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Half of a Yellow Sun

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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 the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one of the most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.

433 pages, Hardcover

First published September 12, 2006

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About the author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

112 books38.1k followers
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 the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Ms. Adichie is also the author of the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck.

Ms. Adichie has been invited to speak around the world. Her 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of A Single Story, is now one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time. Her 2012 talk We Should All Be Feminists has a started a worldwide conversation about feminism, and was published as a book in 2014.

Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Ms. Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,207 reviews
Profile Image for Samadrita.
295 reviews4,460 followers
July 29, 2015
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 criticism. As if that's what matters.

Somewhere at this very moment there may be a terror-stricken, weeping child, fleeing to find cover, unaware of what she is running from, unaware of the finality of death, shielded by the caprices of the same history she is living, perhaps. Someday she may grow up well to become another Chimamanda to write the story which is hers to tell, and time, circumstances, and health permitting, I am going to be reading that book and be reminded of the umpteenth 'war' that not even my generation of enlightened, Nobel-peace-prize winning heads of state did enough to prevent, the damage that could have been preempted, and the children who could have grown up to carry the weight of civilization some day but didn't.

The farce of this relentless cycle of mayhem, killing, pillage, rape, and starvation will hit us time and again and yet leaders of the first world will continue to look dapper in their crisp suits and appear dignified while justifying their sale of high-tech weapons to warring parties because revenue is to be earned from the spilling of blood. For the sake of self-made demarcations, for the sake of that ridiculous nonentity called national pride, for the sake of righting wrongs done in the past we'll bury our children and future in mass graves and commit more wrongs.

This book deserves 4 stars in my eyes. It's not a flawlessly written work with its frequent straying into the territory of melodramatic personal relationships and cliched characterization and Adichie's writing seems to lack polish in places. But in no way does that stop this from being a highly important work of fiction that the annals of literature ought to acknowledge with a gleaming appraisal.

This is the past transcending the barriers of time to appear before us in a surely pale imitation of its true grotesqueness. This is Adichie leading us to history of a corner of the world we only associate with food programs, the UNHCR, unstable governments and inexorable ethnic conflicts. This is Adichie telling us that history ignored isn't history blotted out.

I didn't know Biafra at all; there are not enough books on Biafra (as confirmed by Goodreads and Google Books), because only those horrors of war survive oblivion which are fortunate enough to receive the world media's stamp of approval. Not all death and devastation caused by 'civil wars' are worthy of the glory of 'crimes against humanity' like Nigeria's smooth war tactic of starving Biafran children with tacit British support wasn't.
"Starvation propelled aid organizations to sneak-fly food into Biafra at night since both sides could not agree on routes. Starvation aided the careers of photographers. And starvation made the International Red Cross call Biafra its gravest emergency since the Second World War."

But there was a Biafra. Not the transient existence of the nation represented by half of a yellow sun but the reality of the people who, in the paroxysms of misguided idealism, picked the losing side in a war.
Chimamanda's Olanna, Ugwu and Richard, all of whom weave their way in and out of manifold conflicts of morality, identity, and survival, serve as our guides in this landscape of kwashiorkor-plagued children with pot bellies while trying to make sense of the muddle of mutual Hausa-Yoruba-Igbo animosity. And along with them the reader navigates the maze of wartime barbarity, political allegiances, and interpersonal relationships with a growing sense of unease and uncertainty - who are the ones truly responsible? who are the perpetrators? who are the victims? what was the war for and what did it achieve?
"Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved. But it was not grief that Olanna felt, it was greater than grief. It was stranger than grief."

In the end any such attempt at such neat compartmentalization makes little difference to the truth of lives destroyed in a fit of murderous passion. In all likelihood, there will be more Biafras and Srebrenicas and Rwanda-Burundis and Syrias and Gazas as there will be the burden of future tragedy and loss to be borne by hapless survivors. But there's the small assurance that there will be the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichies of the world to give a human face to the solemn formality of statistics every time.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,410 followers
January 7, 2013
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 the second half. It was hard to read about the Biafran war. The copy of the book I had actually showed pictures of children during the war who had suffered from kwashiorkor. It was truly heartbreaking. To think so many tribal wars occurred because of colonialists drawing arbitrary borders and also favouring one ethnic group over another (similar to what happened in Burundi and Rwanda).

The stories of the five main characters; Ugwu, Olanna, Richard, Odenigbo and Kainene were also interesting, though some parts were quite reminiscent of a Nollywood (Nigerian movie industry) movie (affairs, evil women, desperation for babies, meddling mothers etc.)

Since a lot of people consider Africa on the whole to be a homogeneous “country” where everyone speaks “African”, I’m hoping books like this will help show people that that’s not the case; even a country like Nigeria has so many tribes and cultures.

One quote I really liked was this: “The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.” A point to ponder.

Adichie is definitely a wonderful contemporary African writer, probably one of the best I’ve encountered in recent years. I’m really excited to read more from Adichie. She’s so young and it’s safe to suppose her writing will only get better
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan .
940 reviews1,877 followers
July 23, 2022
This novel tells us the story of Biafra's quest for an independent republic in Nigeria. This novel, set in the 1960s, tells us the racist impact colonialism had inflicted on Africa.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my most favorite contemporary African writers. The story is told through five main characters Ugwu, Olanna, Richard, Odenigbo, and Kainene. This is a riveting, evocative novel, just like all the other novels written by the author.

"The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world."
Profile Image for Megha.
79 reviews1,046 followers
June 16, 2012

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 am almost certain to hate are the P.E.R.F.E.C.T. ones. And CNA stops just short of establishing Olanna's idol in a temple and worshiping her. We are constantly reminded of what a smart and benevolent person she is. And non-racist. She is always showing off her fancy London-based education, always talking about this charity or that. To make sure she is universally adored, CNA mentions her angel-like beauty almost every time Olanna is mentioned.

In CNA's world all rich people are by default super-shallow. Now poor Olanna had the misfortune of being born to rich parents. How do we fix that? Olanna leaves her parent's house to live with her boyfriend (does this count as a sacrifice?) and takes up a job. Her parents still keep trying to shove fancy cars and bundles of cash down her throat. She feebly resists, but has to accept them anyway. Very convenient!

Odenigbo - the revolutionary. His activism largely involves drinking with buddies in his living room and abruptly shouting out some out-of-context political dialogue. To hold up this forward and enlightened image of his he needs to keep breaking into such diatribes without any sense of place or time - so I am driving my houseboy to see his sick mom. I know exactly what the boy needs right now, my political rant. Yup.

Ugwu - So wait, you mean my mom is not dying, she is only terribly sick? Hurray, I can go back to fantasizing about Nnesinachi breasts.

Richard - super-lame white boy who has read a Wikipedia article (or some equivalent) about one Nigerian art form and now that's the only thing he will ever talk about. And hey, he claims to have interest in a local art form. What do you mean that's not sufficient to give him a non-racist badge?

...and a couple of more such posers. In terms of writing, CNA tries to be somewhat fancy and writer-ly, thus ending up writing in a style that doesn't come naturally to her. You can see her trying a bit too hard. One rule of thumb she seems to follow is to attach an unrelated, trivial sentence at the end of a paragraph. Is that supposed to impart depth to the writing?

I know I haven't reached the meat of the novel yet. There is a war on the horizon. Typically one can expect to see a transformation in someone who has lived through a war. Given what I have seen so far, these characters may jump from one assigned characteristic to another, if the author tells them to. I don't expect to see any realistic, believable transitions. I am just going to live without knowing who all make it through the war.
Profile Image for K.D. Absolutely.
1,820 reviews
November 16, 2011
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 born yet. I have been postponing reading this book for a year now and had I died at that time, I would have regretted not experiencing the magical prose of the beautiful – outside and inside - Adichie. Yes, Google her picture (oh, I now refrain inserting images in my reviews as they could hang the screen of my computer) and see for yourself. She is beautiful.

