Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Review

Posted on August 5, 2011 by

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This is not my kind of book, not even my kind of author, and yet I was not able to put it down after the first ten pages. Yes, at times it seemed to drag and I wasn’t that interested in it that much, some of the sub-plots did not really enthralled me as much as others, like Ugwu’s story for example.
I know little of Africa’s history or political situation, only after I read the book I did some research in order to understand better what I just read. Not knowing the reality behind it didn’t stop me from reading further and trying to understand, to visualise. Belonging to a completely different culture, some of the details were a bit difficult to grasp, but I accepted the different realities from one culture to another.
The characters the author creates are rounded, all of them have good and bad traits, the story doesn’t let you take sides as each of the characters are right in their own way, their mistakes are sometimes understandable sometimes forgiven when they show enough regret.
The author does not write in a linear form: the chapters envision different decades and it’s sometimes troubling to understand what just happened. One of the examples I can think of on the top of my head is Ollana’s cold reaction to Richard’s presence, there was no explanation previously given and I was aching to find out what happened that brought them in this situation. One chapter later the whole event was laid out for me, and yes, I guess the author was aiming for suspense doing that, and it did keep me reading, but I prefer having a full knowledge of what just happened. Plus, I found out about Baby’s existence before the chapter in which she was conceived or born… scenes which changed everything about the characters I thought I knew well enough.
The story itself is beyond touching, the display of cruelty is hard to take in. A story about the Nigerian civil war against the Igbo people, who were trying to gain their independence in one state, called Biafra from the eyes of an insider, Ugwu. All the time while I was reading I couldn’t understand why anyone would do that, why put so many barriers between people, why hurt them so, keep them hungry, thirsty, ill, in the worst conditions, destroying everything they own, and put them under a continuous threat – bombs? I don’t think I will ever understand this hate between people, and Igbo are just as African as the Nigerians are, so why treat them so badly? It was sad to later find out on the internet that all that suffering was in vain, and that Biafra was not recognised as an independent country after the civil war. All those deaths and pained people died a useless death.
What I found curious was that Ollana felt like a stranger in her own country, among her own relatives. I know she was raised by her parents in an European way, and that she was given to an English type school, and afterwards went to study abroad in England, but she is grossed out by how some of the mothers grow their children, she refuses to leave Baby play with them, she thinks all their traditions or superstitions are nonsense. I mean, I understood her, but I expected her to be more in touch with her birth land.
All in all, I liked the book, it was a great insight in a completely different world for me. It made me think twice about that world and its sufferings more than the film Blood Diamond did.

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Posted in: Books, Review