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

Half Of A Yellow Sun is rated 4.6667 out of 5 by 9.
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, 8 × 5.2 × 0.98 in

Published: September 4, 2007

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0676978134

ISBN - 13: 9780676978131

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Read! Half of a Yellow Sun follows the lives of three characters whose lives are connected. Ugwu is a thirteen year old boy who leaves his village to become a house-boy for a university professor. He realises his life is not like the life of other house-boys. They do not sleep in a spare room within the homes of their Masters, nor are they encouraged to read books the way that Ugwu is. Ugwu is eager to please and proves himself constantly to be a valuable asset to his Master's household. Olanna is the professor's mistress. She and her twin sister have led priveleged lives in Lagos, due to their father's status. She gives up that life in order to live a more exciting life with her "revolutionary lover" as her sister often describes the professor. Then there is Richard, Unlike the rest of the characters within the pages, Richard is a white man who is eager to make his life in Africa. He is obesessed with Olanna's twin sister, who is very different from Olanna, as she is a very strong, fearless, and independent woman. Their lives change when war breaks out - the book re-creates the struggle of the 1960's between Nigeria and Biafra - and as igbo speaking people, they find themselves fighting for the right to live. I don't know where to start with this book. I fell in love with it in a way that is rare for me. The characters are each filled with such energy and very distinctive, and I think what surprised me the most with the characters, is that even those who make a brief appearance were wonderfully defined. The detail of the war itself is phenomenal and often brutal. Chilling scenes are often described such as when Olanna is on a train on her way back home. Olanna is seated on the floor, urine spreading on the floor of the train and a lady asks her to come and take a look at something. Olanna looks into the bowl that the woman is holding and there is a little girl's head with ashy-gray skin, braided hair, rolled-back eyes and open mouth. That's an image that will stay with me for a long time. Raw emotion leaps from the pages in this novel and I often found myself biting my lip as I worried about the characters. Thanks to the brilliant detail, each of them is so easy to feel attached to and I had to keep stopping myself from skipping ahead to reassure myself that they were all fine. The glimpse of another culture was definitely what made this book something special for me though. I enjoyed learning about the foods, the language - there are words in igbo sprinkled throughout the pages -, the people, and the landscape. It was just an amazing novel. It says a lot that it's a little over 400 pages and I practically inhaled it in just over a day. This one is a definite must read.
Date published: 2011-03-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a compeling story! a compeling story!
Date published: 2009-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous! I cannot agree more with the reviewers who found it difficult to put this book down. I just picked it up to browse(it was my mum's) and just had to read all of it!
Date published: 2009-11-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The strength of the sun This book tells the story of the struggles endured by the Igbo people in Nigeria in the late 1960`s, struggling to create the independent republic of Biafra in response to the unjust massacre of their tribe. I don`t believe I have ever read a book where I felt EVERY character held great significance to the story. I feel humbled by the tales of those who survived, honoured to share in their history and shamed by the silence of the world. "The World Was Silent When We Died"...
Date published: 2009-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Raw and Realistic Adichie's latest novel is a gem, depicting the conflict within Nigeria during the secession, when the short-lived independent state of Biafra was created. Hundreds of thousands of people died during this time, from hunger, famine, and violence. "Half of a Yellow Sun" delves into the lives of one fictionary family in particular, and those people surrounding it. The characters vary greatly in how they react and live with the conflict, or choose not to, which digs deep into the human condition and human nature. The novel is multi-layered, offering the reader not only the main conflict and action of the war, but the ramifications on Nigerians' lives. The details and actions and reactions of the characters make them come alive- you want to meet them. This realistic story weaves together the violence of the time with the love and binding ties that can unite two people, a family, or an entire country. The spurts of humour display that the human propensity to hope is always evident amidst despair. An emotional read that forces readers to question their own strength and courage, and confront the violence going on in today's world in a new light.
Date published: 2008-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional! This book had me hooked from the first page. I couldn't put it down. If you are looking for a great read, look no further!
Date published: 2008-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put this down! Adichie is amazing, the character development in this novel is fabulous. After putting down the book, I find myself wondering, what would those characters would be doing now? This is a MUST read for this year!
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Astonishing Sojourn into a History Unknown This well-written novel explores one acclectic family's struggle to stay alive and together during the Biafran war. Inter-tribal conflict, colonialism, and the susceptability of the individual to both of these things are illuminated with jarring clarity. Adichie's character's are complicated and evolve rapidly. The specter of the political enmeshes the plight of the individual, rendering the novel both highly informative and accessible.
Date published: 2008-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Hauntingly Beautiful" Exception writing, well worth reading
Date published: 2007-12-24

– More About This Product –

Half Of A Yellow Sun

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 560 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.98 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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