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Half of a Yellow Sun

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  120,871 ratings  ·  9,568 reviews
A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun re-creates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the chilling violence that followed.

With astonishing empathy and
Hardcover, 433 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Knopf
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Keith Boswell I think that anyone, whatever age, who reads this book can only be enriched by it.
It will teach you the history of Biafra, a nation of people who woul…more
I think that anyone, whatever age, who reads this book can only be enriched by it.
It will teach you the history of Biafra, a nation of people who would not go quietly into the night even as they were being relentlessly starved and bombed.
I would recommend this book to any young reader interested in contemporary West African Culture and the idiosyncratic experiences which lie within.
Avid There were some graphic scenes; however, i thought they were depicted responsibly and realistically in order to tell the story (the novel is based in …moreThere were some graphic scenes; however, i thought they were depicted responsibly and realistically in order to tell the story (the novel is based in war-time west africa). I would not hesitate to have my 16-year-old read and discuss this book, although as with any book, there will be those with sensitivity to the topic. I think it can be a very important and valuable learning tool, and that outweighs, IMHO, many sensitivities to the graphic depictions that may arise. (less)

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It came to me as an epiphany as I barreled through the last few pages of this book, blanketed in my Sunday evening lethargy, marveling at Adichie's graceful evocation of a forgotten time and place and feeling the embarrassment of having known nothing about the Biafran war, that somewhere in the Gaza strip the maimed bodies of children must lie strewn amidst the debris of their former lives while vicious debates rage on twitter in which people pick a side - Israel or Hamas - to defend from critic ...more
A few months ago I read Chinua Achebe’s autobiography, “There Was a Country”, which depicted Nigeria’s Biafran War (1967-1970). This book also deals with the events before and leading up to the war.

This book was marvelous. The story just flows for the most part and the language used is so evocative. I’m sure people who have visited or lived in Africa will appreciate the descriptions of African life, African mentality, humour, nature and so on.

I have to admit, I much preferred the first half to
K.D. Absolutely
May 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
Shelves: 1001-non-core, race
Magic. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (born 1977) seemed to possess a magic wand that she was able to weave a story that was not supposed to be interesting for me: an Asian who have not been to Africa except seeing parts of that continent in the movies and reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Adichie turned an “uninteresting” story that speaks lucidly, bravely and beautifully about that tumultuous event that happened in her country Nigeria during the latter part of the 60’s when she was not even ...more
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was ok

I read only about one-third of this novel. Adichie's (CNA) writing doesn't agree with me at all. And the characters are so flat they should be able to slide under a door trouble-free. The characters don't even bother to play their role with its limited definition. Instead they keep pounding their fists on a table and shouting out what their role is supposed to be: "I am a sardonic bitch.", "I am sooo non-racist you won't even believe it", "blah blah".

Ouch! My head hurts.

One type of characters I
Nandakishore Mridula
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nandakishore by: Start typing for auto-complete
"The world was silent when we died."

This casual statement he once heard is used as the title of a book written by one of the characters in this novel, in which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chronicles the birth, short and tortured life and death of the State of Biafra: born on the 30th of May, 1967 from Nigeria and forcefully annexed back by the parent state, after a bitter war in which a million died, in January 1970.

Most of us, I suspect, do not know about this short-lived country. Even Wikipedia c
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
November 2020 update: Winner of Winners of Women's Prize for Fiction, meaning the best book voted by the readers from all the previous winners. I think it is well deserved.

From this book you learn that the European powers did a shitty job when they created the African countries, not taking in consideration any cultural/tribe aspects. Lots of problems resulted from that, especially war. (Read 2013)
Aug 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Something of a disappointment

It is not often that a novel comes to hand that has been prized, praised and pre-inflated. Half of a Yellow Sun was in that category when I opened it and began to read. And I was captivated immediately. I read the first hundred pages at a pace, delighting in the ease with which the Chimanada Ngozi Adichie used language to draw me into the middle-class clique centred on the University of Nsukka which provides the core characters of her book. Their infidelities, their
Update Nov 2020. This has won the Womens' Prize Winner of Winners, best in 25-year history!
“At the gates, Biafran soldiers were waving cars through. They looked distinguished in their khaki uniforms, boots shining, half of a yellow sun sewn on their sleeves.”

