Before reading this book I had heard her name. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, the Orange Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction (precisely for this book). She has been an honour guest at the Hay Festival in certain occasions. She is a writer with a long and wonderful career. A feminist with a lot to say in this subject, her feminist vision already contained in two books – Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions and We Should All be Feminist. All the books written by this great author have had great literary success. Half of a Yellow Sun is one of my favourites.
It is because of its structure. The story develops in Nigeria. Africa is of a great attraction to me, maybe because of its similarities with Latin America, maybe because of its uneven relationship with countries like England and United States. Maybe because a story about Africa involves magical elements such as ancestral traditions, passional stories, volcanic emotions, ephemeral relationships between life and death. This book has all of these and more. Besides, the timeline changes its frequency. It starts in the sixties, moving forward to the seventies. The third part is about the sixties again, finishing the book with the seventies. The four parts of the book match perfectly. It is not about one narrator either. Ugwu, the first one talking, was a thirteen-year-old boy working as a houseboy at Odenigbo’s house. Both Odenigbo and Olanna, his wife and second narrator, were college professors. Olanna was born and raised in Lagos, she did University in London and spoke several languages. But she never wanted to stay in Europe. Back in Lagos, she left her luxury life next to her parents to live in a dusty town named Nsukka with Odenigbo. Olanna embraced her husband revolutionary ideas of a State of Biafra free from Nigeria and encouraged him in every step he made. She took the same steps to support the independency of her people. The third narrator is Richard, and English writer -or at least this is how he sees himself-. Richard is Olanna’s sister partner, Kainene. Richard’s intention was to write a book about Biafra’s traditions. When the war started, he reported the abuses of the English in the territory. Not everything went well for him. It is through these three characters and their dialogues, thoughts and opinions on the others, their country and the internal conflict that we discover a story described to the detail. Ngozi Adichie did not fall short on literary abundance.
It can be said that this book had a great emotional deal of the author. She was born in Enugu (Nigeria). This emotion is highlighted in her characters and in the construction of her story, especially the Biafra narrative that is absolutely heartrending. It is an advantage to hear natives that tell their own stories, instead of hearing them from someone who has always been on the winner’s side. Because Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie makes us understand that not everything is war. She also wanted to transmit us the strength and nobility of the Nigerian people, their determination to make changes in the political structure of their country, their struggle to be able to live, really live, without having to constantly think in hunger, disease and death at every minute. The unity and connection of the regular and ordinary people against the powerful was definitive in this conflict. But there were also tails about the power of the word that was passing from one person to the other, starting in hopelessness and disbelief and finishing at the end of the line in triumph and hope. This is the power that is fed with the love for life.
And this is exactly what I loved about this book. A wonderful story about love, about enjoying life, family, friends and the place where we were born.
A book with its own movie can never be wrong. Half of a Yellow Sun! 100% recommended