I said the story was “uninteresting” because its backdrop was the secession of Biafra from Nigeria in the 1967. The British left Nigeria in 1960 and it resulted to the alignment of powers, anchored in ethnicity, social class, oil, etc, and so the Republic of Biafra (still an unrecognized state) was born. On the center of the republic’s flag is a rising yellow sun. That explains the title as only half of the sun is shown. This secession is not as close to my heart as the ones here in Asia including the one here in the country:
Mindanao on-going. If you look at the map of the Philippines, there is a big island at the southern part of the archipelago. It is called Mindanao. Since many decades back, there is a secessionist movement composed of the Muslim leaders, the Moro National Liberation Front, based in that island who want to secede Mindanao from the Philippines. Reason: religion. The island is mostly populated by Muslims while the rest of the country is inhabited by Christians with Catholics comprising 85% of them.

Taiwan on-going. Taiwan used to be part of Mainland China until the defeat and expulsion of the ruling Kuomintang ROC government by the Communist Party of China in 1949.

Tibet on-going. Tibetan Independence Movement asserts that Tibet has been historically independent from People’s Republic of China. Tibetan diaspora in countries like India and the United States and by celebrities in the US and Europe support this with the Dalai Lama becoming the symbol of their cause.

Those who have seceded already but whose stories captured the attention of the world were: East Timor secession from Indonesia in 2002, Kashmir from India in 1989 and the expulsion of Singapore from the Malayan Federation in 1965. Since these three happened during my lifetime,I have read many stories about them on newspapers or novels with any of them used as backdrop.
So, you can see that my plate is full already of interesting stories of on-going Asian secession movements as well as those that have succeeded already. So, reading about one in Africa - Biafra - was not really that interesting for me.

But Adichie has magic tricks up her sleeves. I would like to think that Adichie’s powerful prose can even turn a telephone book into a literary masterpiece. Her characters are three- or even four- dimensional, i.e., they come alive in every page of her book. This is a story of 5 individuals all belonging to the ethnic group Igbo that is pro-secession. One of them is already a British national, an intellectual professor Odenigbo. The second one is his wife Olanna who studied in England. Third is Olanna’s her sister Kainene. Fourth is Kainene's husband Richard who is a still a British national but studying Igbo arts. However, my favorite is the fifth major character: the 13-y/o houseboy Ugwu not only because he seems to be the character that holds the story together but he seems to be the one that truly represents the Biafran: innocent and clueless but governed by his traditional values and what little knowledge of the world and politics he had at the beginning of the story then got caught in the frenzy of killings, hopelessness, famine and deaths during the secession. He also got caught by the resulting transformations of the other four main characters as the secession brought out the best, but mostly worst, of their characters.

In terms of its theme, this book may have some similarities with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or Richard Koch’s The Year of Living Dangerously as both are stories of people caught and struggling with themselves amidst the change in the political power. However, Adichie’s storytelling makes all the difference. Her narration is flawless, enchanting, interesting and arresting. I was able to relate to her milieu because Africa and Asia have many similarities including the social strata of people particularly in the provinces.

This book really surprised me. Two years ago, when I saw this book on the shelves of Fullybooked, I said to myself ”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Who is this author?” and I had second thought of buying the book. The only reason why I had to was that this is a 1001 book.

Now, if somebody would ask me who is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I would have this to say: ”Magic. She is this African author who writes like she has magical powers.” And her work deserves to be in that list.

I should go and look for her Purple Hibiscus.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,099 reviews1,586 followers
July 8, 2022

I protagonisti del film omonimo, Chiwetel Ejiofor e Thandie Newton.

Hanno abolito le province italiane (ma è successo davvero?) e molti hanno protestato, si sono appellati alle grandi differenze tra Pisa e Livorno, o tra Savona e Imperia.

Nel caso dell’Africa, continente non provincia, e caso mai colonia, l’unica differenza che sembriamo in grado di fare è tra Africa del nord e Africa nera o subsahariana.
Per il resto, è una massa unica, è l’Africa: e non gli infiniti paesi e popoli che la compongono.

Il film è stato diretto da Biyi Bandele nel 2013.

Questo libro racconta una delle millanta storie dell’Africa, la nascita e la morte del Biafra, stato autoproclamatosi all’interno della Nigeria, la guerra tra il 1967 e il 1970 (le prime immagini di bambini con le pance gonfie dalla fame…) che si portò via un milione di morti, e si dice quasi altri due milioni per la fame.

E all’inizio, che sorpresa!, non è la solita Africa delle carestie, della fame, delle malattie (dei bambini con la pancia gonfia…): ma è un’Africa, o meglio, è la Nigeria con i suoi salotti borghesi, gli ambienti universitari in cui si parla di poesia, di filosofia e di politica.


Nella seconda parte, però, possiamo tornare tranquilli, è l’Africa che conosciamo, che ci rassicura: ci sarà la guerra, i morti, e i bambini con la pancia gonfia, per le solite ragioni di religione (musulmani contro cristiani) o di etnia [Hausa contro Igbo].

Molto diverso da Sozaboy che racconta gli stessi avvenimenti, non raggiunge quelle vette, ma è ugualmente un gran bel romanzo, un’ottima lettura.

‘Dio non fallirà’ è il significato della parola igbo Chimamanda, il nome di questa scrittrice.

La metà di un sole giallo è la bandiera del Biafra (1967-1970).
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,238 reviews2,205 followers
January 11, 2016
"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 calls the war between Biafra and Nigeria a "civil war", thus denying legitimacy to the erstwhile nation: even though a number of countries recognised it. Since history is always written by the victors, the voice of the losers are often submerged in the general background noise.

I listened to a talk by the author - a very impressive one - about the danger of the "single story": the one that has been foisted on the world by the erstwhile colonial powers and called "history". These are opinions which are taught as facts, which tend to show an uncivilised "third world", and the West's "civilising" influence. This is so much bovine excrement. The colonial powers went into Asia and Africa to loot, and when the loot was finished, exited leaving miserable poverty and the flames of mutual hatred in the minds of people. This is the story which is not told.

Ms. Adichie also warns us about the "secondary story" in the speech; that is, starting the story from the second chapter, ignoring the first. Examples are plentiful - Palestinians attacking the peaceful state of Israel, without mentioning the death and displacement of thousand of Palestinians to create the said country; mutual hatred between India and Pakistan, without mentioning the hatred fomented by the British which resulted in the partition; endemic poverty and tribal violence in Africa, without mentioning the years of occupation by the West which created them. Up till recently, world history was made up of these secondary stories, which served as the "one story" which the former colonial powers wanted to propagate.

It is heartening to note that things are changing. People like Chimamanda are using the most powerful medium available to humans since the dawn of civilisation to bring about that change: the medium of the narrative. And it is here that the defeated people have an immense power which cannot be suppressed.

The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave.


As the British colonists left Nigeria, they did what they were expert at doing: drawing artificial national boundaries and inciting hatred in the minds of the people they ruled. So after a period of uneasy calm, Nigeria erupted in riots. The powerful Hausa people massacred the Igbo minority, whom they considered to be enjoying more benefits than was due them (see anything familiar here?), and the Igbo declared independence from Nigeria, and the state of Biafra was born. However, Nigeria could not let go of the oil-rich south: so war was declared. In a bitter battle which lasted two and a half years which left a million dead and the country devastated, Biafra was subjugated and wiped off the map.

Ms. Adichie passes the harsh white light of history through the prism of individual experience to create overlapping rainbows of narratives. In this, her style is similar to that of Paul Scott; however, whereas Scott’s narrative is an Indian tapestry where one has to search among the intricate coloured strands to see a pattern (or multiple conflicting patterns), Chimamanda’s work has all the blunt beauty of African art: the uncomplicated lines and the simple patterns which makes the medium all but transparent so that the narrator is talking directly to the listener. Scenes of utter despair and brutality are described very matter-of-factly, in almost Hemingway-esque prose. We are all sitting around a metaphorical campfire, listening to the author telling her story in uncomplicated prose.

But it does not mean that there are no nuances. The name, Half of a Yellow Sun, itself signifies separation, a paring; the fact that it is a reference to the Biafran flag makes it all the more significant. One of the three main characters through whose viewpoints we experience the tale, Olanna, is one of set of fraternal twins. Like twins in a fairy tale, the sisters are of diametrically opposite natures - Olanna is beautiful, revolutionary and optimistic; while her sister Kainene is plain, cynical and pessimistic. Of course, things are not so simple as they seem, and the sisters’ characters unfurl as the story progresses: showing us more and more layers, as the siblings move through their lives, facing love, hatred, betrayal, separation and loss against a nation that is slowly coming apart at the seams.

