Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Half Of A Yellow Sun

I just finished a very good book - Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

It follows the lives of group of people in Nigeria in the late sixties as civil war divides the country and Biafra attempts to secede.

By turns humorous, sensuous, moving and horrifying - but never less than human, Adichie captures not just the times but draws us into the lives of each of these characters - from Ugwo the laconic but eager houseboy to twin sisters Olanna and Kainene from a wealthy Nigerian family to Odenigbo the zealous academic and Richard Churchill a young Englishman trying to escape his colonial history.

As a boy or 8 or 10 years old, Biafra was the first major world event the seriously entered my consciousness. Don McCullin's terrible pictures from the conflict seared themselves into my memory at that early age - seen in the Observer Sunday Magazine I think, along with the increasing TV and Radio news reports of the suffering and starvation. I can vividly remember collecting some (no doubt small amount of) money to send to the international aid effort.

"This, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel, deserves to be nominated for the Booker prize. What is so memorable and accomplished about Half of a Yellow Sun is that political events are never dryly recited; rather they are felt through the medium of lived lives, of actual aching sensitive experiences. To my knowledge it is unusual for a young woman author to capture with such precision and verisimilitude the feelings of a man, but Ugwu is a totally realized character—ambitious, devoted, sexual, scholarly, courageous, uncomplaining, resourceful and intuitive. These characteristics, easy to rattle off, are all dramatized and substantiated in this long and intricate but always compelling narrative. When I think of how many European and American writers rehash the themes of suburban adultery or unhappy childhood, I look with awe and envy at this young woman from Africa who is recording the history of her country. She is fortunate—and we, her readers, are even luckier."
— Edmund White

Adichie has a website here.

(Don McCullin)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You might like Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala.