K.D. Absolutely's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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really liked it
bookshelves: 1001-non-core, race
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010)

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.
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Reading Progress

May 28, 2010 – Shelved
September 1, 2011 – Shelved as: 1001-non-core
November 7, 2011 – Started Reading
November 7, 2011 – Shelved as: race
November 7, 2011 –
page 178
32.9% "I am now in the second generation of characters and I thought the first ones are better. I miss Ugwu. ha ha"
November 8, 2011 –
page 184
34.01% "Wrong status yesterday. I thought the new characters are the second generation. It is the sister of Onalia and the husband of that sister, Richard. Onalia now has a baby girl called "Baby""
November 9, 2011 –
page 270
49.91% "I liked the characters. Olania, Odibogre, Ugwu, Baby, Richard, etc. The African names are hard to remember."
November 10, 2011 –
page 406
75.05% "Somehow this reminds me of the secessionist movement in Indonesia during the 80s that led to the creation of East Timor. Very moving."
November 13, 2011 –
page 527
97.41% "Done reading. Review to follow."
November 15, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)

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Niledaughter I hope you will like it :)

K.D. Absolutely I am liking it, Nile. Especially Ugwu and the wife of the master. But in the second part, I thought it is too political. :)

message 3: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs You write such good reviews.

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Petra X. I just want to capture my thoughts after reading a book.

♥ Marlene♥ Me too but capturing my thoughts and trying to express them is a whole different ball game. I am jealous ;) You did make me interested in this book.

K.D. Absolutely Yes, please make a slot for this book, Marlene. :)

Marieke Ugwu was also my favorite. :)

Purple Hibiscus is also powerful. I wonder how you will react to it.

K.D. Absolutely Marieke: Thanks for the comment. I will look for Purple Hibiscus!

♥ Marlene♥ K.D. wrote: "Yes, please make a slot for this book, Marlene. :)"

A slot for this book. Your wish is my command ;)

message 10: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Thanks, Marlene. It is indeed a nice book! Delete me as your friend if it is not haha.

♥ Marlene♥ Wow. You must think highly of this book or ....? hey!! ... not that highly of me. What a risk you dare to take. bahahahahaha :) xxxx

message 12: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Just kidding. I can change my name and picture and we'll be friends again haha.

message 13: by Dr (new) - added it

Dr Sanjay Wow thats called a review....somany ppl will read her books after reading your review.it might be good if she shares royalty

message 14: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Dr wrote: "Wow thats called a review....somany ppl will read her books after reading your review.it might be good if she shares royalty"

Why? Don't you think the book doesn't deserve this kind of review?

message 15: by Dr (new) - added it

Dr Sanjay Sure it is one of the best books I have ever read.i was complementing the way reviewed it

message 16: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Dr wrote: "Sure it is one of the best books I have ever read.i was complementing the way reviewed it"

Okay. Thanks for clarifying. :)

message 17: by Ann (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ann Great review! I loved this book as well. I listened to the Audible version which was richly done.

message 18: by K.D. (new) - rated it 4 stars

K.D. Absolutely Ann wrote: "Great review! I loved this book as well. I listened to the Audible version which was richly done."

Thanks, for some reason I enjoy listening to people saying that they like this book too.

message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I'm curious: you say this is one of the best books you ever read. So why only 4 stars?

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