Another character through whose eyes we see the tragedy of Biafra is Richard Churchill, Kainene’s lover – an Englishman who has “gone native”. Richard is interested in Igbo pottery, and is ostensibly researching it. He is also trying to write a book which never seems to take shape – like character from a Kafka story, Richard plods on, reaching nowhere.

But for me, the character who holds the novel together is Ugwu, houseboy of Odenigbo, Olanna’s boyfriend. As we move across the Nigeria of the early sixties to the Biafra of the late sixties and then again, back to a unified Nigeria in 1970, Ugwu grows from child to man – in more ways than one. In the end, he becomes Richard’s spiritual heir of sorts, telling the story of the Igbo people of Nigeria, which Richard could never accomplish.

The story goes on.
Profile Image for Adina.
777 reviews2,943 followers
November 13, 2020
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)
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books24.9k followers
January 24, 2021
أتوجّس من مراجعة كتابٍ مدهش، لأنني أريد لكل العالم أن يقرأه، وأعرفُ أن الأمر غير ممكن، كما أعرف إلى أي حدٍّ أستطيع أن أكون متعصّبة لكتابٍ أحبه، أزعمُ أن لديّ أسبابي.

أستطيع أن أضع ساقًا فوق أخرى وأشرح أسبابي ببرود "المثقفين" الباهت، لكنني أحيانًا أريد أن أقفز من الحماسةِ وحسب.

#نصف_شمس_صفراء رواية نيجيرية مشغولة بالشأن العام، بأحلام اليسار وطبقة الأثرياء والأثرياء الجدد، رواية عن الحرب ومشتقاتها؛ الحصار والمجاعة والعهر السياسي.. وهي رواية عن القضايا الكبرى، لكنها ليست الرواية القضية. كانت رواية فحسب، رواية تكتفي بحقيقتها، وتحافظ على أناقتها كشرطٍ وحيد.

الشخصيات مسكونة بالهاجس الوحيد الذي يعرفه الإنسان في السلم والحرب؛ الوقوع في الحب، والبحث عن الحب.

وجدتُها تجربة متكاملة، تقدم لي - بالضبط - ما أريده من رواية؛ الخصوصية البيئية، الحوارات الذكية، حسّ التهكم المرّ، الدفء، البصيص في العتمة، التفاصيل، السياق التاريخي والاجتماعي الذي يكشف اتساع جهلي، الربط بين القضايا، وشخصيات مؤنسنة بالكامل.

وجدتُ الترجمة في غاية الأناقة. شكرًا فاطمة ناعوت، شكرًا دار المدى.

Profile Image for Philip.
Author 7 books125 followers
September 19, 2008
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 inconsistencies, their desire, despite the servants, for equality and freedom are symptomatic of their time. The dissimilar twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, one imagines will provide a vehicle for parallel and different lives, providing contrast and metaphor, and I eagerly awaited their stories to unfold.

The book’s sections alternate between the early and late 1960s, the latter period in Nigeria, of course, being the Biafran War. And, yes, the characters live through the war, and their lives and their natures, and along with them their country, are transformed by it. Perhaps even their own identity is redrawn, especially once the promise of a recognised nationality is promised and then denied. Eventually there are vivid scenes of the war’s brutality, its double standards, its compromises, its cynicism, its racism and its starvation. The images are graphic and vivid, unforgettable even, and the ability of war to undermine utterly and profoundly any assumption that an individual might harbour about an imagined future is movingly portrayed.

So why then was I so disappointed with the book? All I can offer, I’m afraid, is that eventually I found it shallow. Its apparent concentration on the domestic lives of the characters undermined their credibility as members of an intellectual elite and rendered them two (or perhaps even one) dimensional. Chimanada Ngozi Adichie carefully tells us that Odenigbo is a mathematician and in love with his subject. He covets his personal library, which he loses in the war and then has replaced by a benefactor. But in my experience, mathematicians are passionate people – and are usually passionate about mathematics. No mathematician I have ever met avoids all mention of personal academic interests in social settings as scrupulously as Odenigbo. I didn’t want the novel to become a textbook, but if characters were ballet dancers, surely we would expect to hear of the roles they had danced and the music that had moved them. Of Odenigbo’s academic character we hear nothing. Why is he therefore endowed with knowledge and interest that is never explored? Perhaps he only exists as a character to interact with the twin sisters.

And the problem is repeated with Richard Churchill who, we are told is an Igbo-speaking English radical. I knew a lot of sixties radicals and they were never slow to offer an opinion or, indeed, place themselves squarely in a space on the ideological chessboard. In Half of a Yellow Sun, we never learn if Richard is a Marxist, Maoist, Leninist or Trot. He never mentions Castro or Ho Chi Minh. He doesn’t appear to have any position on capitalism, society, business, the Third World, South Africa, Central America or even Viet Nam. I found myself wondering which sixties decade saw his radicalisation. When Chimanada Ngozi Adichie tells us that he travels to Lagos to attend a function in honour of the state funeral of Winston Churchill (perhaps no relation), I began to wonder if he was an early- (or indeed late) born radical Tory. I have been an expatriate myself, so I can forgive him his attendance of the function, but not his total silence on the issues of the day.

This becomes especially problematic when both Britain and the Soviet Union are mentioned as assisting the Federal Forces in the destruction of secessionist Biafra. What sixties radical, given the inevitability of his assumption of a Cold War bifurcated paradigm to underpin his ideological position, would not have pondered and discussed this at length, even in bed?

Eventually we also have to read along with continued adulation of Ojukwu. His Excellency might even be the Great Helmsman, himself, given that his free-thinking minions seem unable to mention a criticism of an historical character who eventually fled to Ivory Coast to save his skin and live his life in relative comfort after leaving millions of his own people dead. Perhaps he had to be preserved to fight another day, as he eventually did, if in a different way, but surely no sixties radical would have left his role unquestioned. It doesn’t ring true, and an opportunity to develop a character like Richard through his own and inevitable disillusion was ignored.

And then we are presented with a pair of American journalists that the radical Richard has to greet and service in his role as a promoter of the Biafran cause. They are both called Charles and apparently have the same nickname, Chuck – which surely should have been Charlie of the “right” variety to enhance the farce. They are simply not credible. We can probably accept as deadly accurate that the majority of Americans neither knew where Biafra was nor cared a jot about its plight, since the attentions of the politicised were focused elsewhere at the time. But the presentation of a pair of foreign correspondents as crass as these is surely incredible, as is, equally, Richard’s apparent patience in dealing with them.

I did also become mildly annoyed at what became quite extensive use of Igbo words when they seemed to offer no extra flavour, meaning or understanding. I have no problem with the use of local terms to enhance a feeling of place and sound, but their over use tends to obfuscate. We really wanted to know what these people thought, but we were never told.

So what are we left with? Half of a Yellow Sun is a beautifully written, beautifully composed domestic tale of fidelity, infidelity, loyalty and opportunism. The contrast between the characters’ and therefore the nation’s lives at the start and the end of the decade is engaging. But because their psyches are never really explored, we never understand any motives or, therefore, any consequences. Reading Half of a Yellow Sun was a thoroughly enjoyable experience which, with hindsight, I would have foregone.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,503 reviews726 followers
April 1, 2022
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-centric towns, the North, and the Westerners, and she does it delicately through the eyes and thoughts of her main characters. The beauty of this work, is that it is completely lived and breathed through these characters, what they felt, what they wanted, what they saw, whom they loved. A story of a people's hearts being bigger than their reality, a story of the utter wickedness of war on all sides, a story of friendships, the good and bad of love, and hope.

As someone who grew up in a Nigerian Yoruba household where Biafra was rarely, if ever mentioned, this book was a very personal journey for me too. This is one of the few times that I got a real sense of Nigeria, one that tallied with my own family's views and experiences. I also love at how the key fundamentals - the damage done by Colonialism and then by British and Russian 'intervention' are shared, as the clear case facts that they are, but without ramming it down the reader's throat, letting the characters just tell their reality. Exquisitely written; as soon as I started reading, I was like, this is going to be a Five Star read! Believe the hype, read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 10 out of 12, Five Star Read. :)
2020 read
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,365 reviews784 followers
November 13, 2020
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 fascinated by the story, the family, the people on the fringes of the family, the history, the culture, everything.

