Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Partial review by Aminat Bassey
I consider this the best fictional account yet of the Biafra story.
2016 makes it a decade since Half of a Yellow Sun was published. I first read the book in 2012 just for bland pleasure, missing every salient details of both literature and history that it contained. Last week, just as I turned the mustard-coloured cover that carried the author’s snapshot, brief bio and critiques, there was a certain emptiness that I felt in me. A void, almost unreal yet still there. It was from the feeling that Kainene the so called unattractive twin sister of Orlanna had gone missing in all the chaos of the war and was never found. Such ability to evoke that kind of emotion in made me regard Chimamanda as a well-deserved award-winner.
The moment between finishing the book and sitting down to think about what I had just read, I wondered if Adichie was ever an observer hanging on the clouds and taking in all elements of events as they unfolded, happened and ended. It was almost unbelievable that she was never a witness to the war. The novel owes thanks to her parents’ storytelling skills, her uncles’ versions as soldiers and majorly her personal research works efforts. To have achieved such piece, I’d say Chimamanda did her homework.
The characters were allowed to display the expected and unexpected emotions in certain situations life had to offer. In Ugwu I found growth, loyalty, lust, semi-literacy and love. In Orlanna I discovered extreme kindness, tolerance, weakness, strength, foolishness and also love. Odenigbo showed me pride, intellectual arrogance, strength, hope (for Biafra) and extreme Igbo love. Kainene let me know that ugly is beautiful with brains and that love can be found in the most unlikely places. Richard let me behold all sides of weaknesses; that one can possess so little strength, so little. Yet he found love in a very strong woman. Indeed, opposites do attract. In fact, every human behavior was held on the pages of the book and that is what I most love about it. The relativity. It’s no wonder why prestigious print media had great things to say about it. .Publishers Weekly called the novel “a searing history lesson in fictional form,” one “captured in haunting intimacy.” Indeed, I thought it learning an important part of Nigerian history without the boring details. Time called it “a gorgeous, pitiless account of love, violence and betrayal.” The Washington Post Book World, called it “transcendent” and “impossible to forget.” The Guardian called it “a landmark novel” of “rare emotional truth” and “a heart-felt plea for memory” written with “lucid intelligence.” The Observer called it “immense.” San Antonio Express-News called it “alluring and revelatory, eloquent.” The Seattle Times called it “sweeping” and “engagingly human.” if one is to disagree with all of these verbal accolades, I advise a pick-up in the nearest bookshop and a careful, uninterrupted read page by page.