Set in the late 1960s, Half of a Yellow Sun looks at southeastern Nigeria before, during and after the Biafran war. Through the eyes of Ugwu, a 13 year old houseboy; Odenigbo, a university professor; and Olanna, the professor's fiancee', readers are given an up close glimpse of the affects of war. To a lesser degree, we see them through the eyes of Kainene, Olanna's twin sister, and Richard, an English writer who's in love with Kainene.
When Nigeria's, which gained its independence from Britain in 1960, boundaries were initially created, Great Britain failed to take into account the 300 different cultural and ethnic groups comprised of 60 million people. It was almost inevitable that groups would clash. For economic reasons and cultural, ethnic and religious tensions, the mostly Igbo inhabited, oil rich area of southeastern Nigeria chose to secede and create their own state of Biafra. The result of this secession was the Nigerian-Biafran war.
While Odenigbo is most involved in the call for revolution, backed by Olanna, it is really Ugwu that observes and notes the changes that the household goes through over the course of three years. He serves as a witness to Odenigbo's gatherings of other intellectuals to discuss the state of Nigeria. He witnesses the arrival of Baby in an already tumultuous household. And he serves in the Biafran army, giving a firsthand account of the atrocities of war.
As a British expatriate, Richard stays in Nigeria to do research for a book and because of Kainene. Though Olanna is seen as the beautiful and intelligent twin, Kainene is the ambitious and business savvy twin. Richard loves her direct way of speaking and falls hard for the sharp-tongued woman. To a degree, their lives are less affected by the war, but affected nonetheless.
Through her writing, Adichie portrays every facet of emotion in her characters. From the fall and rise of Odenigbo to the meltdown of the long suffering Olanna, the new found humanity of Kainene and the steadfastness of Ugwu, Half of a Yellow Sun is not just the story of Biafra, it's the story of her people.
Listening time: 19 hours
Published: September 2006