Half Of A Yellow Sun – Book Review

halfyellowsunChimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun is a wrenching novel about love, disappointment, forgiveness and the unbearable emptiness of loss. Set during the 1960’s, the story details Biafra’s struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria. The novel gives the reader a glimpse into the politics which created Nigeria’s civil war. Adichie’s simple and eloquent language reveals the vivid, stark images of Nigeria’s cities, people and bush villages. Ugwu, Olanna, Odenigbo, Richard and Kainene are just some of the characters who people this novel – complex, rich and unforgettable they show us what it is like to be vulnerable and human during a time of uncertainty.

This is not a ‘feel good’ novel – instead it stuns the reader with the horrifying images of a brutal war and reminds us that in the end, despite cultural and religious and race differences, we are all just people struggling to anchor our lives with others.

Half Of A Yellow Sun is a literary masterpiece that has earned its place on the New York Times Most Notable Ficiton of 2007.

About forgiveness:

“I also think that you should forgive Odenigbo,” he said, and pulled at his collar as though it was choking him. For a moment Olanna felt contempt for him. What he was saying was too easy, too predictable. She did not need to have come to hear it.

“Okay.” She got up. “Thank you.”

“It’s not for him, you know. It’s for you.”

“What?” He was still sitting, so she looked down to meet his eyes.

“Don’t see it as forgiving him. See it as allowing yourself to be happy. What will you do with the misery you have chosen? Will you eat misery?”


“There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable,” Kainene said.There was a pause. Inside Olanna, something calcified leaped to life.

“Do you know what I mean?” Kainene asked.


About the horrors of war:

His first article was about the fall of Onitsha. He wrote that the Nigerians had tried many times to take this ancient town but the Biafrans fought valiantly, that hundreds of popular novels had been published here before the war, that the thick sad smoke of the burning Niger Bridge had risen like a defiant elegy. He described the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where soldiers of the Nigeria Second Division first defecated on the altar before killing two hundred civilians. He quoted a calm eyewitness: “The vandals are people who shit on God. We will overcome them.”

About loss:

She wanted him to truly talk to her, help her to help him grieve, but each time she told him, he said, “It’s too late, nkem.” She was not sure what he meant. She sensed the layers of his grief – he would never know how Mama had died and would always struggle with old resentments – but she did not feel connected to his mourning. Sometimes she wondered if this was her own failure rather than his, if perhaps she lacked a certain strength that would compel him to include her in his pain.


Olanna reached out and grasped Odenigbo’s arm and the screams came out of her, screeching, piercing screams, because something in her head stretched taut. Because she felt attacked, relentlessly clobbered, by loss.

About racism:

“Who brought racism into the world?” Odenigbo asked.

“I don’t see your point,” Kainene said.

“The white man brought racism into the world. He used it as a basis of conquest. It is always easier to conquer a more humane people.”

“So when we conquer the Nigerians we will be the less humane?” Kainene asked.

Odenigbo said nothing.

Half of  Yellow Sun is highly recommended.


To read more reviews or discussions on this book, please visit The NYT Most Notable Book Blog.

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