Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is known for many things, not just for her lyrics on the song “Flawless” with Beyoncé. She is a Nigerian novelist who has written notable works such as Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah. Chimamanda is also Igbo so to any Igbo readers, Igbo Kwenu! But enough about the minor things, let’s dig into this book!
Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel that takes place in Nigeria in the early/late 60’s to the year 1970. This time period was prior to and during the Nigerian Civil War or as others call it the “Biafran War”. Long story short, this war was fought due to the secession of the Biafran region. This region consisted of mostly Igbo people and they led this secession due to many tensions at that time, such as: economic, cultural, ethnic, and religious tensions. Chimamanda captures the many effects of the war in this book through the characters Ugwu, Olanna, and Richard. The minute Biafra declared their secession, this decision took a major toll on the lives of the main characters.
The book starts off with us meeting Ugwu, an Igbo boy who came to Nsukka to work as a servant in Odenigbo’s house. Odenigbo, is one of the lead characters, who happens to be a Professor of Mathematics at Nsukka University. Since this book took place during a time of war, Odenigbo was forced to evacuate his position and thus became very active in the war. Olanna is the daughter of Chief Ozobia and the twin of Kainene. Olanna and Kainene were both raised in Nigeria and Olanna is a Professor of Sociology at Nsukka and Kainene ran her father’s business before the war.
As the book carries on, trouble begins to arise between the Hausa and Igbo people which causes massacres that results in the deaths of hundreds of people. In between all of this, major things happen on a micro level, such as: Olanna moving in with Odenigbo and Ugwu, Olanna meeting Odenigbo’s mother and realizing how his mother felt towards her, etc. I can’t reveal everything because I don’t want to ruin the plot for anybody reading this but if I had to rate this book out of 10 I would give it a perfect score! And P.S: if you don’t really like reading books, they’ve also turned this book into a film! The film is pretty accurate when compared to the book depending on how you look at it. But the film did not start off with Ugwu like the book did. We meet Ugwu later but first it starts off with Kainene and Olanna breaking the news to their parents as to what they’re doing after their education in London. Fun Fact: they filmed the movie in Nigeria so it doesn’t get any realer then that! All in all, every Igbo person should know the history of Biafra and why it was even considered an option to succeed from Nigeria. And what better way to gain knowledge on these decisions and their impacts on citizens of that time through Half of a Yellow Sun!