Thursday, February 14, 2008
Half of a Yellow Sun
I lucked upon a pristine hardback copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun in the used bookstore not long after its 2006 publication date, but I let it languish on a shelf of unread hardbacks until Sunday afternoon. Once I started reading it, I didn't want to put it down.
Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in his office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.
Thirteen-year-old village boy Ugwu becomes the houseboy for a Nigerian mathematics professor who hosts political discussions regularly in his home. Ugwu realizes quickly how lucky he is: he gets to sleep in a bed and his master intends to educate him. Before long Olanna, the professor's lover, joins the household and begins teaching at the university. Also on the faculty is Richard, a shy white Englishman enamoured with both Igbo pottery and Olanna's twin sister Kainene. Kainene manages the family's business interests, which include oil.
Through the cycling perspectives of these characters and a non-chronological presentation of events, Adichie depicts the early days of Nigeria's independence, the massacre of thousands of Igbo living in the Muslim north in 1966, and the Biafran War that followed as the Igbo attempt to form their own country. From personal loyalties and estrangements to air raids and famine in the refuge camps, Adichie hones in on the telling details that will keep me mulling over this book for a long time to come.
I'll be seeking out Purple Hibiscus, Adichie's first novel, most definitely.