I was encouraged to read this book by a fellow blogger who I admire and whose literary judgement I trust to some degree. He had selfish reasons of course (He needed to talk to someone about it) and he proceeded to send me a link also of Adichie at a TED conference speaking about ‘The danger of a single story’ and how she was first perceived by her English roommate not as a Nigerian but as an ‘African’. (Andre is you’re reading this, yes, i did finally got around to watching the TED talk 🙂
In this Novel, Adichie recounts the era of that brief Passionate history of the Biafran-Nigerian war between 1967 and 1970 through the eyes of three very different characters; Olanna- daughter of a rich Igbo businessman and mistress to a the revolutionary university professor, Odenigbo,Her twin sister Kainene’s lover, the white Englishman writer Richard and the Odenigbo’s houseboy from the nearby village, Ugwu. The war though brief told through the eyes of these individual is very vivid and the reason is so clear by that the reader is able to identify with the Igbo’s very easily. Within the story of the war the subplot of the twins relationship and that of their lovers and help brilliantly narrated. If you were unaware of the cultural divide that existed between African ethnic groups prior, this novel will basically spell it out for you.
‘The benefit of being the ugly daughter is that nobody use you as sex bait’ Kainene
Preceding the war, in the first part of the Novel, the twins relationship was strained even before the incident involving Richard. Olanna often find herself wondering when did they drift apart living as distance relatives instead of the person she shared her mother’s womb with. I greatly admire Kainene as one of the strong characters in the Novel notwithstanding her portrayed cold and tough exterior. sharing a shared womb with someone for 9 months does not guarantee that this person will be your best friend for the rest of your life as with the case of these two. It does however mean that in times of difficulty if you will can always turn to that person and no matter what they will never turn you away. As was in this time of war. Kainene is what I would describe as a ‘Boss Lady’ whereas Olanna would be the ‘sweet crowd pleaser’
HALF OF A YELLOW SUN- SYMBOLISM
when I picked up a novel I am always intrigued as to why the author choose a particular title. Adichie’s reasoning was not revealed to me until the Biafran declared their independence and the Biafran flag was flown and hoisted by the people who broke out in songs and celebration in the streets.
“swaths of red, black and green and at the center, a luminous half of a yellow sun.
It was the symbol of their freedom, of pride, and mentioned numerous times in the book whether sewn into items of clothing and on the the shoulders of the soldiers of the Biafran army.
‘red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the north, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have and, finally, the half of the yellow sun for the glorious future’.
This book took me back to when i use to love reading African literature back when I was completing my A’Levels so much so that I start up a new found love once again with Chinua Achebe and NGugi wa Thiongo.
Also: see, Half of a Yellow sun- The Box office Film with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose.