Half of a Yellow Sun - Book of the Month
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This masterly novel is so accomplished that one suspects Adichie of having been here before: the story is told as if in the tradition of ancient storytellers, with hardly a nod to the modern novel.
Chimamanda Ngoni Adichie must also be a very attentive listener, perhaps to her elders: the desperate and savage war in which her people suffered such extremes of endurance, starvation, loss and countless and uncounted deaths, happened before she was born.
Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977 and she grew up in the university town of Nsukka. Educated at primary and secondary school, her writing won her early recognition. Her short stories were published in Granta and won the International/PEN/David Wong Award in 2003. Her first novel, PURPLE HIBISCUS, was short listed for the Orange Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, long listed for the Booker Prize and was winner of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She was a Hodder fellow at Princeton University. She lives in Nigeria.
She records the recent history of her country with great wisdom and sophistication: her understanding of the very complicated Nigerian politics is profound, yet her prose reads like poetry. HALF OF A YELLOW SUN is balanced, highly professional, and despite its harrowing content, full of humour. She has peopled the pages of her book with characters that are endearing, surprising, exasperating and entirely original. In the three years of Biafran suffering their relationships with lovers, family and friends are severely tested, and some are lost. That anything at all survived is a miracle: some even flourished and were stronger than before, but nothing could be further from a cliche than this book, which is written as though in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, but not without regret.
An Englishman, devoted to the family (especially the sister), stays with them throughout. An Igbo general asks him to write to the English papers about the war.
'Why me?' he asks, 'you would not have asked me if I was not white'
'Of course I asked you because you are white' says the general. 'They will take what you write more seriously because you are white. Look, the truth is that this is not your war. This is not your cause. If you really want to contribute this is the way you can. The world has to know the truth of what is happening – they simply cannot remain silent while we die...'
Read our interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie