Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Adichie
Weighty topics like colonialism, race, class, and civil unrest dominate this most riveting of novels from the pen of one of my favourite writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In ‘Half of a yellow sun’, Adichie’s formidable skills as a natural storyteller shine against the backdrop of the mighty themes.
Little known by most people outside of the continent perhaps, it was in the 1960s that modern Nigeria faced unrest within itself as the Igbo tribes tried to establish an independent Biafran Republic. This was unsuccessful, and Adichie uses the event to weave a story around the characters who perform their life’s activities against the backdrop of this seminal event. The main players include university professor and revolutionary, Odenigbo, his houseboy Ugwu, the educated and strong Olanna (Odenigbo’s mistress), her enigmatic twin sister, Kainene, and Richard the hapless Englishman in thrall to Kainene and all things Igbo.
How do tribal alliances shape up against a broader outlook of patriotism? Where does love begin and end between two strong-minded people? Class and economic status become flashpoints as they create dissension between those who have family money, and the nouveau riche. When Odenigbo’s mother, an uneducated woman, foists a village girl on her son, she basically drives a wedge between him and Olanna, which was her intention. The personal and the political merge stunningly in the novel.
Adichie is a pleasure to read and ruminate over. Her strongly etched characters and sensitive themes serve to accentuate the immense readability of her writing.