Sunday, May 6, 2007

BOOK: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I read several reviews over at NYT Notable Books for this book and it did not disappoint. This book has been short listed for the Orange Prize and I am very glad to see that, unlike other award winning literature I've tried to read, this book was extremely readable. Adichie has created characters and a setting that was very easy to be immersed in. And that isn't necessarily a good thing, as Nigeria circa 1967 was involved in a bloody civil war and that is never good for anybody.
To witness the descent that Olanna, her twin Kainene, Olanna's husband Odenigbo, the houseboy Ugwe and Kainene's partner Richard fall into is scary and disturbing. From a comfortable middle class, university life to barely surviving in refuge camps, this novel shows how devastating and quickly war can change everybody's lives. People have to do whatever they can to survive. It was a great reminder that when we see refuge camps on television, each person there had a home, a life, a job before they were displaced. I was thinking about Nigeria while I read this, but also Dar fur, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and these places we see from a distance. And it is so upsetting.
This novel reminded me of several other books: the opening part of the book, before the war started was much like Reef, with the houseboy fitting into a middle class household, with an academic life; and the spirit of the characters reminded me of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a novel somewhat about attitude and dealing with what life throws at you. And you can never believe how awful things get for the characters and how they keep surviving.

To summarize, Half of a Yellow Sun was an excellent book, although the material was disturbing since it details the atrocities civilians and soldiers have to deal with during a civil war. The writing and the characters were enjoyable and I'd like to read the other book by Adichie, Purple Hibiscus.

1 comment:

Marg said...

I have this out of the library at the moment and I am very much looking forward to reading it.