Nigeria / 2006
What starts as an "exposé" of the inner-lives of Nigeria's upper class ends as a harrowing reminder of the ways that the political can trickle down into the personal. As war looms outside Olanna and Odenigbo's luxurious compound, they insist that nothing will happen. Slowly and painfully, they are forced to accept the political reality of late 1960s Nigeria, in which brutal assassinations spark ethnic violence, secession, war, and deadly famine.
One of my favorite parts about Half of a Yellow Sun was the way that tragedy brought people closer together. When the threat of death loomed nearer and nearer, people tended to shed their grudges and resentments because they suddenly no longer mattered. This novel showed how looking at the "bigger picture" and forgiving past transgressions can lead to more sustained joy - and can make us more merciful. Reading-wise, I could not put this book down. Adichie has a way of carrying a story so thoroughly that you just have to know what happens next. I loved the characters - although I wasn't really here for using Harrison as comic relief. I connected most with Ugwu. It seemed his desires and values were portrayed the most clearly. His character was more fluid than many of the others, who sometimes seemed to be playing roles. I really felt like this was his story, so it would have been nice to get more of his perspective. This book is a gem both for its educational and literary value. I had little knowledge about the Biafran War before this, so reading about it from this intimate perspective and through the eyes of Nigerians was incredibly useful. Overall, I really loved this book and I think any and everyone should read it. While it sometimes falters at the local level (unresolved plot points, Olanna and Kainene’s strange relationship, Ugwu’s entire family), it really captures the "big picture" in such a tender, wonderful way. 5/5 stars.