Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  978-1-4000-4416-0 Alfred A. Knopf  448 Pages; First Printing: September 2006

A profound sense of loss permeates Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun; a permanence, that of the words, “No victor, no vanquished”. The novel is an allegorical retelling of a decade in Nigerian history. It takes place shortly after Nigeria was granted full independence from the United Kingdom and covers two time periods. Though close in chronology, the years are separated in tone and realities. The Early Sixties radiates with the idealism of academic intellectuals, and the business as usual approach of the traditionalists who are connected to centers of power: commerce, politics and military might. 

The Late Sixties shatters the optimism the dominant ethnic groups (Igbo, Hausa, Fulani and Yoruba) can work together as one coup leads to another and then to the Biafran War. In Half of a Yellow Sun, Adichie proves herself a master storyteller in many ways. At the onset, she explores various characters’ perspectives of how Nigeria came to be in the state it is in. She captures the sardonic wit and mannerisms typically associated with the British and ones influenced by them and blends it with the leisurely heavily accented speech of villagers, while sketching the vibrancy of everyday life. Adichie then jars with a gripping scene of mass murder, awakening us t0 the ravages of war, specifically the loss of everything as we knew it. Adichie makes great use of characters as symbols without sacrificing the human component, where people act out of love, family responsibility, desperation and callousness. Half of a Yellow Sun is powerful, a must-read war novel.

Recommendation: HIGHEST
Reviewed by Guichard Cadet