The family circle shrinks from a large, influential group before hostilities arise, to smaller units as they separate to escape and hide. They don’t know whom to trust and are reduced to living in slums.

This part reminded me of the Jews during WW2, gradually cut off from business and mainstream society, then confined to their homes, then pushed into cramped ghettoes as their homes were requisitioned by the Nazis, then . . . you know the horrifying rest.

In Biafra, young men were captured and uniformed, not by the Nigerian enemy, but by their ‘own’ Biafran army – those “distinguished” looking soldiers above. Women were raped regularly under all sorts of pretexts – collusion, wrong accent, whatever handy excuse - by soldiers from both sides.

This was Biafra, where the people were starved into submission to bring them back into Nigeria.

Of course I ‘knew’ about starving kids in Biafra. Sure I did - the same way I ‘know’ about a lot of things – superficial awareness of photographs and articles about something happening a long way away from me and mine.

I didn’t read reviews before reading this book, but I liked Adichie’s Americanah and was aware this was also about Nigeria and had won some prizes. For the first third or so of the story, I was a little impatient with the mix of family story and politics, where characters seemed to suddenly go from local gossip (about hairstyles, etc) to sudden heated conversations about government, saying things like:

. . .“pan-Africanism is fundamentally a European notion.”

As the story moved on, I also got a little confused by so many names beginning with O. I expect that’s just my unfamiliarity with the names, as a non-English speaker could have trouble with characters named Marianne, Margaret, and Marty. So I did have to backtrack occasionally to remember who was who.

Adichie uses many Igbo words, always in italics, and sometimes translates phrases when she thinks it’s necessary. I’d have liked a little glossary just because I enjoy languages, but I eventually recognised some and got enough of the gist not to mind.

There are 520 languages spoken in Nigeria (Wikipedia, footnoted reference), and when people speak each other’s language, there may prejudice when an accent is noticed. In the US, a strong New York accent might sound foreign (and suspect) in the deep South. In the UK, a Cockney accent might be considered unsuitable in executive offices. What a judgemental lot we are.

Illustration of main language groups of Nigeria (from News of Nigeria)

The Igbo (some say Ibo) are the group our characters belong to. They are interesting, as are the family dynamics and the class structure of Nigeria, with its very privileged and its dirt-poor peasant servants. Twin sisters Olanna and Kainene look and behave differently. Olanna is our focus, she whom a young servant boy, newly arrived from his village, describes with worshipful wonder.

“. . . she looked like she was not supposed to be walking and talking like everyone else; she should be in a glass case like the one in Master’s study, where people could admire her curvy, fleshy body, where she would be preserved untainted.

. . . There was something polished about her voice, about her; she was like the stone that lay right below a gushing spring, rubbed smooth by years and years of sparkling water, and looking at her was similar to finding that stone, knowing that there were so few like it.”

Olanna’s partner is Odenigbo, a ‘revolutionary’ professor (pro-independence), while sister Kainene works with their father, negotiating lucrative, (possibly questionable?) government contracts. They are the privileged. Kainene's partner is Richard, a white Englishman, interested in antiquities and art, who would like to see more equality in Nigeria, but who is entranced by Kainene's powerful personality.

They represent the fundamental difference between political ideologies. Responding to Richard’s suggestion that socialism could lead to economic justice, Kainene declares:

‘Socialism would never work for the Igbo.’ She held the brush suspended in mid-air. ‘Ogbenyealu is a common name for girls and you know what it means? “Not to Be Married by a Poor Man.” To stamp that on a child at birth is capitalism at its best.’

I wish I’d had a map to refer to, because I didn’t know where places were when skirmishes escalated into war and there was a border as Biafra proclaimed itself a country, with soldiers, uniforms and flag (as in the first quote).

Biafra was roughly the southeast corner of Nigeria.

Map of Nigeria (2015 election) and Biafra and inset with Africa
From Geocurrents

To give you some idea of the size of Nigeria compared to the US, here’s a map, which also shows Americans what the different American accents might be in an area like this.

Map of Nigeria superimposed over USA
From waitbutwhy.com

As I write in 2017, civil wars seem even more of a threat, as each cultural and language group strives for recognition, at least. Not only those in Africa, but the First Nations people of many countries are trying to salvage something from the ruins of colonialism.

This was in important book when it was written, and I think it’s worth reading now, to see what can happen when ideologies bump up against each other in your part of the world.

Link to Women's Prize Winner of Winner articles
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
October 21, 2021
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960's.

We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters:

Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal.

Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm.

and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «نیمه‌ی یک خورشید طلایی»؛ «نیمی از خورشید زرد»؛ نویسنده: چیماماندا انگزی (گُزی) ادیشی (آدیچی)؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز بیستم ماه اکتبر سال 2011میلادی

عنوان: نیمه‌ی یک خورشید طلایی؛ نویسنده: چیماماندا انگزی (گُزی) ادیشی (آدیچی)؛ مترجم: ناهید تبریزی - سلامی؛ اهران، نشر چشمه، سال1388؛ در626ص؛ شابک9789643625641؛ موضوع جنگ داخلی نیجریه - از نویسندگان نیجریه - سده ی 21م

عنوان: نیمی از خورشید زرد؛ نویسنده چیماماندا آدیچی؛ مترجم: سولماز دولت‌زاده؛ تهران، آفتابکاران، سال1396؛ در584ص؛ شابک9786009799572؛

این داستان سه راوی دارد که از نگاه آنها بازگو میشود؛ «اوگوو» پسری خدمتکار، «اولانا» یک زن درش خوانده ی «نیجریه»ای و «ریچارد» مردی «انگلیسی» که برای پژوهش و نوشتن در «نیجریه» است؛ شرحی زیبا و واقعی از عشق، خشونت، و خیانت، در جنگ داخلی خونین و ویرانگر «فدراسیون نیجریه»، یا جنگ بر سر استقلال ناحیه ی «بیافرا»، که نفت، و طمع کمپانیهای نفتی، عامل آن قلمداد شده اند؛ آن جنگ در روز ششم ماه ژوئیه سال 1967میلادی آغاز شد؛ پشتیبانی «اعراب» و «مصر» از یک حزب، و پشتیبانی «اسرائیل» از حزب دیگری بود؛ با خوانش این کتاب که ادبیات مردمان ��ور از چشم این دیار است، چشمان خوانشگران به روی چیزهایی باز میشود، که نمیدانستند؛ با فرهنگها و دوره هایی تاریخی که نمیشناختند، آشنا میشوند؛ و میآموزند که جنگ، زشتترین چهره ی خود را چگونه نشان خلایق میدهد، هر چند چهره ی جنگ، هماره زشت بوده، اما آنگاه که جنگ نابرابر باشد، چهره ای زشت تر از زشت نیز نمایان میگردد؛ از یکسوی، مردمانی هزینه ی جنگ را، با عرق جبین و خون خویش و عزیزانشان میپردازند، و پول غذای فرزندان، و داروهای مادران، و از دست دادن خواب خوش، و مرگ برای عزیزانشان است، که خود را به جنگ فدا میکنند، و از سوی دیگر ....؛

نقل از متن: («اولانا» برای‌شان در مورد پرچم «بیافرا» صحبت کرد؛ آن‌ها روی قطعات چوب، زیر نور آفتاب ضعیف صبحگاهی، که از حفره‌ای که قبلا سقف کلاس بود، به درون می‌تابید؛ نشسته بودند؛ او پرچم پارچه‌ ای «اودنیگبو» را باز کرد، و برای‌شان توضیح داد که هر یک از علامات روی آن چه چیزی را بیان می‌کنند؛ رنگ قرمز، نماد خون خواهران و برادران آن‌ها بود، که در شمال قتل‌عام شده بودند؛ سیاه نماد سوگواری برای آن‌ها بود، و سبز نماد شکوفایی‌ ای که بالاخره نصیب «بیافرا» خواهد شد، و بالاخره نیمه‌ ی یک خورشید طلایی، نماد آینده‌ ی پرشکوهشان بود)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Milan/zzz.
278 reviews54 followers
April 23, 2009
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, life that ended in one of the worst possible way while “the world was silent when they died” . Before reading this book I didn’t know much about Biafra, I didn’t even know it was an independent country (*blush* I should know that!). For me Biafra was a synonym for starvation, for hunger, misery, I was always picturing children with huge bellies and limbs like toothpicks. Now I know the word for that: ”kwashiorkor”, difficult word isn’t it?

