Felicity's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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Jun 01, 10

bookshelves: africa, fiction, historical-fiction, library-book, novel, audiobook
Read from April 16 to June 01, 2010

I liked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's first novel, Purple Hibiscus , so I picked up her second, more ambitious book. It's set before and during the Nigerian-Biafran War of 1967-1970.

I don't call this book more ambitious than Purple Hibiscus just because it tackles a war within living memory. It has multiple points of view, and executes a few small chronological jumps. Each of the point-of-view characters, who differ in age, race, gender and class, traces a believable and human arc. This is no small feat, and Adichie pulls it off handily. Adichie's writing style is a little hard to describe. It doesn't draw attention to itself with virtuosic description, but it's very effective: she puts the right word in the right place, and is very adept at choosing the perfect detail to make a scene or moment come to life.

The book starts out with a rather leisurely pace and following the most naive POV character, the houseboy Ugwu. This allowed a non-Nigerian reader like me to get her bearings, and then ensured I really knew the characters and cared about them before larger events began to affect their lives. The book is very moving, and occasionally hard to read. Even though I knew it was coming, the first outbreak of violence was shocking, an almost physical shock. She does a beautiful job of showing us large events through individual lives.

Adichie tells a complex and disturbing story with a large, vivid cast, and draws it to an ending that feels true. A remarkable book.

Notes on the audiobook: The narrator, Robin Miles, was amazing. She apparently won an award for this recording, and I'm not surprised: she does great voices of all ages, both genders, with accents from Alabama, small Nigerian villages, London, and combinations thereof. That's on top of great diction and dramatic sense. I may have a new favorite narrator (sorry, Davina Porter.)
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Reading Progress

05/01/2010 "This narrator is amazing."
05/07/2010 "Arrgh. We had to take apart the stereo to release the CDs, and now it's on hold. I love this narrator & I want to know what happens!"
05/28/2010 page 5665 "Finished rereading the Commodore: pottos and poteen, for all love."
05/28/2010 "Previous update for another book, thank you very much, iPhone app!"
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