Set in Nigeria in the 1960s, Half of a Yellow Sun tells the story of estranged twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, as rising ethnic and nationalist tensions culminate in the Biafran secession and subsequent war. It's a fascinating and powerful book on many levels, detailing a conflict which the majority of people in the west are shamefully ignorant of; and yet I'm of two minds about it.
I liked the clarity of Adichie's prose, the intelligence and observation with which she writes, and was really fascinated by the society which she depicted, the varying strata of (mostly racist and obnoxious) white expatriates, poor rural Nigerians of the Igbo and Hausa tribes, and the burgeoning urban Nigerian middle class. I don't think I've ever read a work before, whether fiction or non-fiction, which dealt with class conflict and tension between black Africans, and that was something which really drew me in. The details of the Biafran war, too, were horrifying and shaming to read of; I knew a little about the conflict before reading Half of a Yellow Sun because of the involvement of Irish peacekeepers in the area, but most of it was new to me.
That said, I had problems with how she structured the book—I don't think moving back and forth in time from the early to the late sixties worked, as it was both a set up for a too-obvious 'emotional twist', and because it lessened the impact of the ongoing conflict. I felt her characterisation weakened as the novel progressed; the more that happened to the protagonists, the less able I felt to empathise with them, for some reason. (Except for Richard, who was a cipher to me the whole way through.) I think Adichie may have become a bit too attached to her characters the more she wrote, though; it felt like she was pulling her punches a bit to have pretty much all of the main characters come through the book unscathed, at least physically.