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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 15, 2007
Most of us will have little knowledge of the Biafra war, except, possibly, for the media's haunting images of starving children. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie brings her people's world to us in this beautifully crafted, deeply moving, novel. Set in Nigeria during the 1960s, the narrative alternates between the optimistic early years of the decade and the civil war period at the end of it. With her extraordinary storytelling skill, Adichie draws the reader into an absorbing account of fictionalized realities that is impossible to put down - or to forget after the last page is read. With this, her second novel, she confirms her international reputation, established first with Purple Hibiscus, as one of the leading new voices of African literature.

While the war for Biafra's independence, born out of highly complex Nigerian and international political circumstances, provides the essential context for the novel, Adichie's focus is on the personal and private, the struggle of the civilian Igbo population. Her depiction of the horrors of war, the starvation and destruction is realistic. Yet she does not allow these scenes to take over and succeeds in not overwhelming the reader with them. By concentrating on one family and its close circle of friends and neighbours, Adichie creates an intimate portrait of these people's lives during both these critical periods. She paints her characters and their ongoing interactions against the panoramic view of events and environments that influence their lives and challenges their peace and even their existence.

Central to her story are the twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, from a wealthy middleclass Igbo family. The beautiful Olanna leaves Lagos for a university environment to be with her political firebrand lover, the math professor Odenigbo. Kainene, on the other hand, having inherited their father's talents, shines as a confident business woman. English researcher and writer, Richard, friend of Odenigbo, falls under her spell. Adichie explores the interactions sisterly intimacy and love as well as its serious tests with sensitivity and empathy for both. Through them and their surroundings she also touches on the social, political and religious tensions of the time.

The list of main characters wouldn't be complete without Ugwu. Brought into the Odenigbo household as a house boy, he matures from the naive village boy to become a well educated, articulate and caring member of the extended family. In fact, Ugwu acts as a sort of understudy to the narrator, adding a very distinctly personal flair to the description of events and bridging the reality of his own family's rural environment with that of the intellectually stimulating social gatherings at the professor's house.

During the war years, intimacies, friendships and loyalties are put to the test. Will they survive the dramatically changed circumstances that the group finds itself in? Some are evicted from their homes and have to join the endless stream of refugees to find shelter and food for survival. Others move into remote rural areas to escape the fighting. Olanna's efforts to maintain her dignity and to protect her small family come alive on the page. So does Kainene's work with her confidence that she can beat adversity and barriers in her efforts to maintain the supplies for a refugee camp. They don't lose hope or humanity. Odenigbo and Richard have their own demons to tackle. And Ugwu juggles his various roles while attempting to maintain something of a private life for himself.

Half of a Yellow Sun, also the symbol of the short-lived Biafran state, represents some of the best that storytelling has to offer. With strong imagery and beautiful language Adichie has created a masterwork. [Friederike Knabe]
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on March 19, 2009
I had been suffering from an inability to complete a novel for a period of months. I found myself losing interest mid-way through books and thought something was wrong with me. I joined a book club and through discussion with the members thought perhaps it was the books I was reading and not me. When it was my turn to host the book club I chose this novel and began reading with trepidation. Well I was fully engaged from start to finish and confirmed that it wasn't me, the problem was in fact the books I had been reading!
I loved this book, as did the other members of my club. I found the characters so real and interesting and their stories consuming. I learned a great deal from this book, not only the history of this civil war, but also about people. I love the way the author set her story in such a horrific time without making the novel feel like a prelude to depression and hopelessness. The book was real and not without tragedy, yet hope and resilience were the prevailing themes. The book follows many characters without confusing the reader or watering down their stories. It truly is the work of a highly skilled author!
Definitely on a must read list and my current number one recommendation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 17, 2014
Ms. Chimamanda tells her story using three different narrators, Ugwa, a houseboy who moves from a tiny village to work for Odenigbo, a professor at a university in the Nigerian town of Nsukka. Odenigbo treats Ugwa as more than a houseboy teaching him English and sending him to school so that he can become educated and perhaps, not always a houseboy. Olanna, Odenigbo’s romantic interest is the second narrator and daughter of a wealthy chief from the capital of Lagos. The final narrator is Richard Churchill, a Brit, who’s arrived in Nigeria to pursue his writing and follow an interest in Igbo artifacts that date back hundreds of years. Coincidentally, he falls in love with Olanna’s twin sister Kanene. It’s the early sixties and intellectuals such as Odenigbo are planning the separation of Bithe southern portion of Nigeria into the new nation of Biafra with a planned flag that features half of a yellow sun. Biafra would be home to the Igbo who mainly follow Christian and animistic faiths. In the north, live the Moslem Hausa and Falani peoples. An amicable separation might have been possible if the future location of Biafra did not possess most of the oil reserves in the country. After Biafra declares independence in 1966, as many as 30,000 Igbo people caught in the mainly Hausa populated north were slaughtered before they could reach the safety of their new country. War broke out and the Biafran people were cut off from supplies of food and medicine. The hardships of war and starvation are well documented by Ms. Chimamanda’s and provide my first in depth understanding of what went on there at the time. With her three narrators she is able provide multiple perspectives of the war that provide a riveting tale of love, politics, war and depravity that will stay with me long after I finished the novel.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 30, 2008
In Nigeria, devastated by civil war in the 1960s, we see the birth of the state of Biafra and relearn quite a bit of history. It is through the eyes of three different characters, whose personal tales intertwine, that history blends with their difficult paths:

