Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Note from Ti: I am going to try something new with this review. My reviews will have three parts now: the summary, something that I am calling “the short of it” and then a section for my thoughts.

The “short of it” will be a few sentences about the book. Basically these brief sentences will indicate whether or not I enjoyed the book. Some readers like to know up-front if a book is worth reading so there you go! Consider it a mini-review of sorts.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Random House Inc
Pub. Date: September 2007
ISBN-13: 9781400095209
Here’s the blurb from Barnes and Noble:

“With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. 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.

Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all. Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise and the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place, bringing us one ofthe most powerful, dramatic, and intensely emotional pictures of modern Africa that we have ever had.”

The Short of It:

Tightly woven, character driven novel about the fight for Biafra’s freedom. Although this novel is fiction, it is based on historic events and achingly real at times. I could not put it down.

My Thoughts:

There are so many things to say about this novel. I was completely swept away to another time and place while reading it. It basically follows the lives of three main characters during the Nigerian-Biafran War (1967-1970). This was a brutal war where the Igbo or Ibo (eebo) were slaughtered just for being Ibo. As the world falls apart around them, Olanna and Odenigbo who have become accustomed to the finer things in life, are stripped of all their worldly possessions and forced to focus on survival.

Ugwu, the boy servant who works for Olanna and Odenigbo, ended up being my favorite character. His innocence and boyishness is so well drawn. There were times where I just wanted to shake him and say, “Silly Ugwu! What were you thinking?” We really get to know Ugwu and his thoughts as he cares for Baby, Olanna and Odenigbo’s young daughter. Ugwu is a constant reminder of the class differences within Nigeria. Although he is often considered part of the family, he quietly takes his place as the houseboy and never questions his place within the household.

There are other characters within the novel that I enjoyed as well. Richard, the Englishman that falls in love with Olanna’s twin sister, Kainene. Richard is a misfit of sorts. A struggling writer who believes in the freedom fight and will do anything to win Kainene over. Although educated, he struggles with his place in the world.

Adichie’s portrayal of a war-torn state is vividly real at times. There are some violent scenes within the book and depictions of rape. I do not have a strong stomach when it comes to rape but these scenes accurately depict the horrors that the Ibo people were forced to live with during their quest for freedom.

My book group met last night to discuss the book and it was a good discussion. Most fell in love with the characters and found the writing quite easy to follow. Although the novel is 500+ pages, you do not notice its length as you are reading it. Although it deals with a heavy subject matter, there are moments of hopefulness and even humor at times. I highly recommend this novel.

To read more about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, click here to visit her website. Also, Jill over at Fizzy Thoughts recently reviewed this book as well. She and I are on the same reading kick right now. Click here to check out Jill’s review.

25 thoughts on “Review: Half of a Yellow Sun”

  1. This is one of my best reads. I love Adichie’s writings. I have many of her short stories online. You can check those out on my blog.

  2. I love the new review format! I’m glad to see that you liked this book. It’s on my TBR list.

  3. Jill and I are reading a lot of the same stuff lately too.. funny!

    Great review. This one sounds really intriguing! My book club won’t read anything over 400 pages unless I beg and plead.

  4. Fantastic review Ti! I’ve been wanting to read this one. By the way, I like your new format. It totally works!

  5. I enjoyed your review format–and your review! And I loved this book. I also read Purple Hibiscus, but didn’t like it as much as Half of a Yellow Sun. Definitely an author I’ll be keeping an eye on.

  6. The review format worked well for me. I’ll put the book on my list of potential book club reads, thanks for letting me know about it.

  7. This sounds like a powerful book and one that you have to be in the mood to dive into something serious. I will definitely be adding it to my wishlist! I doubt that my book club would consider a book over 500 pages but I am going to suggest it. I love your new review style and “the short of it” is a great way to highlight your thoughts.

  8. I absolutely loved this book. It was one of my favorites from last year. I’m glad you enjoyed it also.

  9. I like your new review format. This one sounds great. I like when long books don’t seem long.

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  10. Ugwu was one of my favorite characters in this book as well, Ti. I was on a Africa themed reading spree when I read this one and it made quite an impression on me.

  11. I like your new review format – and I keep hearing so many good things about this book I really must pick it up one of these days!

  12. Great review!

    I love your idea of the “short of it.” I think many are going to LOVE it!! I do because sometimes I just want to know if I should read it. You know sometimes I don’t read the back of a book for a summary before reading it if I have a good review like the one you gave.

  13. I finished this today too! Ugwu was my favourite character as well, although a few of the people commenting on my blog didn’t like him at the end of the book.

    Have you read Purple Hibiscus? I loved that too, although it was a very different book – much simpler, and with a lot less violence.

  14. Farmlanebooks – I can see how they wouldn’t like Ugwu at the end but given his sister’s experience I felt his pain.

    I have not read Purple Hibiscus yet but plan to. I wonder when she plans to have another book out.

  15. Finally finished this today. Ugwu was my fave, too. And I agree, this didn’t feel like 500+ pages at all, the pages just slip by. I really loved it, too.

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