Hi friends! I’ve got a good one to share with you today. Last year, one of the first reviews I ever shared on this blog was of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved that book SO much and I knew that this year I wanted to read more of her work. I think Half of a Yellow Sun was a great introduction to how Adichie writes about the past, and it further fueled my love for her writing.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a historical fiction about the Nigeria-Biafra War from 1967-1970. It details the lives of Olanna and Kainene, twin sisters with well-to-do parents with strong connections in the Nigerian government. The story is told by shifting through the perspectives of three characters: Olanna, Richard (Kainene’s British boyfriend), and Ugwu (Olanna’s houseboy). The stories of Kainene and Odenigbo (Olanna’s boyfriend) are told through the perspectives of the other three main characters. I think Adichie chose to tell the story through Olanna, Richard, and Ugwu because they all provide views of the war through different lenses, and it was a great choice.
Length: 541 pages
Additional Sections: None
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 2006
The Good Stuff
Half of a Yellow Sun is split up into four parts. Parts 1 & 3 take place in the early 1960s, before the war begins. Parts 2 & 4 take place in the late 1960s after the war has started.
Full disclosure: I knew nothing about the Nigeria-Biafra War. I didn’t even know that it happened before I read this book. Adichie wrote this book in a way that made it captivating and accessible for people who don’t know anything about the war and the context around its occurrence. Even though this is a fictional story, it provides so much insight on how the war impacted the daily lives of people and what people’s sentiments were towards the creation of Biafra and the violence of Nigeria. I also thought Adichie did great with addressing the fact that the West ignored the war and chose to remain silent when they could’ve helped.
The character development and the pacing in this book are excellent. There are about five main characters whose lives are followed for the entire book, and Adichie did a great job with showing the complexities of each character’s personality throughout the story. The changes in everyone’s mindset and priorities by the end of the war were so perceptible and intense, and it was so entertaining (and at times disheartening) to read how everyone transformed over the course of three years.
In the beginning of the book, I was definitely a little bit confused about how all of this was going to turn into a war. Most of Part 1 was setting up the relationships between all the different characters and showing the reader how everyone’s life was before the war began. Adichie did a great job of depicting the calm before the war started – all the main characters in this book were living pretty well – and she did an impeccable job of pacing the story well throughout. I definitely felt like I was part of the emotional roller coaster that all the characters felt throughout everything that takes place in such a short amount of time. I think Parts 3 and 4 had the most scandal and tragedy, but the entire book was fascinating and every word was used thoughtfully. Adichie really is a master at her craft, and it’s always a pleasure to consume the work of someone who’s doing exactly what they were put on earth to do.
What I Would Change
This book was LONG, y’all. I love Chimamanda Adichie and I 100% think her books are amazing, but if you’re going to read one be prepared to be in it for the long haul. Even though this book took me about two weeks to finish, I wanted it to be longer! I won’t spoil the ending, but there is a bit of a cliff-hanger and I wanted all the issues to be resolved at the end. I gladly would’ve taken ten more pages just to tie everything up. Other than that, this book is perfect and I would definitely recommend it.
Overall Rating: 10/10