Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book: Half of a Yellow Sun

Chimamanda, Ngozi Adichie. 2006. Half of a Yellow Sun. Anchor Books

The title refers to the flag of the short-lived republic in Biafra in what is presently south-eastern Nigeria. The Biafrians fought a tribally-based civil war with the remainder of Nigeria starting in the late 1960s - I can vaguely remember mentions of it on the news when I was little. This novel covers the years leading up to the civil war, the war itself, and a brief period afterwards. As best I can tell, it gets the history right.

This is literary historical fiction, and the plot and characters are well done, but what I found most interesting was, first, the portrayal of social and intellectual life at an African university shortly after independence and, second, the serial displacement and gradual decline in living standard and mental state of the main characters as they are repeatedly displaced as Biafra slowly (spoiler, but you sort of know this already because there is no currently existing country called Biafra) loses the civil war.

Bottom line: recommended.

Bonus BBC article on Biafrans who still dream of independence.

Hat tip on the book: Jessica Goldberg

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