Crossposted from my blog:
Title: Half of a Yellow Sun
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, a divison of Randon House
I have had this book since September 2007. I just never got around reading it. And after finishing it today, I ask myself why didn't I read it sooner?
Half of a Yellow Sun is a very well written book. It captures the reader's mind as soon as he/she starts reading it.
The story starts with 13 years old boy Ugwu, from the nearby village, being employed as a houseboy for University professor Odenigbo, who is filled with revolutionary zeal. Ugwu calls him master and fascinated by the numerous books in master's house. He is not treated as a servant. Rather his master sends him to the primary school for the children of the Univirsity dons. Ollana comes to live with Odenigbo as his mistress, giving up a life of luxury with her parents, in Lagos. Meanwhile Richard, an Englishman, falls hard for Kainene, Ollana's twin sister who refuses to belong to anyone. Their lives cross, merge and intertwine. Fragility of their relationship is tested by the all-consuming violence.
Ollana and Odenigbo share a beautiful relationship despite being not married. Richard loves Kainene but she remains aloof. Ugwu, meanwhile is very faithful to his master and Ollana and Baby, their daughter. The smaller charaters too leave a mark on the reader.
This novel is haunting in the sense that it is set in 1960s when Biafra struggled for independence from Nigeria. The violence that follows because of it is very chilling and shattering. There are ethnic wars between class and race.. The descriptions are stark and the reactions are horrific. The ultimate question is who should take moral responsibility for all this bloodshed. Why allegiances has to asked again and again?
When Ugwu is conscripted and said to be dead, Ollana breaks down. It is so poignant to see her shouting at Odenigbo in her angst. For Master, Ollana and Baby, Ugwu is more than a houseboy. He is family.
In the midst of ongoing war, we see Kainene and Ollana working for the betterment of the refugees intheir own way. There are disappointments but there are promises kept too. We may see death, rape, pillage but we see belief and hope in humanity too.
For someone so young, Adichie has good insight. She sure knows what she is writing. Very beautiful prose, it keeps us totally involved. She brings Modern Africa alive for us. That is reason enough to read her. She is a worthy succesor of Chinua Achebe. I truly recommend it for all.