Everything started 1960 when Nigeria independence from British colonialism; few years later there was a coup d’état led by Igbo tribe. Since Nigeria was the country with many clans ethnic tension started to sparkle between Muslim Hausa and Christian Igbo clans and eventually resulted with ethnic cleansing of Igbos that were living in the north of the country with Muslim majority. Because of that atrocity Igbo clan has proclaimed independence of theirs own country named after Biafran Bay in the southeast of Nigeria (the problem was, as one of the characters said was the fact that Biafra has huge oil reserves). Few countries have recognized new country, however the most powerful ones (i.e. United Kingdom and Soviet Union) supported Nigeria with military supplies and after three years (1967-1970) the war of Biafra secession ended in a humanitarian catastrophe as Nigerian blockades stopped all supplies, military and civilian alike, from entering the region. Hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) people died in the resulting famine.

The story has been told through the lives of three very different people: Ugwu,13 year old boy from some remote village who is starting to work as a houseboy in the house of university professor with revolutionary aspirations. Ugwu is a magnificent source of Nigerian (African?) folklore and mythology. His superstitious-ness is beautiful, pure and incredibly authentic. Being uneducated his provincialism and thinking of everything authentically African as inferior comparing with everything British is very strong! (I sound as if I’m justifying his attitude with that “being uneducated”, well it’s really hard dislike Ugwu)
Olanna, young women with university diploma from London, member of Nigerian aristocracy who rejected privileged life and follow her heart. Strong, modern, enthusiastic woman with strong vision of her future life liberated from the chains of her family’s expectations.
Third one is Richard, man I identified myself with. He’s an Englishman who came in Nigeria because he fell in love with the ancient piece of local art (I think I could do the same). Man who being white has had to put much more effort to prove himself as true Biafran and was doing this in the best possible way.
What I especially like is that all three main characters are real humans; they are not flawless. On the contrary, they are making horrible mistakes which might be even unforgivable under different circumstances.

But this is not only story about the war. War with its horror is scenery for the story of love, loyalty, friendship, betrayal, forgiveness about fight and survival. It is very universal story placed in one precise historical context.

Truth, some of the scenes are so graphically described that I had to close the book and take a deep breath before continue. But of course why should she use euphemism for truth? In spite that this is really page turner. I was little afraid after warning from the back cover “I wasted last fifty pages, reading them far too greedily and fast, because I couldn’t bear to let go…” but I’ve done the same (and of course then reread them).
This is one testimony of the things that mustn’t be forgotten! And oh, don’t be surprised if you find your eyes filled with tears. In spite the fact that last sentence wasn’t surprise for me, that I expected that, I couldn’t help myself...
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,660 followers
January 6, 2015
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 realities. In Nigeria, those realities were the political divisions that fell largely along ethnic lines: a mostly Muslim population in the North, dominated by Hausa and Fulani; Igbo in the southeast; Yoruba in the southwest.

Only six years after independence, Nigeria began to fall apart. A coup destroyed the fragile trust between these ethnic groups and a portion of eastern Nigeria declared itself the free state of Biafra. In July 1967, the Nigerian Civil War, known more colloquially as the “Biafran War,” began. Thirty months later over one million Biafrans had died from fighting and famine. In January 1970, Biafra surrendered and was reabsorbed into Nigeria.

It is an epic story that few outside of the region or African Studies departments on European and American university campuses recall, much less make sense of.

This is why we have always needed storytellers. This is why, in this age of scroll-and-skim journalism, we need storytellers more than ever.

Let's be honest. How many of us would pick up a work of narrative non-fiction, no matter how well-written, to learn about the Biafran War? Do we know the first thing about Nigeria—hell, about Africa? This is how fiction changes the world. Despite our best efforts at ignorance, fiction brings the world to us, takes us inside the lives of those whose histories, realities, battles are so very different from our own. The imagined stories lead us to the factual ones. We find ourselves searching out the history, reading the articles, the long-form journalism pieces, perhaps even the books, asking, “How did this happen and I knew nothing about it? What is this place? Who are the Igbo, the Hausa, and why does it matter now.”

Let Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tell you why this nation, the war, this story matters. Let her characters into your heart and wince as they break it, over and over again.

Half of a Yellow Sun—which takes its name from the emblem of Biafra—reveals a Nigeria that could have been, before it became a nation split by war. Set in the early and late 1960s, the narrative revolves around twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, members of the Igbo élite. Both women are single and live independently from their Lagos-based parents. Olanna and her lover Odenigbo share a home in the southern city of Nsukka, where they teach at the university. Kainene manages her father’s business affairs from her home in Port Harcourt and falls in love with a British writer, Richard. Olanna is the story’s principal voice, but it is Odenigbo’s young houseboy, Ugwu, who provides the most poignant perspective, while Richard offers a detached counterpoint of someone yearning to fit in, but whose very skin signals, “Outsider.”

Half of a Yellow Sun is magnificent in detail. I heard, smelled, saw, felt, tasted the world that Adichie painstakingly creates. Her heart beats with such fierce love for and pride in Nigeria that the country becomes a character in its own right, and as a reader, you witness its tearing apart with such dread and sorrow. Adichie was born in 1977, but she lost family members to war and famine and surely was raised in the shadow of tragedy. Yet her goal is not to tell a history of the political struggle, but to let us feel the human conflict. The plot framework is built on the conflict between ethnic groups and political factions, but the story rises from the families and lovers separated by cultural, moral, and emotional borders.

There is a slight dip and drag to the pace as we learn the depths of misunderstanding and animosity between the sisters, or witness the unraveling of the radical Odenigbo, or dip into Richard’s ingratiating attempts to be accepted by Nigerians. Adichie’s paintbrush drips thick, rich colors that swirl together in a dense mix of characters and details. But everything about her writing is so warm and lush and welcoming, you just want her to go on and on, filling every inch of the canvas with her beautifully-crafted phrases, her characters full of curves and silky skin, her streets vibrating with High Life music.

And when sorrow and brutality and suffering come, and come they will, you will want to look away. You will not want to believe that this really happened. But happen it did. Happen it does still.

Still a powerful, vibrant nation with vast natural resources, Nigeria is once again in the headlines. And the news is not good: NPR: Boko Haram Fighters Seize Nigerian Army Base JANUARY 05, 2015 5:02 AM ET Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Too often we turn away from these current events because we don’t understand the complexities of nations too distant to cause a ripple in our morning coffee. Because we have disaster and conflict fatigue. These places matter only when we’ve been touched personally by events.

Outside of time spent living in a place, reading a great work of literature, one that makes the political personal and the foreign familiar, is the best way to ensure we remain aware of and moved by the world around us. For Nigeria’s sake, Half of a Yellow Sun is just such a book.
Profile Image for Mohammed.
415 reviews503 followers
July 12, 2020
هل سمعت عن جمهورية بيافرا؟ هل نمى إلى علمك شيء عن الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية؟ نعم كان هناك حرب وهناك دعم عربي-مصري بالدرجة الأولى- لأحد الأطراف ودعم اسرائيلي لطرف آخر. قراءة أدب الشعوب القصية سيفتح عينيك على أمور لم تكن تعرفها، ستتعرف على ثقافات وحقب تاريخية لم تكن تعرف أنها وُجدت؛ ستتعلم الكثير.

تطل الحرب بوجهها الأشد بشاعة، ووجهها دائما قبيح، غير أنها أشنع عندما تكون حربا غير متكافئة. فبينما يدفع أحد الأطراف ثمنها عرقا ودماءاً، يضحي بأجلها بقوت أطفاله، بدواء والدته، بهنأة نومه وفناء أحباءه، يعتبرها الطرف الآخر مجرد رياضة عنيفة، تأكل من يومه بعضه ثم يأخذ بعدها حماما دافئا وينسى كل شيء. ياله من أمر مؤلم!

