Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - On the Reading Life
African Reading Challenge - 2017
Half of a Yellow Sun is the second novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I have had the great pleasure of reading. Prior to reading this I read her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus and three of her short stories, all of which I loved. (You can read my posts if you wish at the link above.).
There are five main, and lots of minor, characters in Half of a Yellow Sun. We have a mathematics professor, his house boy, a corrupt businessman and his twin adult daughters. In one very telling scene the sisters talk about their father offering one of them as a kind of sexual bribe in order to get a government contract. There is also an Englishmen, writing a book. All the characters are very well developed. I loved how Adiche brought in the mothers of the professor and that of his house boy. The professor is having a long term affair with one of the twins and mother does not approve at all! She wants to find him a good girl from back home, not a big city westernized "witch". The house boy's mother also plays an interesting part. I was touched to see the professor took the house boy's mother to the doctor. The houseboy is totally devoted to his employer, who he calls "master". The Englishmen is writing a book. He is having an affair with the other twin and is researching Igbo art for his book. The sister having an affair with a white man is an issue to many, suggesting she thinks whites are superior.
Half a Yellow Sun (named for the flag of Biafra) is set in the period of the Biafran War, 1967 to 1970, for Independence from Nigeria. The Igbo people from southern Nigeria wanted to escape the domination of the Nigerian Federal government, dominated by northern Nigerians. We learn from the conversations of the professor that many intellectual citizens of Nigeria view the currently existing national entities as totally remnants of colonialism, the boundaries set by European countries. Many advocate a return to tribal identities. The novel brilliantly depicts the very complex set of factors in play. You have a tiny, depicted as very corrupt elite, their educated westernized children and a great mass of the poor, tribal people. This is very much a story of cultural clashes.
Adiche vividly depicts the terrible violence and suffering caused by the war. We see the terrible atmosphere of fear, the drafting of young boys in their early teens as soldiers, the changes as the war closes. The sex scenes are very well done, we sadly see the mass rapes as part of war and the inferior position of women.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a wonderful book. The characters, even the minor ones, I admit I loved it when the professor's mother showed up unexpectedly, took over the house and went off on her son because she feels his girl friend is not right for him. This is a very deep as well as exciting book.
I read this as part of my participation in The African Reading Challenge 2017. Next year for the 2018 event I hope to read her third novel, Americanah.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.
A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria. -from the author's website