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Get swept away in a realistic yet raw tale of civil war and tribal loyalties (plus WIN a free copy to take home)

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

By Ashka Thacker

Based in the sixties during the Nigerian Civil War, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of those few books that leave you staring at the final page, not wanting to believe that it’s all over.

The novel tackles a delicate subject, the lead up to and the course of Nigeria’s Biafra War in the sixties. The events unfold through the eyes of three central characters, who are swept along in the chaos of civil war. They are forced together and separated in unexpected ways throughout the war, each witnessing events that affect them deeply.

Adichie writes beautifully, with strong imagery and fitting words. At times you are given the characters’ most intimate and private thoughts, and the way these are described makes the reader feel a part of the drama. The characters are so well rounded and realistic, that you can relate to and sympathise with every single one of them at some point in the novel. The relationships between the different characters develop or deteriorate throughout the events that shape the novel. The strong contrasts in their lives are shown through these events, the ease with which life was lived before the war, the fear, panic and inhumane responses that ensued amongst both the rich and the poor. Furthermore, the inaction of the international community is something that is treated delicately yet commented on.

Interwoven in the main plot are other important themes such as the necessity and ineffectiveness of emergency relief aid for the innocent people displaced by war and through corruption and misappropriation. The use of child soldiers and the horrors they are forced to endure is also touched upon in the novel, making it particularly realistic yet raw. The role of religion in a war, wartime propaganda and how tribal loyalties and the political elite can tear a country apart, are subjects all written about with care.

The structure of the novel worked well, creating intrigue and suspense throughout. It was gripping from start to finish. Even though it is quite a harrowing and distressing account of war, the author’s passion and dedication for her country shown through the vivid descriptions make this a story not to be missed.

Half of a Yellow Sun is the symbol of the short-lived Biafran state. Adichie has created a masterpiece in this novel. Storytelling at its best, it is a major contribution to African literature and highly recommended.

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