A few months ago I read Chinua Achebe’s autobiography, “There Was a Country”, which depicted Nigeria’s Biafran War (1967-1970). Half of a Yellow Sun also deals with the events before and leading up to the war, but from a fictional standpoint.
This book was marvelous. The story just flows for the most part and the language used is so evocative. I’m sure people who have visited or lived in Africa will appreciate the descriptions of African life, African mentality, humour, nature and so on.
I have to admit, I much preferred the first half to the second half. It was hard to read about the Biafran war. The copy of the book I had actually showed pictures of children during the war who had suffered from kwashiorkor. It was truly heartbreaking. To think so many tribal wars occurred because of colonialists drawing arbitrary borders and also favouring one ethnic group over another (similar to what happened in Burundi and Rwanda).
The stories of the five main characters; Ugwu, Olanna, Richard, Odenigbo and Kainene were also interesting, though some parts were quite reminiscent of a Nollywood (Nigerian movie industry) movie (affairs, evil women, desperation for babies, meddling mothers etc.)
One quote I really liked was this: “The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.” A point to ponder.
Adichie is definitely a wonderful contemporary African writer, probably one of the best I’ve encountered in recent years. Chinua Achebe lamented about the dearth of African writers and I heard he’s a big fan of Adichie. I’m really excited to read more from Adichie. She’s still so young and it’s safe to suppose her writing will only get better