Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun
Photo by Suad Kamardeen / Unsplash

Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Have you ever re-read a book and felt like you were uncovering a hidden treasure all over again? That’s the magic I experienced with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. I finished reading it just yesterday. Although it wasn't my first time reading this book, it felt like it because I had forgotten almost everything since I read it years ago. I love re-reading masterpieces because it allows me to gauge my comprehension level and interest in the subject as I age. While I may not have grasped the full intensity of the story back then, I always remembered it as a great read. This time, however, I was able to better grasp the knowledge, the history of Nigeria, the civil war, and the intricacies of the story.

The story is set in Nigeria during the 1960s. Nigeria celebrated its independence in 1960, followed by political turbulence that culminated in a civil war from 1967 to 1970. But it’s not just a plain story of war; it’s a story of the people who experienced it. I absolutely love the characters through whom the story is told. Ugwu, with his loyalty; Olanna, with her beauty and intellect; Odenigbo, with his revolutionary traits; Kainene, with her strong personality; Richard, with his awkwardness, his love, and his intimidation when it comes to Kainene; and Harrison, with his need to impress his master with his foreign recipes. The author has done an excellent job portraying these characters. Her writing brings such liveliness to each of them that I can still visualize these people in my head.

As the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War, sets in, everyone’s life changes. Being Igbo during an anti-Igbo movement is not ideal, and they are forced to flee their homes. Life is no longer the same. The portrayal of the severe fear of dying is so surreal. Some of the descriptions in this book are so graphic that you might need to put the book down for a moment before you can continue reading. The violence, starvation, famine, displacement, and losses endured by people are difficult to process. But that’s when the author’s writing truly shines. The writing is brilliant. There were many instances when I was stunned and got goosebumps, but there was one particular moment when I could not take it anymore, and I started bawling. It pinched my heart. The emotional depth and realism of the author’s writing are so remarkable that, as a reader, you will feel the characters’ pain and resilience.

I have read several books about wars at this point, and there are a few things that cross my mind every time I read these kinds of books. Let me know in the comment section if you have similar thoughts as well:

Who is left behind in wars? It’s either people without resources, who have no other option but to stay, or those with revolutionary attitudes and strong principles. People with resources always find ways to leave the war-and-conflict-inflicted regions and start fresh somewhere else.

How people can go from everything to nothing in no time. Every time I read books like this, it makes me wonder how short-lived material things are. When life-changing events like war happen, you can go from everything to nothing in an instant.

Morality goes out the window when it comes to survival mode. When there is scarcity and it comes to surviving, people can go to any length to stay alive. People lose their sense of humanity and do inhumane things, and I don’t know if anyone can be blamed.

The occurrence of sexual violence during war. One of the recurring themes I have found in several books about war is how much sexual assaults occur and how much women have to suffer because of it. Women being raped by soldiers is commonly portrayed and it makes me think what could be the reason? Does the fear of dying override their morality?  Is it the dehumanization of people on the other side/enemy side? Is it the lack of accountability? What is it?

I had similar thoughts when I was reading Khaled Hosseini’s books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, earlier this year. If you have read those books, you’ll understand what I mean.

Coming back to the book, Half of a Yellow Sun is a brilliant work of literature. This book combines everything from love, betrayal, loyalty, humor, passion, regrets, fear, loss, grief, hope, and optimism. I have never read about any African country’s history with so much interest and compassion. I doubt I paid attention to the historical aspects when I read it years ago, so I am glad to have picked up this book again.

The ending of the book is not the happiest, but it is definitely fitting. It may feel like you don’t get proper closure, and that's because you don’t. I still think about that one particular character!

Oh, I can’t wait for you all to read this masterpiece. It’s an amazing book— a 10/10, for sure! I cannot stress enough how beautiful the writing is. From the first to the last page, it gets better and better in such a sad yet brilliant way. If you read it, you will understand exactly what I am trying to say!

Bonus tip: If you are interested in reading this book, going through the history of the Biafran War could help you better understand the context. You can always Google it, but ChatGPT gave me a quick summary of the timeline, causes, and consequences of the war in a way that was easier to grasp.

I hope this was helpful. Thank you for swinging by!

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I will see you in the next blog post 😊

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