Maxwell's Reviews > Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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really liked it
bookshelves: 2014, i-own-it

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!
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Reading Progress

February 7, 2014 – Started Reading
February 7, 2014 – Shelved
February 7, 2014 – Shelved as: 2014
February 7, 2014 – Shelved as: i-own-it
February 8, 2014 –
page 0
February 9, 2014 –
page 66
12.2% "It's off to a bit of a slow start, but I feel once each of the 5 main characters story arcs are set up it will get more interesting."
February 9, 2014 –
page 127
23.48% "These are long chapters."
February 9, 2014 –
page 151
27.91% "Getting through."
February 10, 2014 –
page 206
38.08% "All I can say right now is that I feel as though things are picking up, but it's still very slow and drawn out."
February 12, 2014 –
page 230
February 12, 2014 –
page 261
February 15, 2014 –
page 403
February 17, 2014 –
page 439
February 19, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Paris (new)

Paris (parisperusing) I have to get my hands on a copy of this one! I own all her books except this one; I read "The Thing Around Your Neck" over the summer and was floored by how much of an amazing writer Chimamanda is.

Sayalee Vadnerkar Amazingggg book! Today I finished it and I am in that post-reading trance... your review is good!!!

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