This story tracks a family as they transition from a position of influence and privilege with large, comfortable homes in Nigeria, to become citizens of the newly formed republic of Biafra. After a slow (to me) beginning, I ended up fascin
Jun 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, awarded
She did it again. And she did it (again) masterfully! While reading this novel I was often thinking of García Márquez’s words: ”The worst enemy of politicians is a writer” and I would amplify that with not only of politicians. Now, I’m not sure if Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has had intention to accuse (probably not) but you cannot avoid truth and, as always truth is hurting so badly.

Half of a Yellow Sun (related with Biafran flag, look the photo) is a story about birth and short life of Biafra, li
Julie Christine
When Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960, it stood to be one of the most prosperous, productive, and influential nations on the continent. Rich with natural resources, including vast reserves of oil, it possessed an educated middle class and a cultural life that blended multiple ethnic groups, languages and religions in a vast and vibrant collective.

Like many African nations colonized by Europeans, its borders had been drawn with little regard for political and cultural realiti
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, black-authors
First read: February 7-19, 2014
Second read: November 19-23, 2016

Updated Review:
My thoughts on this after reading it a second time didn't change much. If anything, it made me love Adichie even more than I already did. This confirmed that she's absolutely one of my all-time favorite authors. She's so observant and able to convey human emotion in such a relatable way, even when describing experiences I have never come close to experiencing. A wonderfully, heartbreaking story and one of my favorite
Em Lost In Books
Beautifully written but it didn't speak to me like Purple Hibiscus. At times I found it to be too long and at others I couldn't connect to the characters. ...more
B the BookAddict
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Heather for Recommendation Swap
Shelves: fiction, rec-swap
For my review, I have selected a poem featured very near the end of this devastatingly real and haunting novel. Written by the character Okeoma who apparently is based on the real poet Christopher Okigbo.

The World Was Silent When We Died

Did you see photos in sixty-eight
Of Children with their hair becoming rust:
Sickly patches nestled on those small heads,
Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust?

Imagine children with arms like toothpicks,
With footballs for bellies and skin stretched thin.
It wa
✨    jay   ✨
“Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future.”

Half of a Yellow Sun is a historical fiction work following several characters through the years before, after and during the Biafran-Nigerian war. It's one of those books that is on every 'must read' and book club pick list, so I definitely had high expectations going into this. Especiall
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book came as somewhat of a revelation to me and also a huge relief. This was after having recently read and been disappointed in: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) – a similarly high profile book lauded with both critical and popular acclaim, also set against a (very broadly speaking) similar backdrop of a war torn country – albeit Afghanistan rather than Nigeria / Biafra.

‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ is an extremely well written, very human story and emotionally authentic story told from very dif
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of the independence movement for the Biafra region of Nigeria was momentous, and in modern times we would have been much more capable of responding in awareness and support. I remember as a child in an Irish school donating weekly to help the starving people in Biafra without really understanding what was happening.

This story takes the factual situation of the Igbo people in their attempt to establish the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria in 1967 and adds fictional characters and
Finished reading July 03, 2013

Brilliant book - once again.

"The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in detail and manages to keep the reader glued to the book. For those who want to understand what the African Renaissance is all about, this is the kind of book that will shed some valuable light on the current challenges being addressed. It is huge, brutal, dangerous and probably nevere
Peter Boyle
Wow. Isn't it amazing when a book lives up to its lofty reputation? I was already a big fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, having loved Americanah and The Thing Around Your Neck. I had been saving the Women's Prize winning Half of a Yellow Sun for a special occasion, and this seemed like a good time to treat myself. It exceeded my expectations and then some.

The story is set in 1960s Nigeria, before and during the civil war. Sisters Olanna and Kainene come from a wealthy Igbo family, and though the
I very much liked Adichie's historical homage to the Biafran war. This one is an acclaimed and epic story in scope. The title has a very specific meaning (view spoiler). This was in effect a book with dual personalities or in a literary sense it was a book of multiple genres.

Truth be told, the level of success varied between the genres. For a historical fiction novel, I thought this was excellent! The epic sc
Jennifer (aka EM)
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary novel about a time/place that I know little about except - as the author mentions through one of her characters - as the device used by Western parents to get their children to finish their dinners.

