Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Historical Fiction, Love, Coming of Age, Loss, Political Fiction

Ogbenyealu is a common name for girls and you know what it means? “Not to Be Married by a Poor Man.” To stamp that on a child at birth is capitalism at its best.’Adichie

Adichie is one of the greatest revolutionary writers who possesses the ardour of a person who holds reverence for the soil that has shaped them. The constructs of her novels, make us bleed for more stories from her cultural skies. Half of a Yellow Sun is a eulogy of a novel for the wings of the resigned freedom of Biafra, that sweeps you with an admiration for the history of Africa; the history that doesn’t dwell on struggles but instead, flights on courage.

“He would be Biafran in a way he could never have been Nigerian.”

Half of a Yellow Sun pays homage to the Biafran war (1967 to 1970) and it’s staggering consequences. No information on Wikipedia can do justice in deciphering the true reality that was suffered by the Biafrans, but this novel gesticulates its every detail and reflects all of its truths. Its frankness awes me and grips me to an extent that makes me angry about where the humanity of the rest of the world was lost when Biafra was suffering. Right from the plight of the untrained soldiers who raped young girls as a sign of manhood, to the deadly kwashiorkor disease that gripped the lives of children who were the only innocent facets of the entire war, Half of a Yellow Sun shares respect for the calms and the storms of the Biafran War. 

“Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

Like every other novel written by Adichie, this novel too, shares an endless metamorphosis of love – between Olanna and Odenigbo, a love that turns to family and then into implausible faith, between Olanna and her twin sister Kainene, a hate that turns to love and sisterhood due to the concerns of the war, between Richard and Kainene, a gatecrashing love that is left incomplete right when it was perfected and between Ugwu and Eberechi, a love that transcends the war and finds its end in it too. These relationships are put to test and the war pliantly breaks down every little emotion the people have ever held, until all that has been left later, is just the melancholy blues.

“..perhaps that shade of blue was also the colour of hope.”

As a Gen Y, I have only had first hand witnesses of riots, strikes and snippets of communal violences. But after reading this novel, I have now witnessed war; the one that is not just fought for the country but also, for the five million souls and more that died as a culmination of the war.

Master should have lowered his voice; he should know very well that a beggar did not shout.”

Almost all the wars that have been fought, have been fought for peace (I mean, was history always so ironic?) You turn towards violence to get answers for your qualm towards peace. Honestly, what exactly is peace? Is peace the quiet swoops of winds over the dead bodies during an air raid, whose families, after not being able to recognise the shelled and disheveled bodies, would bury empty coffins, as a funeral not for someone who died for the country, but for someone who was murdered for the consequences of his country? Or is peace the haunting silence of the bombed people with charred faces? 

But perhaps it is the whole point of being alive? That life is a state of death denial?”

For now, I think that peace is the sunshine on the orange trees of Nsukka, on the day the half of a yellow sun ceased to exist, and Biafra was erased for the sake and the victory of the leftover humanity. 

‘NO TELEPHONE TO HEAVEN’

Quotes:

  1. She had already told him he spent too much time around women cooking, and he might never grow a beard if he kept doing that.
  2. But she feared that this was because theirs was a relationship consumed in sips.
  3. Greatness depends on where you are coming from.
  4. ‘Have you ever been to the market in Balogun?’ She asked. ‘They display slabs of meat on tables, and you are supposed to grope and feel and the decide which you want. My sister and I are the meat. We are here so that suitable bachelors can make the kill.’
  5. She’s trying to make her way in a new world with skills that are better suited for the old one.
  6. This was love: a string of coincidences the gathered significance and became miracles.
  7. And it is wrong of you to think that love leaves room for nothing else. It’s possible to love something and still condescend it.
  8. They had not planned to have him and, because of that, they had raised him as an afterthought.
  9. Of course, we all hate somebody, but it’s about control. Civilisation teaches you control.
  10. They may have collected the firewood, but we lit the match.
  11. A basis for unity does not exist.
  12. She wanted to ask him why they were all strangers who shared the last name.
  13. Does inequality have to mean indignity?
  14. I think love comes first and then reasons follow.
  15. Starvation was a Nigerian weapon of war.
  16. He writes about the world that remained silent while Biafrans died. He argues that Britain inspired this silence.
  17. He had read somewhere that, for true writers, nothing was more important than their art, not even love.
  18. Death is the price of our liberty.
  19. I was told that Biafrans fought like heroes, but now I know that heroes fight like Biafrans.
  20. Richard had told them that a country born from the ashes of injustice would limit its practise of injustice.
  21. There are some things that are so unforgivable that they make other things easily forgivable.
  22. Richard would write about this , the rule of Western Journalism: One hundred dead black people equal one dead white person.
  23. The more he wrote, the less he dreamed.
  24. His life would always be like a candlelit room; he would see things only in shadow, only in half glimpses.
  25. How much did one know of the true feelings of those who did not have a voice?

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