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Half of a yellow sun by Chimamanda Ngozi…

Half of a yellow sun (original 2006; edition 2011)

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jeni Thompson (Cover photographer), Vania Leles (Cover model)

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4,1192121,220 (4.13)1 / 976
Title:Half of a yellow sun
Authors:Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Author)
Other authors:Jeni Thompson (Cover photographer), Vania Leles (Cover model)
Info:London : Harper Perennial, 2011. Paperback.
Collections:Purged, Unread unowned, Wishlist, To borrow
Tags:1960s, 21st century, Africa, Biafra, civil war, colonialism, fiction, historical, Nigeria, Nigerian author, novel, paperback, war, World Book Night

Work details

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)

Recently added byCalavari, thebigidea, Sareene, private library, Labrose, beebarth, Lumifg, Grubis, eurekajim
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    goddesspt2: A novel about the Biafra war. Cited by Adichie in her Author's Note.
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    The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The stories of a impoverished countryside boy and two upper-class sisters are told against the backdrop of the 1960s Biafran War. This book, by one of Nigeria's most famous authors, should appeal to readers interested in Nigeria's history, Nigerian society and the lives of women in Nigeria.… (more)
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English (192)  Danish (4)  Finnish (4)  Swedish (4)  Italian (3)  French (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (212)
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“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.”

This is Adichie's second book and the title takes its from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria whose name became synonymous with war by starvation and eventually only existed for three years. The novel spans all of the 1960s from the early days of independence to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war in 1970 and the main characters are initially developed in the period post-independence peace and for some prosperity.

The novel centres around twin sisters, members of the Igbo tribe, who are very different in both looks and temperament who choose two very different men as lovers. Olanna rebels against her wealthy family and chooses Odenigbo, or "the Master", a radical maths lecturer at the University of Nsukka who lives with his houseboy Ugwu. Ugwu is uneducated but a quick learner so Odenigbo enrols him at the university staff school. Ugwu also becomes a dab hand in the kitchen cooking pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs when his Master entertains his intellectual friends. This is a time of plenty.

In contrast Kainene decides to stay in the family business and works for her father, a wealthy merchant, chooses Richard a shy Englishman as a lover. Richard has come to Africa in the hope of writing a book and lives his servant Harrison. Harrison is a bit of a comic character who loves to cook traditional English fare like roast beef and crumble for his master and scorns others who do not. Yet he is also able to turn his hand roasting such delicacies as lizards and bush rats when the famine strikes.

Ethnic differences in peace time are dramatised by the minor characters who include Odenigbo's Yoruba colleague, Miss Adebayo, and Olanna's ex-boyfriend Mohammed, a Hausa prince. These differences assume lethal consequences when a military coup occurs in 1966, leading to violent attacks against the Igbo tribe, the succession of Biafra and war. The relationship between the two sisters has long been fractious when Olanna sleeps with her sister's lover Richard the break becomes a chasm. But when the two sisters and their lovers become caught up in the violence that ensues they are forced into a reconciliation.

However, this is not really a novel about war although there are some pretty graphic depictions of the indiscriminate violence that war brings, as well as the portrayal of the starvation of the Biafran people due to food blockades by the Nigerians. Rather the focus is on the characters resilience and fragmenting relationships. Olanna in particular endures the worst effects of the Nigerian actions as along with Odenigbo, Ugwu and her adoptive daughter she slips into squalor, food-aid queues and air raids. When Ugwu is forcibly conscripted he is compelled to take part in some of the atrocities himself whose legacy becomes a lasting shame. Eventually there is forgiveness between the twin sisters subtly echoes that of the warring political groups. A history of colonisation is also alluded to.

There are other quiet revolutions in the novel. Odenigbo, the "revolutionary freedom fighter" with endless certainty and self-belief, succumbs to drink and despair, while the seemingly compliant Olanna draws on profound strengths. The master-servant relationship is upended, as the "houseboy" returns with fondness and irony the Master's way of addressing him as "my good man".

Adichie was not born until after the conflict and is therefore revisiting the history of her parents so that it endures. The novel's structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, felt a little clunky at times but the clear prose with its harrowing depictions of the suffering that the civilian population had to face and the sometimes unpalatable choices that they had to make more than made up for it. Although this is told from the Biafran side of the conflict no doubt atrocities were perpetrated by both sides. This was perhaps the best post-colonial novel that I've read but a very worthy effort all the same. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jul 30, 2016 |
'the world was silent when we died
By sally tarbox on 23 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The title comes from the emblem of the shortlived Biafran state (1967-70); in this book we see the lead up to and results of this time of turmoil in Africa through the eyes of a group of bourgeois Nigerians. There are two wealthy sisters, their spouses (one a rather weak British ex-pat, the other a Nigerian intellectual) and their servants.

It was quite an interesting read and I learned a lot on a topic I knew little about. But I felt that because we see this terrible event through the eyes of those with influence, it somehow cushioned the reader. Although our characters undergo the horrors of air raids and have to move into grotty accommodation, their wealthy parents abroad and their friends in high places ensure things arent too bad.

I also found that Adichie writes in a very reserved and distant manner; a character undergoes an experience and reacts, but exactly what s/he is thinking or feeling is not revealed. The result for me was that a book set amid what was termed the worst disaster since World War 2 kind of washed over me. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
A well written, well constructed book. The young author deserves a lot of credit for the sustained piece of work based on family memories and much reading of works by older writers who had direct experience of the Biafran War. A careful selection of characters and structure allows the story of the war to be told from different viewpoints all of them civilian. This is not a military history and all the better for it. The only caveat I would make is that the story is told very much from the experience of a well-off, middle class point of view. A Biafran story but very much with a setting familiar to a European audience. The experience of many Biafrans was much more horrific than the story told here. But it's a novel not an authoritative history and as such it does a very good job. This book tells a good story about friendship and is written in a very entertaining way
  Hayfastutman | Jun 9, 2016 |
One of the best books I've read in years. It's about the Nigerian Civil War, the one in which Biafra declared independence and the western powers let Nigeria starve the rebels into submission. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
Book Description With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

My Review I enjoyed reading this book very much. It was an eye opening look into the Biafran War and the Nigerian culture. Adichie has a beautiful writing style that brings all of her characters to life. It is definitely a book that will be hard to forget. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history. ( )
  EadieB | Jun 1, 2016 |
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While there are disturbing scenes, the writing is superb, and Adichie puts a human face on war-torn Africa. The characters are authentic, the story is compelling. It is a worthwhile read, which will linger in your thoughts long after you turn the last page.

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngoziprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andoh, AdjoaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sundström, JoakimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Today I see it still--

Dry, wire-thin in sun and dust of the dry months--

Headstone on tiny debris of passionate courage.--

Chinua Achebe,

From "Mango Seedling" in

Christmas in Biafra and Other Poems
My grandfathers, whom I never knew,
Nwoye David Adichie and Aro-Nweke Felix Odigwe,
did not survive the war.
My grandmothers, Nwabuodu Regina Odigwe and Nwamgbafor Agnes Adiche, remarkable women
both, did.
This book is dedicated to their memories:
ka fa nodu na ndokwa.
And to Mellitus, wherever he may be.
First words
Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.
'I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007200285, Paperback)

In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna's enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race - and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:36 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A novel set during Nigeria's struggle for independence in the 1960s involving five characters including thirteen-year-old Ugwu, a university professor, the professor's mistress, and a young Englishman named Richard.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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