Half Of A Yellow Sun

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Half Of A Yellow Sun

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Knopf Canada | September 4, 2007 | Trade Paperback

4.6667 out of 5 rating. 9 Reviews
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With her award-winning debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was heralded by the Washington Post Book World as the "21st century daughter" of Chinua Achebe. Now, in her masterly, haunting new novel, she recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the 1960s.

With the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Adichie weaves together the lives of five characters caught up in the extraordinary tumult of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Ugwu is houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor who sends him to school, and in whose living room Ugwu hears voices full of revolutionary zeal. Odenigbo's beautiful mistress, Olanna, a sociology teacher, is running away from her parents' world of wealth and excess; Kainene, her urbane twin, is taking over their father's business; and Kainene's English lover, Richard, forms a bridge between their two worlds. As we follow these intertwined lives through a military coup, the Biafran secession and the subsequent war, Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise, and intimately, the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place.
Epic, ambitious and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a more powerful, dramatic and intensely emotional picture of modern Africa than any we have had before.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 560 pages, 3.15 × 2.05 × 0.39 in

Published: September 4, 2007

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978134

ISBN - 13: 9780676978131

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– More About This Product –

Half Of A Yellow Sun

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 560 pages, 3.15 × 2.05 × 0.39 in

Published: September 4, 2007

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978134

ISBN - 13: 9780676978131

Read from the Book

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. Ugwu''s aunty said this in a low voice as they walked on the path. "But he is a good man," she added. "And as long as you work well, you will eat well. You will even eat meat every day." She stopped to spit; the saliva left her mouth with a sucking sound and landed on the grass. Ugwu did not believe that anybody, not even this master he was going to live with, ate meat every day . He did not disagree with his aunty, though, because he was too choked with expectation, too busy imagining his new life away from the village. They had been walking for a while now, since they got off the lorry at the motor park, and the afternoon sun burned the back of his neck. But he did not mind. He was prepared to walk hours more in even hotter sun. He had never seen anything like the streets that appeared after they went past the university gates, streets so smooth and tarred that he itched to lay his cheek down on them. He would never be able to describe to his sister Anulika how the bungalows here were painted the color of the sky and sat side by side like polite well-dressed men, how the hedges separating them were trimmed so flat on top that they looked like tables wrapped with leaves. His aunty walked faster, her slippers making slap-slap sounds that echoed in the silent street. Ugwu wondered if she, too
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From the Publisher

With her award-winning debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was heralded by the Washington Post Book World as the "21st century daughter" of Chinua Achebe. Now, in her masterly, haunting new novel, she recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the 1960s.

With the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Adichie weaves together the lives of five characters caught up in the extraordinary tumult of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Ugwu is houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor who sends him to school, and in whose living room Ugwu hears voices full of revolutionary zeal. Odenigbo's beautiful mistress, Olanna, a sociology teacher, is running away from her parents' world of wealth and excess; Kainene, her urbane twin, is taking over their father's business; and Kainene's English lover, Richard, forms a bridge between their two worlds. As we follow these intertwined lives through a military coup, the Biafran secession and the subsequent war, Adichie brilliantly evokes the promise, and intimately, the devastating disappointments that marked this time and place.
Epic, ambitious and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a more powerful, dramatic and intensely emotional picture of modern Africa than any we have had before.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Jacket

A New York Times Notable Book
A Richard & Judy Book Club Selection
A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
Finalist for the commonwealth writers' prize for best book (Africa region)


"A gorgeous, pitiless account of love, violence and betrayal during the Biafran war."
-Time

"A landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. . . . She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory."
-The Guardian (UK)

"At once historical and eerily current, Half of a Yellow Sun honours the memory of a war largely forgotten outside Nigeria, except as a synonym for famine. But although she uses history to gain leverage on the present, Adichie is a storyteller, not a crusader."
-The New York Times Book Review

"[Adichie's] second novel leaves you reeling at the horrors people can inflict on one another. . . . The stark maturity of its vision is so startling that the great African novelist Chinua Achebe refused to believe the book could have been written by someone so young."
-National Post

"Adichie has created a jarring and achingly sensitive fiction. With powerful poetic prose unique in a writer so young, Half of a Yellow Sun is a moving novel that I would recommend to anyone brave enough to follow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie into the hell where her characters live, love and face unspeakable horrors."
-Hour (Montreal)

"…[an] artful page-turner…[a] profoundly gripping story. This dramatic, intelligent epic has its lush and sultry side as well…This is a transcendent novel of many descriptive triumphs, most notably its depiction of the impact of war's brutalities on peasants and intellectuals alike. It's a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing."
- Publishers Weekly

"We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. Her experimentation with the dual mandate of English and Igbo in perennial discourse is a case in point. Timid and less competent writers would avoid the complication altogether, but Adichie embraces it because her story needs it. She is fearless, or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria's civil war. Adichie came almost fully made."
-Chinua Achebe

Praise for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Purple Hibiscus:

"The secret of Adichie's style is simplicity, rhythm and balance. She writes a poet's sentences."
-London Review of Books

"A sensitive and touching story of a child exposed too early to religious intolerance and the uglier side of the Nigerian state."
-J. M. Coetzee

About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria. Purple Hibiscus won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. It was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in Granta and the Iowa Review, among other literary journals, and she received an O. Henry Prize in 2003. She is a 2005/2006 Hodder fellow at Princeton University and divides her time between the U.S. and Nigeria.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