Ugwu, a houseboy for eccentric university lecturer Odenigbo. Olanna, whose parents raise her and twin sister Kainene in the most privileged of backgrounds in Lagos; she leaves everything behind to follow Odenigbo as they are very much in love. Richard, a timid British national charmed by the Igbo culture and enthralled by Kainene, whose personality is an enigma for everyone. Obviously many other characters rotate all around and as we become acquainted with each of them, their presence is always pertinent and complementary to the main story.

I would not add anything else as the tale would be spoiled but I cannot refrain from strongly recommending this book as it is informative in many ways, its narrative flows beautifully, heartbreakingly, even comically at times and your heart is captured within the lines. It does not dwell on the violence of war even though it (the violence) is perceived in subtle but incredibly effective ways.

Read this book, you will not regret it. Quoting from my review title, simply wonderful, indeed.
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on January 15, 2009
A brilliant novel by a brilliant novelist. Adiche employs her beautiful prose as a means of exploring the complicated and nuanced history of the struggle for Biafran independence. Half of a Sun approaches the Biafran war in a nuanced manner through a diverse group of protagonists, each with different perspectives on the ensuing conflict. Her exploration of politics, gender, sex, war, power, and the postcolonial Nigerian context are enthralling. Half of a Yellow Sun is an epic masterpiece and one of the best books I have read.
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on December 28, 2009
This book is a must-read. Generally I do not enjoy books about war, civil or otherwise, but Adichie does a marvellous job of creating characters you won't want to leave, and you will follow them spell-bound as they experience the horrors of civil war.

Historically this book opened my eyes, and I highly recommend it.
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on January 20, 2014
After having spent a lot of time in West Africa, this book has really captured my heart. No matter who you are or where you live, this is a must read!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon May 2, 2015
I was young when there were news reports about Biafra and (I am ashamed to say) there were jokes that had Biafra or starving children as the punch line. So when I heard a (most excellent) TED talk that Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche gave "The Danger of a Single Story" my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to read some books about Africa.

Half of a Yellow Sun shows multiple sides of the characters, their good, kind sides and the mistakes (sometimes horrific) that they make. It shows how affluence can come crashing down, how people are when they have nothing. It shows corruption of tribes and how big countries like the US and Russia do atrocious things (like shoot down planes carrying food) to interfere with the outcome of an African civil war and hide behind diplomacy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche knew people who experienced this and did her research and then creates a story of fiction that closely resembles the truth. And why were these big countries so interested in the outcome of this civil war? Why oil of course.

This is an excellent book, well written - I would give it more stars if it were allowed.
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on January 5, 2014
It was the blurb that first caught my attention. Then the fact that the story is on the Nigerian Civil war I was researching at the time made me go for this book. I am glad I did.

This story of the poor Ugwu leaving the life he had known in his home village to work as a house help in Enugu, where he got trapped in the world of educated and refined people whose worlds and past mirror the complexities of Nigeria before, during and after the civil. The writing makes understanding the civil war a lot easier, and gives an insight of the various ethnicities (Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani), especially the major ones, whose squabbling and shortsightedness plunged the land into so much misery that it is yet to fully recover from.

The story spans four decades and tells a story of Nigeria that is exemplary. It comes with Disciples of Fortune, and Things Fall Apart as novels I enjoyed this year. Stories that provide an insight into African life in this manner win my heart deeply.
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on February 11, 2014
It's highly engaging: informative, tragic, funny, poignant ...triggering our deepest thoughts and emotions. Adichie brought up universal feelings and ideas that dismantled all cultural barriers. The reader feels the proximity of a soul mate all through the pages!
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