Victoria's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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Jan 22, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: book-club, fiction, poc, social-history, social-justice, historical-fiction, revolution, war, african-diaspora, strong-character-development, favorites, poverty, not-just-english
Read from September 06 to 27, 2011

I loved this book so much! It was a refreshing read, mostly because many novels stray away from the horrors of war, romanticize revolution, or forget about the human elements of conflict, especially the little happenings in life that continue to happen even during war. That was the best part of this book. Adichie's strength is in telling human stories. this is my first time reading her but it's definitely huge that Chinua Achebe called her a great storyteller beyond her years. He's definitely right.

Remember that this is a book about people. Not a book about struggle or war (though those are prominent themes in the book) but of the everyday. I love that. Throughout the book the reader learna bout Ugwu, Odenigbo, and Olanna as well as the people in their lives. We hear about their lifestyle, their jobs, their family and friends. We learn who they are and what motivates them in their best times and their worst. I got more invested than I initially expected, especially during more tawdry elements of the story. I thoroughly appreciated that these characters were seriously flawed and not just in deep ways. It complicated things but it also made the story that much more real. It forced me to think about the fact that I was equally upset when a personal relationship fell as I did when characters witnessed others dying around them in the war. That says something about how our experiences shape us and our perspectives change. Even though some moments are expected or supposed to break us, sometimes it's the mundane that hurts us the most.

This focus on people allows Adichie to use her writing as a platform to point out many truths of revolution: the gap between ideals/politics and reality, faith in a cause even when there's no proof of success, the ethics of attacking starving civilians, the influence of world powers (Britain, the US, China, etc) on smaller nations fighting for independence, war along ethnic lines, propaganda and (in)effective use of the media, reunification efforts, abuse of power, class shifts during wartime, absolving others' mistakes because they're on the right side of the war, and a million other thought-provoking themes.

I'd recommend it, especially since it reads very quickly. It's fast-paced (or at least it was for me) and full of beautiful writing. The themes are wonderful but the best feature of Adichie's writing was definitely her use of language. She incorporated Igbo into the story so well, adding phrases here and there. She even added phrases and figures of speech to color the locals' conversations by using direct translations or pidgin English as opposed to the standard. These aren't new techniques but they added a great deal to the novel for me.

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