I can now understand why the art of story telling was big in ancient cultures and how story telling was an art. It is so obvious that not everyone is good at it. A lot of people can narrate incidences, but only a few have the ability to take a incident and then weave a story around it and narrate it in a way that would actually make you feel a part of it. I think people like that write wonderful books – deep books that immediately go on your “best books of the year” list. Chimamanda Adichie is surely one such person. She has a talent for taking incidents and then weaving such powerful tales around it. I read Purple Hibiscus for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge earlier this year and I loved it. I definitely wanted to read “Half of a Yellow Sun” and I was not disappointed. It is a fascinating book at many levels. There is a political situation to grasp and understand and then there’s the complexity of human interaction. The book is a perfect blend of these two.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a story about a war - The Nigeria-Biafra war that happened in the early 70s; A war that is being largely forgotten around the world and is going down in history as yet another one of those unrests in Africa. But in this book, Adichie has successfully revisited the war. She goes into the political details and the personal torments that were experienced during the war making it a event to register in memory. And yet, it is not a documentary. She makes sure we understand the cause and effect of the war and she makes sure we remember it for what it was – not as “just another African war”. But then again, it is not all about the war. It is a story full of human emotions – love, friendship, betrayal, anger, lust, envy, pride, etc. It is a powerful tale in which the lives of the protagonists are completely intertwined with the political happenings around them. Some are in a position to dictate the happenings and others just get “dictated”. For some it is a “riches to rags” story, for some it is a discovery of the self, for some it is about losing the identity that they’ve always been familiar with. It would have been an amazing book with just the stories of the people and their interactions but adding the war element to it, takes it to a completely different level.
In brief, the story deals with the lives of Olanna, her “revolutionary” lover, Odenigbo (A university professor with radical political ideas), their house boy Ugwu (a poor boy who comes to Odenigbo from a village and slowly becomes a part of the family), Olanna’s twin sister Kainene (who is nothing like Olanna. They are not identical twins and couldn’t have been more different in character), Kainene’s boyfriend Richard (who is actually white but becomes so much a part of what is happening in Nigeria/Biafra that it is hard to picture him white after a while). Then, there are the other characters that come and go and yet manage to leave an impact.
The book has a lot of characters and a lot of parallel stories and fascinatingly, Adichie manages to keep them unique while seamlessly blending them. I am wonderstruck at her ability to take complicated lives of at least 5 people, add to an already complicated tale of the war and come up with a story that is simple, powerful, entertaining and addictive. I couldn’t put the book down from the minute I started it. I had to get back to it and see what happened next. I smiled when the characters laughed and I felt the pain when they cried. I now feel like I just spent the last two days of my life in
during the war. I feel as though I know the characters personally. I actually miss the book now that I am done with it. Very few books can actually do that to you; which is why I have to reinforce my point that Adichie is a master story teller. Nigeria
I totally loved reading this book. I am sure you’ll like it too!:) Give it a shot! Here are some more rave reviews for this awesome book if you still aren’t convinced to pick it up:
If you've read this book and reviewed it, please do leave a link to your review in the comment section and I'll add it to this wonderful list of reviews!