A New York Times Notable Book A Richard & Judy Book Club Selection A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist Finalist for the commonwealth writers’ prize for best book (Africa region) “A gorgeous, pitiless account of love, violence and betrayal during the Biafran war.” — Time “A landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. . . . She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory.” — The Guardian (UK) “At once historical and eerily current, Half of a Yellow Sun honours the memory of a war largely forgotten outside Nigeria, except as a synonym for famine. But although she uses history to gain leverage on the present, Adichie is a storyteller, not a crusader.” — The New York Times Book Review “[Adichie’s] second novel leaves you reeling at the horrors people can inflict on one another. . . . The stark maturity of its vision is so startling that the great African novelist Chinua Achebe refused to believe the book could have been written by someone so young.” — National Post “Adichie has created a jarring and achingly sensitive fiction. With powerful poetic prose unique in a writer so young, Half of a Yellow Sun is a moving novel that I would recommend to anyone brave enough to follow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie into the hell where her characters live, love and face unspeakable horrors.” — Hour (Montr
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Bookclub Guide

1. Ugwu is only thirteen when he begins working as a houseboy for Odenigbo, but he is one of the most intelligent and observant characters in the novel. How well does Ugwu manage the transition from village life to the intellectual and privileged world of his employers? How does his presence throughout affect the reader's experience of the story?

2. About her attraction to Odenigbo, Olanna thinks, "The intensity had not abated after two years, nor had her awe at his self-assured eccentricities and his fierce moralities" [p. 36]. What is attractive about Odenigbo? How does Adichie poke fun at certain aspects of his character? How does the war change him?

3. Adichie touches very lightly on a connection between the Holocaust and the Biafran situation [p. 62]; why does she not stress this parallel more strongly? Why are the Igbo massacred by the Hausa? What tribal resentments and rivalries are expressed in the Nigerian-Biafran war? In what ways does the novel make clear that these rivalries have been intensified by British interference?

4. Consider the conversation between Olanna and Kainene on pp. 130-131. What are the sources of the distance and distrust between the two sisters, and how is the rift finally overcome? What is the effect of the disappearance of Kainene on the ending of the story?

5. Discuss the ways in which Adichie reveals the differences in social class among her characters. What are the different cultural assumptions-about themselves and others-made by educated Africans like Odenigbo, nouveau riche Africans like Olanna's parents, uneducated Africans like Odenigbo's mother, and British expatriates like Richard's ex-girlfriend Susan?

6. Excerpts from a book called The World Was Silent When We Died appear on pp. 103, 146, 195, 256, 296, 324, 470, and 541. Who is writing this book? What does it tell us? Why is it inserted into the story in parts?

7. Adichie breaks the chronological sequence of her story so that she can delay the revelation that Baby is not Olanna's child and that Olanna had a brief liaison with Richard. What are the effects of this delay, and of these revelations, on your reading experience?

8. Susan Grenville-Pitts is a stereotype of the colonial occupier with her assertion that "It's quite extraordinaryÉ how these people can't control their hatred of each other. . . . Civilization teaches you control" [p. 194]. Richard, on the other hand, wants to be African, learns to speak Igbo, and says "we" when he speaks of Biafra. What sort of person is Richard? How do you explain his desires?

9. Adichie makes a point of displaying Olanna's middle-class frame of mind: she is disgusted at the cockroach eggs in her cousins' house reluctant to let Baby mix with village children because they have lice, and so on. How is her privileged outlook changed by the war?

10. The poet Okeoma, in praise of the new Biafra, wrote, "If the sun refuses to rise, we will make it rise" [p. 219]. Does Adichie seem to represent the Biafran secession as a doomed exercise in political na•vet? or as a desperate bid for survival on the part of a besieged ethnic group? Given the history of Nigeria and Britain's support during the war, is the defeat of Biafra a foregone conclusion?

11. The sisters' relationship is damaged further when Olanna seduces Richard [p. 293]. Why does Olanna do this? If she is taking revenge upon Odenigbo for his infidelity, why does she choose Richard? What does Kainene mean when she bitterly calls Olanna "the good one" [p. 318]?

12. How does being witnesses to violent death change people in the story-Olanna, Kainene, Odenigbo, Ugwu? How does Adichie handle descriptions of scenes of violence, death, and famine?

13. What goes through Ugwu's mind as he participates in the rape of the bar girl [p. 457]? How does he feel about it later, when he learns that his sister was also gang-raped [pp. 497, 526]?

14. The novel is structured in part around two love stories, between Olanna and Odenigbo and between Kainene and Richard. It is "really a story of love," Adichie has said (Financial Times, September 9, 2006). How does Adichie handle romantic and sexual love? Why are these love plots so important to a novel about a war?

15. The story begins as Ugwu's aunty describes to Ugwu his new employer: "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" [p. 3]. It ends with Ugwu's dedication of his book: "For Master, my good man" [p. 541]. Consider how Ugwu's relation to his master has changed throughout the course of the story.

16. How is it fitting that Ugwu, and not Richard, should be the one who writes the story of the war and his people?

17. In a recent interview Adichie said, "My family tells me that I must be old. This is a book I had to write because it's my way of looking at this history that defines me and making sense of it." (She recently turned twenty-nine, and based parts of the story on her family's experiences during that time and also on a great deal of reading.) "I didn't want to just write about events," Adichie said. "I wanted to put a human face on them" (The New York Times, September 23, 2006). Why is it remarkable that a woman so young could write a novel of this scope and depth?

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