تعرفتُ على تشيماماندا أديتشي لأول مرة عن طريق خطاب في مؤتمر تيديكس، تحدثت فيه عن خطورة النظرة الأحادية لبلد أو عرق أو شخص. خطاب شيق رشيق الفكر، سيعطيك لمحة عن طريقة تفكير هذا المرأة الفريدة:


ذلك الخطاب شجعني على قراءة أحد أهم أعمال الكاتبة: نصف شمس مشرقة، رواية أقل مايقال عنها أنها ناضجة. ناضجة من حيث المضمون بحيث ناقشت موضوعا في غاية الأهمية والحساسية بمثل هذه الجدية والبحث الدؤوب. ناضجة من حيث التمثيل على مستوى الشخصيات حيث انتقت شخصيات تنتمي إلى طبقات مختلفة من المجتمع: أكاديميون، أثرياء، ريفيون وذوي الانتماء العسكري. وعلى الرغم من أن الرواية خُلقت لتكون في صف جمهورية بيافرا، إلا أنها لم تتوانى عن كشف حقائق لها علاقة بالفساد المستشري في أوساط مقاومة بيافرا نفسها.

راودت الكاتبة موضوع الحرب بتأن وبصيرة. فقد افتتحت الرواية بتصوير الحياة قبل الحرب: طموحات الناس، ��لاقات العرقيات مع بعضها، كعلاقة (أولانا) بطلة الرواية بمحمد، حبيبها المسلم. كذلك لم تنس التوطئة لأسباب المجزرة التي أدت إلى الحرب ألا وهي الإنقلاب الأول الذي أدى بشكل ما للمجزرة التي ارتكبها النيجيريون بحق الأيبو. قلة من الكتاب يتجشمون عناء شرح التدرج المنطقي للأحداث. تماما كما قال مريد البرغوثي-وهي نفسها استشهدت بهذا الاقتباس في خطابها الذي ذكرت- أن بوسع أي راوٍ أن يقلب الحقائق بمجرد أن يتجاوز أولا إلى ثانيا، أي ان يقفز إلى سرد النتائج دون التمعن في الأسباب. كأن تشجب هجوما للهنود الحمر على الرجل الأبيض متجاوزا كل ما ارتكبه الرجل الأبيض بحق السكان الأصليين.

الخلاصة هي أن أديتشي أحسنت صُنعا بتمثيل الخير والشر في أغلب عناصر الرواية، لم تطلع التعميمات ولا الأحكام السطحية. حتى أنها لم تكتف بتقديم صحفي أمريكي واحد بل اثنين، أحدهما مستهتر عنصري والآخر متعاطف ينظر للحرب من زاوية إنسانية. أتمنى ان يقرأ خالد حسيني هذه الرواية ويتعلم ولو قليلا على هذا الصعيد.

ما أعجبني أيضا هو التدرج في سير الأحداث، حيث ينكشف الستار في مستهل الرواية عن أشخاص عاديين يعاقرون هموما ومشاكل يومية، ثم تبتلعهم دوامة الحرب فتصبح هي شغلهم الشاغل، وتقلب كل شيء، فتهين كم من عزيز وترضي كم من لئيم. كما أرفع للكاتبة القبعة لبراعتها في تصوير الوتيرة التي تذوي بها الحماسة للحرب، تبدأ بطبول ورقصات وقصائد، وتمر بخسائر وحرائق ورعب، ثم تنتهي بنحيب صامت.

في حرب بيافرا كما في مجزرة راوندا كما حصل ويحصل في كثير من بقاع العالم الثالث، ثمة بذرة استعمارية نجسة، اصطفت عرقية أو ديانة معينة وأوهمتها بالفوقية، وما إن يتألب عليها بقية العرقيات حتى يرفع الاستعماري يده قائلا إني بريء منك إني أخاف الله رب العالمين. صحيح أن وسوسة المستعمر هي الدافع ولكن لا نبرئ الآذان التي أنصتت والعقل الذي لم يستوعب بعد بدعة التعايش والمواطنة المتساوية.

أنوه اخيرا بأن وتيرة السرد متأنية، لذا قد يضيق بعض القراء بها ذرعاً. ليست مملة ولكن متمهلة كما يجدر برواية تطرح موضوعاً بهذه الحساسية.

كفاني ثرثرة!
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
843 reviews1,682 followers
September 2, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,260 followers
March 17, 2022
المبادئ والقناعات تحتاج للاختبار في الواقع للتأكد من جدية الإيمان والالتزام بها.. أو انها مجرد كلام وشعارات
رواية عن تفاصيل الحياة والناس في نيجيريا فترة ستينيات القرن العشرين
وكأغلب البلاد الأفريقية تبدو الجوانب السلبية واضحة, الفساد والاستبداد والجهل
ويتعايش التعليم والتطور البطئ بجانب الموروثات القبلية البدائية
بداية الستينيات تبدأ حكايات آجوو الصبي القادم من القرية للعمل في بيت أودينيبو أستاذ الجامعة الثوري
نتعرف على الروابط بين الشخصيات, علاقات الحب, المناقشات السياسية بين الأصدقاء
الاختلاف بين معيشة القرية والمدينة, وحتى الخرافات والعادات السائدة
وفي نهاية الستينيات ترصد الكاتبة أحداث الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية المعروفة بحرب بيافرا
التي استمرت 3 سنوات بكل تفاصيلها من بشاعة وطائفية وقتل ودمار
تكتب تشيماماندا أديتشي بأسلوب عذب وقدرة تعبيرية وتصويرية على نقل عالمها بوضوح وسلاسة
والجميل في الشخصيات انها تعرض مختلف الطوائف والطبقات وأساليب التفكير والسلوكيات
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,945 followers
November 23, 2016
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 historical fiction novels. I'm going to bump this up from 4 to 4.5 stars.

Original Review:
I was assigned to read this for a World Literature class this semester, and I was pleasantly surprised by it.

I went into reading this book not having many expectations or real knowledge of the subject matter. In my International Rhetoric class that I'm studying this book in, we were discussing the myth of Africa, the Westernized view of a single African nation that is dramatized, romanticized, and convoluted against what Africa, the continent, made up of 54 separate countries, really is. Literature, then, especially a lot of Western literary fiction, has distorted the 'true' Africa, whatever that may be.

In her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie works to break that mold, the stereotype of poor, starving, tribal Africans that Achebe, Wainaina, and others have attempted to break away from as well.
[For further info from the author herself, look up her TEDTalk "The Danger of a Single Story." Excellent]

The story follows three narrative voices: Olanna, the mistress to a university professor; Ugwu, the professor's house boy; and Richard, the lover of Olanna's twin sister. Following these characters lives and perspectives through the tumultuous 1960's with the rise and fall of the nation of Biafra in Southeastern Nigeria, we experience grief, love, death, pain, betrayal, and suffering.

Characters: This story is all about development. It goes back and forth between the early and late 60's, and Adichie utilizes that narrative shift to really move plot as well as character development along. The heart and soul of the story is Ugwu; he begins and ends the novel, and he really ties everything together. He experiences the most change in the story, going from houseboy to cook to teacher and writer and more. Olanna and Richard, along with the respective partners, Odenigbo and Kainene, also establish themselves as unique characters. They do not fit the stereotypical mold expected in African literature, which is exactly what Adichie hopes to achieve.

The plot was interesting for me mainly because I didn't even know about Biafra, the nation that lasted only barely 3 years in the 60's, before reading this novel. I learned a lot historically, and the story also opened my eyes to a part of the world that I would normally know very little about. It allowed me to see how much all humans have in common and also caused me to reconsider how I see Africa.

I think discussing this for 2 weeks in a classroom really helped me unpack a lot that I can't put into words exactly here. I think if you are a fan of world literature, African literature, or strong character development driven books, you would enjoy this story. Know that most of the plot revolves around war, sexual/love relationships, and some other adult/traumatic elements, if that bothers you.

4/5. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,357 reviews2,282 followers
January 13, 2021
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 - .

But my feeling is that the story of Biafra is too huge to be contained within a 400pp. 'popular' novel that also wants to tell personal stories of two couples, fraught family relationships, the education of a 'house-boy'... There are times when this got too soapy for my tastes ( and the result is a kind of historically-lite tale that presses an awful lot of standard fictional buttons.

