Set in 1960’s Nigeria, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun gives a heartbreaking and moving account of civil war from the points of view of a group of people experiencing conflict in a very different ways.
The reader experiences the Nigerian Civil War through the eyes of Olanna, a privileged and educated young woman, Ugwu, a houseboy for a university, and Richard, a white Englishman living in Nigeria. The lives of these three central characters, each of whom effectively represent different social, economic and ethnic groups, are intrinsically linked, although the horrors of war will tear them apart and test their loyalties to the limits
Before reading Half of a Yellow Sun, I have to admit I knew very little about Nigerian history and culture. I actually took a break after the first few chapters to research the country as well as its languages and its politics. This massively increased my understanding and made it much easier to concentrate on the main plot.
I’m only ashamed that I knew so little about the conflict in the first place!
The novel doesn’t shirk on details or shy back from difficult or controversial topics. The thread of the story that follows Ugwu in particular was one that I found actually quite hard to read. That said, I was utterly gripped from page one. I really empathized with all the characters and couldn’t stop imagining how I would react if I found myself in a similar situation.
The author writes beautifully and communicates strong, recognizable and very real emotions through simple and seemingly effortless prose. I haven’t read any other books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie but I definitely will in the future, and I wouldn’t hesitate to whole-heartedly recommend Half of a Yellow Sun to anyone.