Ari's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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's review
Aug 14, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2011
I own a copy

Now here is a book that defines the word EPIC. At first I was impatient for the war to begin, but gradually I relaxed and soaked up all the conversations. I'm always fondly jealous when in books the characters attend not just parties but also gatherings where they discuss politics openly, this is quite a common theme when I read books not set in America. I don't think you can do that in the United States nowadays, it can be too violate, we've lost too much civility to be able to calmly discuss international affairs and domestic politics. Half a Yellow Sun is no exception, Olanna & Odenigbo host gatherings of intellectuals who are not all like minded but they are polite and their discussions range from politics to literature to religion but always come back to politics. These discussions create an opening for the author to showcase the various viewpoints of secondary characters who will remain relevant throughout the entirety of the novel. My favorite character was Kainene because she was so hard to read (pun intended). She was so cold towards other people and so difficult to understand but I loved her passion, her commitment to helping people throughout the world. Her ending made me very sad because I grown quite fond of her and Richard but their endings suit them and I can't always say that I feel that way after reading another book where the same end meets the characters but this book is different.

I would be able to honestly use the word epic to describe this novel because while it is surrounded by grand, sweeping events, it is filled with small moments that if you blink you might miss the importance to the characters. For example, I might have overlooked the following quote had I not studied Nigeria in my Comparative Government & Politics class "but my point is that the only authentic identity for the African is the tribe,' Master said. 'I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came'" (pg. 25). From my class I knew that many Nigerians identify themselves by their tribe first, country second. Although some of my Nigerian friends say that is changing, their parents identify themselves first by tribe then Nigeria, but they (the younger generation) are content with simply calling themselves Nigerian. A small quote in the context of a longer discussion that I might not have picked up but it's an example of how careless the imperialistic powers were upon leaving Africa, just throwing together tribes with no thought to their warring history. Half A Yellow Sun is an epic and epic itself. The story does not take place across generations but it does span several years while managing to never lose the reader. It's epic because it completely immerses the reader in Nigerian culture as a whole but specifically in Igbo culture, it had me walking away thinking of words in Igbo (such as "biko" a term of endearment). There were also tiny bursts of feminism such as when Olanna resolutely decides after being cheated on that "[s]he would not let him make her feel that there was something wrong with her. It was her right to be upset, her right to choose not to brush her humiliation aside in the name of an overexalted intellectualism, and she would claim that right" (pg. 129). A mini review cannot do this book justice I don't think but I'll try in a sentence: Enrapturing tale with dynamic characters of various temperaments from various backgrounds, dense without being overwhelming.

While I equally adored Purple Hibiscus, I wouldn't re-read it due to its intense subject matter. War is difficult to read about but I'm much more eager to re-vist the world of Olanna, Richard, Kainene, Odenigbo and Ugwu.

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Comments (showing 1-3)

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Desiree I'm glad you liked this book. Epic doesn't even begin to do it justice in my opinion. Also you make an excellent point about the tribal identity. As a Nigerian (Yoruba), I tend to find that due to our history and politics, Igbos tend to do the tribal identity first more than other tribes.

message 2: by Ari (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ari Do you think Igbos tending to identiy themself more so as Igbos first, Nigerians second is due to their autonomous history?

So many books are described as epic but I fail to see how they are epic. That was not the case for this book! But yes epic barely scratches the surface of describing this book

Desiree Re: Igbos and self-identification, yes I think so. They also seem to express their tribe identity with more gusto than other tribes.

Personally, the fact that I'm Yoruba only comes up if the person (i.e. non-Africans) I'm talking to wants to delve further. With Africans however, I generally say it because I feel they'll understand what I'm talking about (i.e. the concept of tribes etc).

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