I guess I wanted more in-depth politics: the lead up to the secession of Biafra is quite powerfully done - but then suddenly it just exists and is at war and things get vague - we learn, for example, that there are Biafran car number-plates, a separate currency but no sense of any of these markers of a new state being established. And I wanted to understand more about the role of oil which Richard explains towards the end Biafra is still extracting and refining under the bombing of the Nigerian forces. Even the famous famine doesn't feel as visceral as it should as there's so much else going on - not least the enforced conscription of a main character at about 80% into the book.

Even Adichie's writing style seems to become more panoramic: at the start, it's vivid and immediate with very little exposition, and character being expressed via what people do and say. As the story proceeds, it becomes a bit more 'told' - though I like the fact that there is no omniscient narrator and we have a sense of contingency and reaction.

All the same, if a main character is going to be constantly called a 'revolutionary', then it seems oddly remiss that there's no ideological discussions in the book - and that character doesn't even fight for the Biafran forces, something which is never explained. There's a whole complicated real-life political context where Britain, Soviet Russia and the US all supported, helped fund and sold arms to the Nigerian military - not, I'd assume, unconnected with oil and the presence of BP there - and yet none of that has a place here in the book.

I felt, too, that when a main character has a foundational experience , the effect on him is never explored. It's points like this that made me find the book shallow at times, though I suspect it's more that the content becomes too unwieldy to be explored in the depth I wanted.

Overall, this is undoubtedly both ambitious (perhaps over ambitious, to its own detriment) and also a personally important topic for Adichie herself - I liked it but just didn't love it as much as I wanted.
January 19, 2021
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 events to bring the story to a personal level. People from all echelons of society are presented in the story, not always likeable, and the struggles they endured. It is not just about the impact of starvation, as the story is developed around normal lives dealing with relationships, family and job issues. The main characters in the novel are the upper/middle class, in government and academia and they eventually realise that in the end, it didn’t give them immunity to the suffering. The story is brutal and heartbreaking in how a national starvation programme could be carried out on a people, how those people tried to manage with day to day living, and how society disintegrated when its basic commodity was blocked. In extremely horrific situations we find the best and worst of humanity.

The story is a literary classic and conveys such dramatic images and encounters that make you feel so many emotions, dominated by the feeling of despair with the thoughtless waste of life. You won't forget this story - brilliant.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
653 reviews3,837 followers
April 2, 2020
“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. Especially since I've read some of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's other works and enjoyed them.

This book started a little slow for me. It takes some time to introduce its characters and somehow it felt both overwhelming and slow to start. However, at about the 30% mark, or about 100 pages in, it really started to pick up. And then when it gets going it never stops.

I knew little about the politics or causes of the Biafran War before reading this. I was only really aware of the humanitarian impact. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been praised for her storytelling and I have to do it again. Because this book did an excellent job of rendering the landscape and situation, of painting characters for the story and incorporating the fiction elements within the history. I don't often read historical fiction, because often I just wish I'd read a non-fiction book on the event instead. But I'm really glad I read this. Because not only did it explain the story of the war, I loved how it explained the human story - looking at how it impacted people through the lens of our central characters.

At first, I struggled with the main characters, finding them dull and flat. But I loved the way Adichie developed them at the story progressed. Stereotypes and caricatures played on at the start were slowly deconstructed, the change to the characters as the war progressed was stark and upsetting. I loved these characters by the end, which is why I found the final chapters so devastating (if you know, you know)

"The world was silent when many died. But now it will have to listen, as the dead tell their story from beyond the grave."

Finally, a note must be made on Adichie's writing. I love it. Easy to read but also lyrical and poignant. I think she does an excellent job at capturing character through dialogue and writing, and the use of irony and subtle humour throughout was excellent.

Half of a Yellow Sun reminds me I need to read both more historical fiction, and also more Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews650 followers
July 15, 2017
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 was kwashiorkor—difficult word,
A word that was not quite ugly enough, a sin.

You needn’t imagine. There were photos
Displayed in gloss-filled pages of your Life.
Did you see? Did you feel sorry briefly,
Then turn round to hold your lover or wife?

Their skin had turned the tawny of weak tea
And showed cobwebs of vein and brittle bone:
Naked children laughing, as if the man
Would not take photos and then leave, alone

I was totally unprepared for the force of this story about the birth of Biafra; how the impact of the awful reality of those years would strike me. Searing and unforgettable. Most Highly recommended. 5★
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
576 reviews237 followers
February 15, 2022
13-year-old Ugwu is looking forward to life away from his small village, working as a house boy for professor Odenigbo in Nsukka (Nigeria).

Olanna, an extremely beautiful, rich, educated young woman, is eager to put as much distance as possible between herself and her parents' overly ambitious meddling and business dealings. Luckily for her, she is dating Odenigbo, who can help her settle in at her new teaching job at Nsukka University, far away from Lagos.

Richard is a British expat, just wishing to write about Igbo-Ukwu (ancient African) art, but finds himself hopelessly infatuated with a stand-offish rich, young business woman, Kainene; who is also Olanna's non-identical twin sister.

While everyone's busy living their life, dealing with overbearing mothers, patronizing philosophic discourses, and petty jealousy, the country's political turmoil gets more and more pronounced. Eventually the Nigerian Civil War erupts... and it, sooner or later, catches up to everyone.

Collage of Ugwu, Richard and Olanna
Ugwu, Richard and Olanna from the 2013 movie adaptation

If you're wondering what I knew about Nigeria going in this novel... it's precisely what you think I did. So the entire flourishing high society from Lagos, the mix of highly varied ethnic groups, the ridiculous political circumstances that lead to the forming of modern Nigeria, not to mention the pull this African country exercised over British expats, had surprised me a lot.

This picture of modern, if a bit too foreign-loving, society was a big surprise for me. The glitzy and glamorous world of Nigerian high society would probably have been at home in many European countries as well. Regardless of the snarky comments of some of the British expats.

Independence day party in Lagos

I'm not entirely sure who this novel is addressed to. It's written in English, and peppered with the occasional Igbo word or sentence, so I figured it'd be mostly geared towards Igbo people. But then, the Igbo phrases are always accompanied by English translations, which lead me to think this novel was perhaps trying to reach an international audience.

Similarly, some of the political context got covered very heavily, but then other things such as the ethnic hostilities between Igbo and Hausa people seemed rather convoluted during the first half of the book. I kept feeling as if I was missing a significant chunk of social and cultural context.

Olanna in grief

Admittedly, by the end of the book, I did form a somewhat clearer picture. Especially after the reader's attention shifts to the personal tragedy suffered by the main characters in the aftermath of things. I especially appreciated how ... dull, for lack of a better term, everything felt in comparison.

Score: 4.8/5 stars

I can probably count on one hand, the historical novels that I've read about wars, yet none of those have left behind such a humbling impression on me. Coming from an Eastern-European country, I've always been happy to maintain some sort of moral high ground, that at least we'd never oppressed anyone.... in Africa.
But indifference can sometimes be just as harmful as outright hostility.
Profile Image for James.
421 reviews
February 10, 2017
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 different perspectives of the main characters of the onset, effects and immediate aftermath of the Nigeria / Biafra civil war (1967-70).

The story is told in a very believable way with authentic and real feeling characters, of the futility and pointlessness of war, of the ensuing cruelty, barbarism and the real human cost – very much up close and personal. It’s about how war changes (irrevocably?) the countries involved and the surviving people within those countries. The novel successfully highlights and evokes devastation on both macro and micro levels. There are shocking, sickening and very powerful images herein of the immediate and direct effects of violence, expertly conveyed, which I think will stay with me for a very long time.

Whilst providing a wider perspective on this period of history – importantly the historical side never dominates or overwhelms the central and very human stories providing the basis for this novel.

The strength and power of the narrative contains and strongly conveys the real dramatic power of the events, both big and small, contained and linking the bigger story. It is the way in which the main characters are so strongly defined and contrast so well with each other, and yet their stories effortlessly inter-mesh with each other in an entirely believable and convincing way which is so masterly.

At times poetic, dramatic (never melodramatic) at others prosaic (in a positive way) this is a very well written, well-constructed, unpredictable, absorbing and compelling book which is without doubt a ‘must read’.

To my shame I knew very little about this war and period of Nigerian / Biafran history – I now at least have one fascinating perspective on the disturbing events and aftermath of this period.

