Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Original Publication: January 15, 2007

Rating: 5 STARS

Historical Fiction | 541 pages |Published by Alfred A. Knopf

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has rapidly become one of my favorite authors. I’m grateful to be a fan of a brilliant woman who is alive, young, and will continue to bless the literary world with her complex stories of the Nigerian and African experience.

In “Half of a Yellow Sun,” Adichie wows with a beautifully tragic story that spans a decade and revolves around the lives of a diverse cast during the Biafran-Nigerian civil war. This conflict, which lasted from 1967-1970, is now mostly forgotten by countries outside Nigeria. It was a brutal war and I will not claim to know which side was right and which was wrong. Adichie does an excellent job of simply telling her story and preventing the novel from becoming advocacy literature.

The story itself has been widely recognized for its outstanding characters and the subtle attention to detail that brings the narrative to life. Adichie’s direct and honest prose serves the story well, but every now and then she bestows upon her readers tragic or lovely scenes rendered in the most elegant prose.

And there are certainly a plethora of lovely and tragic scenes. The novel opens with the cast living in happiness and plenty after Nigerian independence. Their nights are blissfully extravagant and intellectual. The twin sisters around which the novel centers, Olanna and Kainene, are in love and successful. Even when life creates obstacles for them, they find ways to mend and move on because they have the security of wealth and living in their country in peace. However that all is shattered when their people, of the Igbo tribe, begin to be slaughtered by the other tribes in Nigeria due to building resentment of the Igbo’s dominance over the country’s job and governmental sectors. During the war, extravagance, privilege, security and happiness are utterly abolished. The book is riddled with tragic scenes that haunt the reader but the ending is the most tragic of all.

“Half of a Yellow Sun” will be remembered as one of the finest books of the 21st century. If you love literature, you owe yourself the experience of reading this astonishing and powerful work of fiction.

11 thoughts on “Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. First comment! I actually love this book as well. It did make me cry several times, but it was so worth it. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is such a master of storytelling. Her characters stick with you long after the last page. I enjoyed learning about Nigerian history. The story of the civil war that took place there is largely forgotten, but this book gave me a painfully clear image of how colonialism can change the course of a society long after the colonizers have left. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thank you for commenting 😀

      Yes, the book made me cry as well. The ending crushed my soul. I remember crying for a whole minute straight. :'(
      Have you seen the film? It’s not as good as the book, obviously, but I loved seeing Olanna and Kainene come to life.

      I hadn’t even heard about the Biafran Civil war until this book. it’s a shame. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, so I especially appreciate it when fiction teaches me about history.

    1. Americanah is a very different kind of book, a lot more accessible for Western readers. Half of a Yellow Sun is not. But it’s just as moving and memorable as you’d expect from Ms. Adichie.

  2. This is the only Adiche novel that I own right now, and I thought I would have read it long ago, but no. Sigh. I will, though. I promise. 🙂
    P.S. Your first review is lovely. Mine are truly awful (I had no idea what I was doing – had never even followed other blogs before). I cringe at the thought that people might read them, so it’s just as well that they don’t!

    1. I’m interested in the Canadian cover of this book!
      This one has the cliche “Lion King” feel that some books set in Africa get, hah. The setting sun and the acacia tree…it’s so common.

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