“Perhaps he was not a true writer after all. He had read somewhere that, for true writers, nothing was more important than their art, not even love.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun
After reading "Americanah" earlier this year, I finally picked up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun". I had heard so many great reviews, I was worried it wouldn't live up to my high expectations, but I am very happy to report that it has. "Half a Yellow Sun" tells the stories of a cast of intriguing, flawed and very real characters around the years of the Biafran War. I have to admit, this conflict was, shockingly, not one I knew much about. It was not mentioned in my history classes, not in school and not in university, and so I approached this book with little understanding of what I was about to learn. About a quarter of the way through, I kept feeling the urge to lay it aside and research some of Nigeria's history. Adichie has crafted a book that is hard to place into a genre. It is literary fiction, certainly, because this woman can write, but it is also history in the way it so thoroughly and thoughtfully illustrates the lives of all manner of different people during this horrible crisis.
Like many children in the developed world, I grew up being told to eat what was on my plate, the image of the African child with its spindly arms and distended belly a present image to teach us to appreciate what we have. I did not know, however, that this image was even named Biafran Child, an effect of the starvation the Biafran's were subjected to.
The characters in this book were very different from those in "Americanah". There was less humor, which would have felt ill at place in this story, and they all seemed somehow more adult that Ifemelu and Obinze in Adichie's other book. The story was well plotted, though at times, a little repetitive. I liked that it wasn't all hopeless and miserable, that the characters, even if they suffered, did not become caricatures of martyrs or victims, but rather survivors, which added a further dimension to them, developed them and made them into people I could easily consider real.
"Half a Yellow Sun" is one of those books that will linger with me for a long time. I read a lot, and a lot of books sort of blur and fade in my memory, but there are some like this that stand out in one way or another - they have fascinating characters, exceptional writing or teach me something I didn't know before. I would recommend this to anyone!