Based on the strength of this novel, I will without a doubt be reading this authors ‘Americanah’ and ‘Purple Hibiscus’ – hopefully in the very near future.

Profile Image for Paula K (on hiatus).
414 reviews428 followers
March 21, 2021
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
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,142 reviews485 followers
April 5, 2017
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 neverending.

So by the way, I do not think colonialism is over. It just changed outfits. This battle is not over at all. For those readers, interested in Africa, this book illustrates what Colonialism and neo-colonialism is all about in an easy, compassionate read.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows how to mix race, history, politics and family in this Nigerian saga in such a way that the reader is subtly conned into a narrative, filled with drama and suspense, where reality is presented with kindness, empathy and an almost brutal honesty, without realizing it at first.
From the blurb: "With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s.
By the time the true message in the book is revealed it is too late to withdraw from it if you are not into this kind of genre. It is history, reality and fiction intermixed masterfully by a kind-spirited author. The book is gripping. It touches all senses.

The different social strata of the clashing Nigerian Christian Igbo, as well as the Muslim Hausa societies in 1960, during the founding of Biafra, an independent(still unrecognized state), is presented by thirteen-year-old house boy Ugwu; the intellectual revolutionary professor, Odenigbo; his wife, Olanna; and Richard a British researcher of Igbo arts, in love with Olanna's sister, Kainene.

During a turbulent, violent period filled with anxiety, anger, famine and family upheaval, the writer managed to still keep their destitute and angst on a readable, almost endurable level for the reader, although the tale leaves one breathless in the end.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie captures the spirit of Africa, the warmth, the kindness, the energy. She has the ability to present the poverty, hardships, and other challenges with compassion. The cultures are rich; the people endearing; the story uplifting.

Profile Image for Monica.
573 reviews610 followers
June 28, 2020
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 . 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 scale and the storytelling was tremendous. The things that happened to the characters rang plausible. Trigger warnings: I think historical fiction works best when history is being taught through the characters and their reactions etc. I enjoyed learning about Nigerian history and culture.

For a literary fiction novel and or romance, I think it was less successful. To be honest, I don't see any reason for the characters of Kainene and Richard. Richard had potential as the sole white main character, but he didn't do much more than empathize and support the other characters. And it didn't appear that his whiteness and being British helped anyone nor did it have much to do with the story. Maybe that was the point…but I doubt it. Kainene was almost completely superfluous providing an episodic flavor to the novel. She was not well described and didn't add anything except as a tool to create drama for Olanna. As a successful Nigerian businesswoman she had much more potential than what was given in the book. BTW, the only character that I truly liked was Ugwu.

All in all for me this book was weirdly both excellent and episodic. But overall I enjoyed it. I did get a great primer to the Biafran War and to Nigerian life. I am still learning about the world and books like this are wonderful and enlightening; giving me a flavor of the life in the world outside of my own. Adichie is still a favorite, but so is Americanah!

4ish Stars

Read on kindle

Edited to add: I used this book to fulfill a reading challenge task: Read and Watch a Book-to-Movie Adaptation. The movie was incomprehensible and awful. It's stunning, because I feel like the movie framed it properly and then did not deliver. The film made unlikable characters worse and didn't do a great job on showing the ravages of war and its impact nor a realistic view of life in Nigeria. Basically it was lots of car scenes dodging pyrotechnics. Adichie should be livid.****
Profile Image for Mohamed Shady.
626 reviews6,545 followers
April 18, 2020
"كان العالم صامتًا حين كنا نموت"

في ستينات القرن الماضي، في نيجيريا، حيث اللون السائد هو الأسود، أعلنت قبيلة "الأيبو"، وهي قبيلة مسيحية مضطهدة، انفصالها عن باقي نيجيريا.
سيكون "بيافرا" هو اسم الدولة الجديدة، وستُبنى هذه الدولة على العدل واحترام حق الإنسان في أن يعيش حياةً كريمة.

تحكي "نصف شمس صفراء"، للكاتبة النيجيرية "تشيماماندا نجوزي أديتشي" قصة "بيافرا"، قصة الحرب الأهلية النيجيرية التي راح ضحيتها قرابة المليون شخص، حرب كان من الممكن تفاديها بسهولة، كما الحروب جميعها على مدار التاريخ البشري الطويل.

وُلدت تشيماماندا في نيجيريا لأبوين أكاديميين، عاشت في بيئة ثقافية من الطراز الرفيع، وقد استقت من بيئتها هذه شخصيات روايتها؛ "أودينيبو"، السيد، الأكاديمي المثقف الذي ينظم اللقاءات ليتناقش مع أصدقائه في مستقبل "بيافرا"، "أولانا"، حبيبته المثقفة التي تشاركه اهتماماته، آجوو، الخادم الصغير الذي يمثّل السيد والسيدة كل عالمه.

الحقيقة أننا لا نعلم شيئًا تقريبًا عن أفريقيا السمراء، الأدب الأفريقي نادر جدًا، لا أعلم السبب، هل لندرة الكتّاب أم لعدم الاهتمام بترجمة هذا النوع من الأدب. تشيماماندا هي كاتبة من قلائل استطاعوا الهرب من هذه اللعنة ووصل أدبهم إلى العالمية.

"نصف شمس صفراء" رواية عظيمة لمن يرغب في أن يعرف أكثر عن أفريقيا السمراء، عن الحرب الأهلية والأوضاع السياسية في نيجيريا خلال ستينات القرن الماضي، لكنها، بالنسبة إلي، كانت مغرقة في الجانب السياسي على حساب الجانب الاجتماعي، وهذا الأخير هو ما يهمني أكثر.

التقييم: 3.5/5

Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
474 reviews573 followers
April 5, 2020
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 they are twins, they are quite different in terms of looks and personality. Olanna is the beauty, and things seem to come easily to her, though she is sceptical of the many suitors who try to win her affection. Kainene is resentful of the attention her sister receives - she throws herself into her work, becoming a successful businesswoman. Olanna begins a relationship with Odenigbo, an opinionated professor in Nsukka university who is a big supporter of Biafran independence. They move in together and are joined by Ugwe, a 13-year-old from a poor village who becomes their houseboy. Meanwhile, Kainene starts seeing Richard, a British journalist who has travelled to Nigeria in the hope of finding something to write about. Events are narrated by Olanna, Ugwe and Richard, contrasting their comfortable life in the early 60s with the horror of the latter part of the decade, when the Biafran war had ravaged the country, causing millions to die of starvation.

So what is it that makes Adichie such an incredible writer? She is a born storyteller, that is for certain. But there is a short piece at the end of my copy of this novel, where she talks about 'emotional truth', hoping that it would be the book's major recognizable trait. She absolutely succeeds and this is the reason, in my eyes, that she is so brilliant at what she does. Her writing is so imbued with empathy, so honest and perceptive, that it makes her characters utterly believable and her stories unforgettable.

I had no knowledge of the Nigerian Civil War before reading this book, and I feel like it has opened my eyes to an important lesson in African history. We follow a memorable cast from the idealism and hope of Biafra's secession, to the despair and devastation brought by its defeat. But not only is Half of a Yellow Sun an education, it is an enthralling, emotional story, brimming with intelligence and compassion. In short, a modern masterpiece.

Favourite Quotes:
"But she was upset, and made even more so by Odenigbo’s expression, as if he could not believe she was not quite as high-minded as he had thought. He was making her feel small and absurdly petulant and, worse yet, she suspected he was right. She always suspected he was right. For a brief irrational moment, she wished she could walk away from him. Then she wished, more rationally, that she could love him without needing him. Need gave him power without his trying; need was the choicelessness she often felt around him."

"The war would continue without them. Olanna exhaled, filled with a frothy rage. It was the very sense of being inconsequential that pushed her from extreme fear to extreme fury. She had to matter. She would no longer exist limply, waiting to die. Until Biafra won, the vandals would no longer dictate the terms of her life."

"Kainene leaned against Olanna and then, as if she had suddenly remembered something, she got up and straightened her dress; Olanna felt the slow sadness of missing a person who was still there."

“Each time he suggested they get married, she said no. They were too happy, precariously so, and she wanted to guard that bond; she feared that marriage would flatten it into a prosaic partnership.”

"Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved."
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