Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 448 pp
Half of a Yellow Sun retells a moment in Nigeria’s history when Biafrans relentlessly struggled to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960s, and the beastly orgy of violence that followed.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with astonishing compassion, empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, puts together the lives of three characters mingled up in the turbulence of the decade.
Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old, engaged as a houseboy under a university professor; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful mistress, who abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the love she shared with her new lover, and Richard, a shy young Englishman in servitude to Olanna’s twin sister, Kainene, an unfathomable figure who refuses to belong to anyone.
Olanna and Kainene are un-identical twin sisters, members of the Igbo elite. They struggle with an on-again-off-again mutual loyalty crosshatched with mistrust and betrayal.
The twins also gravitate toward very different men: Olanna becomes the mistress of Odenigbo, an expansive intellectual and Pan-Africanist, who teaches at a provincial university, while Kainene falls for Richard, a bashful, awkward but principled Englishman who takes up the Biafran cause.
Rumours of war, then all-out conflict throw this privileged foursome’s world into disarray — along with the very different world of Ugwu, Odenigbo’s houseboy, who comes from an impoverished rural village.
As Nigerian troops advance, the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely put to the test, as were their loyalties to one another.
Half of a Yellow Sun is an outstanding novel about moral responsibility, the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race, and the ways in which love can complicate them all.