Half of Yellow Sun is a story set in Nigeria’s tumultuous past. It begins shortly after Nigeria gains independence and ends with the ending of the infamous Civil War. This is what most people will tell you; it is the “take away” of the book.
But it is more than this. It is a tale of emotions, fleeting everyday thoughts, fear. A tale of new beginnings, and love, and shame, and jealousy, and hopeful redemption. Chimamanda draws you into the mind of every character. You live their life with them. You feel what they feel. You cringe and blush at Richard’s gaffes. You grow giddy with Olanna when she thinks of Odenigbo. You learn English, and reading and writing anew with Ugwu. Guilty of the sin of having glimpsed the movie (I swear! It was just a glimpse! It meant nothing), I should add that the casting for the movie was superb. Although, in all fairness, Chimamanda gave them all they needed to be able to completely take on their roles. The book’s characters are so well developed you can see each one in your mind’s eye. You get to understand them so well, their decisions almost come as no surprise. Her depiction of her characters; how deeply she helps us identify with them; that is what makes it so much easier to see the war and feel its devastating effects as they did.
Half of a Yellow Sun was a great read. Come for the history lesson, stay for the compelling characters.