What is amazing about this novel is how Adichie creates a set of characters involved in regular domestic affairs (working, studying, falling in love, being in love, cheating or worried about cheating, finding an identity, growing up, just generally living, etc. etc.) within the conte
Imogen Kathleen
Heartbreaking and powerful, this masterfully-crafted story is a favourite of many.
Adichie has the most beautiful writing style, and effortlessly creates a consuming atmosphere filled with complex characters. No sentence feels wasted and each word feels carefully chosen.

Before reading this book, I didn't know much about the Biafran war, which is shocking and embarrassing. I learnt so much from this story, and was gripped from start to finish. Whilst the story itself was flawlessly done, it was th
Éimhear (A Little Haze)

2021 Update:
Since I read this work by Adichie I have discovered that she is an author who shares very different ideologies than I do. And therefore she is an author I feel I can no longer support as I am unable to separate the art from the artist. I shall leave my review intact but remove my rating.


“The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with the frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She h
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Paula by: Women’s prize for fiction
Women’s Prize for Fiction 2007
Women’s Prize for Fiction, Winner of Winners 2020

I loved Americanah. A favorite of mine. Half of A Yellow Sun is a wonderful historical fiction about the war between Nigeria and Biafra. So much sorrow. What I liked most about this book was the twin sisters. The author portrayed them so well.

Certainly a book we should all read.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Roman Clodia
She unfurled Odenigbo's cloth flag and told them what the symbols meant. Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of a yellow sun stood for the glorious future.

I'm so conflicted about this book which I desperately wanted to love: it's an important story and one that, as Adichie herself says, needs to be told by an African writer - (view spoiler)
Ugwu is a houseboy for his 'Master' intellectual Odenigbo who's dating upper middle-class Olanna. Olanna has a non-identical twin, the unstoppable Kainene, who is seeing an Englishman, Richard. This is the story of these five peoples' lives in 1960s Nigeria, from post-Colonial optimism through to the end of the Biafran war. And here's a spoiler... this book is brilliant!

Adichie perfectly captures post-Colonial Nigeria in the first third of the book, managing to cover not only Lagos, but Igbo-cen
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, war
It would be easy to write a long review about this fascinating book but there are already so many excellent reviews by more able reviewers that I will keep my comments brief.

Although I was aware of the Biafran war and the mass starvation and death that resulted, I never had any understanding of the reasons leading to the birth of Biafra and the aftermath of it's Denise. Through her gentle but effective prose, Adichie has opened my eyes to the role colonialism has had (not just in Nigeria but all
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ by: Éimhear (A Little Haze)
4.5 stars for showing me how uneducated I was (am). Gonna cry now, thank you. Also, men are trash and that is all.

TW - graphic violence, graphic rape, war
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nigerian
Did you see the photos in sixty-eight
Of children with their hair becoming rust:
Sickly patches nestled on those small heads.
Then falling off, like rotten leaves on dust?

_____ _____ _____ _____

I would have been in grade school, or just entering high school. Adolescent discomfiture was the main thing on my mind. What I knew of the larger world came from photojournalism: Life magazine pictures. Those images, it turns out, were permanent: fire hoses turned on in the South; bombs mushrooming above an
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
War cuts across class, gender, race. The privileged Igbo woman. The Igbo houseboy from the village. The white Englishman in love with Igbo art. Three voices for this story, three hearts cut by the grief of a war from which are all somewhat protected: Olanna by her familiy's wealth, Ugwu by the status and resources of his employers, and Richard by his whiteness and foreign-ness. Yet their passions, their attachments, not least for Biafra itself, leave them exposed, vulnerable to the wounds they c ...more
How long do you think it would have taken Europe to move past the Middle Ages had there been no crusades or colonialism or any other garroting movement of one culture extending into another and taking back what it sees fit? What explains the disparity between the defeat of Germany and the crushing of Biafra beyond the matters of infrastructure and economic needs of cosmopolitan borders? Why is it that I have childhood memories of eat up, eat up, the children in Africa are starving, and it is onl ...more
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Reading 1001: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 4 28 Jan 25, 2021 05:01PM  
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria.

Her work has been translated into over thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won t

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