Half of a Yellow Sun Summary

Synopsis

Half of a Yellow Sun is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's award-winning second novel, and was listed as one of New York Times Most Notable Books of 2006. Many critics praised Half of a Yellow Sun and predicted that Achidie will be hailed as a significant writer of the twenty-first century.

The novel takes place in Nigeria, where the author was born. The time frame is the 1960s during the country's Nigerian-Biafran War. The main characters are on the Biafran side of the conflict. The story is told through three different points of view: Ugwu, a young teenage boy who represents the people of the outlying villages; his tribe clings to a more traditional, tribal way of life; Olanna, the daughter of well-to-do city-dwellers; and Richard, a white ex-patriot originally from England, who falls in love with Olanna's twin sister. The story is a combination of politics and personal relationships, charged by the brutal conflicts that occur around the main characters.

The story begins in a somewhat peaceful and almost idyllic setting. Olanna has fallen in love with a radical Nigerian professor who rallies his colleagues, friends, and students around the idea that the mostly southern portion of Nigeria needs to declare its independence. A new country will be formed and it will be called Biafra. Many of the characters are inspired and excited about this concept.

But well into the novel, the realities of war become a major factor. This is not strictly a north/south revolt but rather the conflict is based mostly on tribal disputes. Living mostly in the south, the Igbo people do not trust the more northern tribes people called the Hausa. The main characters of this story are Igbo. Although their hearts are in favor of the revolution and ultimate independence, the Igbo people are not as well prepared, equipped, or financed as the Hausa. In the end, the Igbo people suffer tremendous losses.

Readers are taken through these struggles, losses, and sufferings.  In the process, readers learn of at least one side of this particular time in Nigerian history. But this novel is more than a history lesson. Family relationships, love affairs, community involvements, and the conflicts between the traditional tribal ways of life versus the more modern, often more corrupt, manner of life in the cities are fully explored.

Ed. Scott Locklear