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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is the 2nd book by this author that I have read.  I have to say that, for me, this one blows her other book (Purple Hibiscus) out of the water.   And her other book was good.  So, if this book doesn't earn Adichie a coveted place in the hearts of the Nigerian People, I don't know what could.  It's just GOT to be a beloved classic for them, although only just published in 2007.  Whereas Purple Hibiscus felt very contained (which was entirely appropriate for the subject matter), this book makes you feel as though everyone in it is in danger of floating free of their physical moorings.  Set in the 1960s at the cusp of a bloody civil war that will hopefully birth the strong new nation of Biafra, this book is expansive and brilliant and Shakespearean, and based on history.  The main gist is that the Igbo people secede publicly amid rampant government corruption.  As always, the manipulative forces of Colonialism and foreign interests in the oil-rich nation are working behind the scenes.  These forces that could have been used for good, end up, as they most often do, costing a lot of innocent lives in the interest of greed.  With all of these government entities and armies, you would think that this book would be a bit cold, a bit dry.  But to the contrary, it's very, very intimate.  Many of the village people are good, desperately poor and naive, and want to believe that their government will come through for them finally.  They rally to the cause armed with only their ideals and hope of a better life.  Our main characters, many of whom are Igbo,  are so fully developed that they seem real.  We have two Igbo sisters, Olanna and Kainene, and their men, and the houseboy, Ugwu.  Time and place are vividly brought to life, including a few Ex Pats and lots of locals, but the two characters who really become fully alive are beautiful Olanna and the innocent houseboy Ugwu.  They grow and develop along with the story, which will land you in the villages, in the towns, in the ragtag Biafran army where they have carved rifles out of wood, in the kitchens where Jolof rice is prepared, in the side yard where the butterflies flit, and in the back hall where Olanna's future mother in-law is literally using tribal witchcraft against her.  Whereas the first book was just dark for me, this book also has a lot of hope and light in it.  A lot of ideals and resourcefulness and things to admire.  This was a great history lesson for me too.  I had heard of the country of Biafra before, but if you had asked me to tell you where it was, I would not have known, and would have replied, "Somewhere in Africa."  Now I could never forget!

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