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


Taking its name from the symbol of Biafra, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s second novel Half of a Yellow Sun is set in the years preceding and during the Nigerian civil war and the fight for Biafra. In this book Adichie takes the baton from other great writers, like Achebe before her to examine life for every day, ordinary Nigerians through a post-colonial lens. The devastating ramifications that “the people who drew the map” irrespective of tribes and culture had in Nigeria are mentioned and alluded to throughout the novel, but never dwelled upon. Instead it is Adichie’s dazzling characterisation, moving story and evocative language that take centre stage. Following the life of Olanna, a privileged girl from Lagos, her lover, the radical Odenigbo and Ugwu the houseboy, Adichie intersects class, status, wealth, tribes and culture in Half of a Yellow Sun to produce characters that are varied and truly reflective of the rich and diverse nature of Nigeria; (notably challenging the often pushed, erroneous narrative of a ‘poor’ and homogeneous ‘African identity’ or culture). Set in the 1960’s as the country descends into civil war, her portrayal of the human suffering is poignant and intimate, exuding an emotional truth that strikes right at the heart of the reader. In a word, this book is brilliant. Vividly written, Adichie savours language, adorning her prose with Igbo and poetry. She breathes life into a dark chapter of modern history that, outside of Nigeria, is largely forgotten, lost in the annals of time and importance. Half of a Yellow Sun presses the reader to face the full horror and human cost of the Nigerian civil war, urging them to remember the bitter struggle for Biafra and that “Red was the blood of the siblings massacred in the North, black was for mourning them, green was for the prosperity Biafra would have, and, finally, the half of the yellow sun stood for the glorious future.” `
What did you guys think? Would love to hear your thoughts on the book.


  1. I really enjoyed this book. I think I read it after reading Achebe’s final autobiography in which he discussed the Biafran War in a LOT of detail. I have to applaud Achebe for taking on the difficult task of writing into fiction form such an important event in her cultural history.

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  2. I read this book a long time ago, but I remember being spellbound. I have forgotten the character’s names, but I can never forget the guy who (despite being white and European, I believe…?) identified with the nation of Biafra and felt a love for it. I thought the writer portrayed his inner conflict and his emotions amazingly! The identity struggle there was so complex and interesting.

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  3. Every time I think about this book, the poor village boy Ugwu, comes to mind, such a hard character to forget! Every book I’ve read by Adichie has a character that I deeply connect to, her characters are so powerfully developed they almost feel real! I find myself often wondering how Ugwu’s book “the world was silent as we died” faired and if he still have a thirst for knowledge, he truly inspired me! I have to remind myself that he is fictional☺

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    • Wow, you are so right! Her characters are wonderful, personable and so so real. I definitely felt that way about Ugwu’s book and felt the urge to read it! I guess that’s why Post Colonial lit is important for me, it lets us hear the voices of the people who should be heard and not just the ‘voyeurs’. Ugwu’s fictional book is a poignant metaphorical reminder of the books we need to read to really understand the world. Thanks for your comment and the food for thought 🙂


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