

12 thoughts on “Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

  1. Meeeehhhhnnnn this is my book! I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so connected to a group of characters (especially the sisters) in my life. I really need to set aside some time to re-read this.
    I like how you pointed out each character’s devotion. And yes she did such a good job w/ the s3x scenes.
    I saw your review of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze already. I should definitely add that to my to-read list too.

      • Some fiction books I’ve really appreciated in the past few years
        Zadie Smith – On Beauty. I loved it the first time, couldn’t get into it the 2nd time I tried but I may try again. Everyone talks about White Teeth but I couldn’t get into it the first time.
        Miranda July – No One Belongs Here More Than You. I read this after I saw it recommended on Until I Get Married Blog. Such a random recommendation but I really enjoyed it. I think those who are quirky/socially awkward will appreciate it most.
        I’m doing the Africa Reading Challenge this year (hosted by Kinna Reads) so I’m getting exposed to a lot more African lit. I’m only 4 books deep and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read. Akata Witch is a fantasy YA novel but it was pretty fun to read.

  2. I loved her first book ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and then listened to her speak at a book event and she talked about wanting to write this book, she is such an amazing person to listen to as well as being an awesome writer. When the book came out, I jumped to get it and it didn’t disappoint.

    You will be pleased to know that they have just finished making the film of it, mostly shot in Nigeria and finished off in England. It might take another 6 months to a year before it is released, but watch this space, its coming to the big screen soon.

      • I haven’t seen it in the press, I only know because my Uncle is the designer and he’s just back from Nigeria and now on a well-deserved holiday. But I found that link with the very first photo made public, only a few days old, so you’ll be up with the latest, but maybe that’s why they chose the book. Have a fun discussion. I remember when she discussed the subject of the Biafran War, her saying how it was kind of a taboo subject that no one talked about, so quite something to have made it the subject of an award winning book tha’ts now being made into a film.

  3. Pingback: [DMV DopeReaders] Chimamda Ngozi Adichie at Politics & Prose | DopeReads

  4. Pingback: While You Were Sleep, Beyonce Drops an Album w/Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on a Song | DopeReads

  5. You’ll be dazed at the nutty things you can do, it
    can be easily kitchen remodeling managed by a team of professional experts who can design your cupboards.

    3 Materials that exhibit unique and innovative style
    but in a cost-conscious price range – Textured
    laminates and refined wood veneers give off a much
    more organised kitchen. When you want to purchase new cabinets for a lower quality
    material with lesser cost.