Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Cultural
“The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.”
‘The world was silent when we died.’ Centred around the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a yellow sun is a rhapsodic portrayal of the human dimension of conflicts. It is a magnificent narrative of struggle, hope, dreams and survival before and through the war and draws forth the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of war on ordinary lives.
Before choosing this book, I had no idea about the Biafra war and the devastation it caused. I did not even know that Biafra ever existed. When the colonization ended in 1960, the newly independent Nigeria was ravaged with political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions. The formation of the secession state of Biafra, a nationalist aspiration of the Igbo people, resulted in a civil war between Biafra and Nigeria that continued till Biafra was annexed back to Nigeria. I am so glad I decided to read this book because it made me realize how little I know about Nigeria and different African countries.
This novel is told through the eyes of Ugwu, a poor houseboy, Olanna, the daughter of an influential businessman, and Richard, a British expatriate writer in Nigeria. Theirs interwoven lives and diverse perspectives make this novel so rich and engaging.
The writing is simple, realistic and evocative and the character development is brilliant. The narrative is non-linear and jumps back and forth within 1960-1970, drawing parallels and contrasts within the lives of the characters. Adichie puts politics in the background and focuses on bringing out the human emotions and horrendous sufferings caused by the war. I was so engrossed in the pain all the characters were going through.
The ending, however, is abrupt and leaves me with so many questions. Maybe that was intended!
I highly recommend this novel because it will force you to examine your own beliefs about identity, race, blind nationalism, and oppression.