Thursday, October 2, 2008

Half of a Yellow Sun

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 Nigeria 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.

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!

13 comments:

Veens said...

ey I have it on my shelf :)

I am going to read it nxt :)

I m so glad u liked it ;) I would have really hated ti, if you didn't like it :D

Take Care

Dar said...

Wow, you write good reviews. I felt so much for this book that I couldn't put it into words but you did-great job. This is one of my favorite books this year too. I felt like I was living with these characters emotions also. I feel enriched having read it. Thanks for linking my review and I'm off to link yours to mine too.

Ramya said...

@veens - get to it fast!:) it is an amazing book!:)

@dar- you officially have the highest comments on my blog with this comment..:) congrats!:) thanks.. and i totally loved your review as well.. it made me rush and get the book..so i do think you did a great job of writing a review as well!!:)

Dar said...

lol-I'm so excited to be first. Usually I'm so far behind I only think I'm first. Well I bought Purple Hibiscus on your recommendation, now I just need time to read it.

Ramya said...

lol.. i know the feeling.. there are so many books i want to read right away.. i just wish i had the time!:) reading's become my second full time job right now:))

softdrink said...

I bought this on Tuesday, as sort of a consolation prize for having to spend the week away from home. Of course, I brought three books with me on the trip, so I haven't started it yet. But soon.

Ramya said...

@softdrink - what an awesome consolation prize.. this is one book that'll make you forget that you are away from home for sure!:) happy reading.. shall wait for your review!

bethany said...

ahhhhh! I can't read your reivew yet..I still have a bit left of the book. How did you tear through it like that!?!?!!?

Oh,and you need to go check out J.Kaye's blog..you are the super-cool spotlighted one!!! :)

Ramya said...

@bethany - i couldn't put it down!! i sacrificed sleep and went on and on and on.. i hate it when i do that.. i don't get any work done around the house and i just read! i even read during my lunch break at work!:) it was an awesome book.. cant wait for you to finish it now.. am curious to see what you thought of it.:)

and thanks for letting me know about the spotlight on j.kaye's.. i am soo thrilled!:)

bethany said...

Oh, I am not sure if you know...but there is a current discussion about this book going on at:

http://bookblogs.ning.com/group/traveltheworldinacomfychair/forum/topic/show?id=2071157%3ATopic%3A9829

People are still talking about it, about how much they loved it too.
I will finish it this weekend for sure. Head to that link to discuss it :) You have really piqued my interest in it for sure.

Nymeth said...

I've read so many amazing reviews of this book lately! It almost seems that the Book Gods are trying to tell me something.

photoquest said...

I saw you spotlighted at J-Kayes wanted to drop in and say hello and look around. Like your site it's really nice.

Trish said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this one and joined us for a little discussion. I had a tough time with this review but you explained it very well and did a great job of showing some of the things that make this book so powerful. It will stick with me for a while as well!