Lately, I’ve been branching out of my beloved fantasy trope and trying more genres as well as books by Black authors in a bid to make my bookshelf more diverse. So, if you’re looking for a gripping read that not only champions Black authors but explores history, love, and the human condition? Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is definitely one to add to your list.
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Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.
“And it’s wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It’s possible to love something and still condescend to it.”— CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
This is a mini-review so I’ll keep it short and sweet…
The novel takes us on a journey through the Biafran War in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970, following the lives of three fascinating characters: Ugwu, Olanna, and Richard. Ugwu is a young houseboy who becomes a soldier for the Biafran army, while Olanna is a wealthy and educated woman who abandons her privileged life for love. Richard, a British writer, falls for Olanna’s twin sister Kainene and witnesses the atrocities of war as a correspondent.
Adichie’s writing is powerful and evocative; exploring themes of love, betrayal, identity, and the impact of colonialism on Nigeria. Chimamanda does not shy away from any aspects of war or crimes against humanity. In fact, she strides confidently towards each one of them including those which many would find less palatable. Chimamanda shines a bright light on the perils and experiences of those in Nigeria during this time and I came away feeling sadness for never knowing that these things had happened.
I loaned this book from my local library as an audiobook. It was 8 hours long and I finished this in one day! Adjoa Andoh as the narrator, has the most incredible voice. Adjoa brings to life the richness of this story with such finesse that I often found myself forgetting the task at hand and sitting silently listening to the threads of this story unfold.
You may have already seen Half of a Yellow Sun on the big screen back in 2013 (I’ll admit, I haven’t) and if you have, I’d absolutely recommend taking the time to read or listen to this story as I am a firm believer that the books are (generally) better than the film.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a must-read for anyone interested in history, politics, and the complexities of the human experience. It’s an intense story and one I would definitely recommend.
Rating: ★★★/5 stars
As always, happy reading.