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Half of a Yellow Sun is Chimanda Ngozi Adichie's novel about the struggles during the Biafran war of the 1960s in Nigeria. It is a fictional account but with many truths and historical facts surrounding the characters. The political events which she traces are all real. In Part I: The Early Sixties, Adichie introduces her characters. The book is in four parts and moves between events, past and present, as characters try to make sense of their place in the world. There are subtle references to the trouble which is brewing and the divides that will ultimately lead to tragedy.
Ch 1: The thirteen year old Ugwu will become the houseboy for the eccentric Professor Odenigbo - "Master." His aunt, is anxious that he does well and always remembers his place. A concise "Yas, sah," when spoken to will ensure a successful relationship, she reminds him. Ugwu notices how Master's Igbo (native language) is spoken with an obvious English influence. There is a culture shock that greets Ugwu, who can't imagine anyone eating meat "every day" and who eats heartily from the "white thing" which is the fridge. Even understanding how to turn the tap on is quite a challenge. Ugwu marvels at everything and thinks fondly of home.
Ch 2: Olanna is a young and beautiful member of the Igbo elite and is in love with Odenigbo. She must travel to her home town of Lagos to visit her parents. Olanna exposes her father's plan to use her to obtain a building contract as she is propositioned by Chief Okanji, the finance minister, but rejects his advances outright. Olanna is aware that she disappoints her parents who would prefer her to marry a rich businessman.
The reader is also introduced to Olanna's twin sister, Kainene. Olanna can feel the tension and the distance between herself and her sister and longs for a closer relationship. Olanna finds comfort and security when she visits her aunt and uncle who are not rich like her parents. She enjoys the down-to- earth atmosphere and how less complicated life is in Kano, although the reader is already introduced to the possible tensions between different groups (Igbo and Hausa).
When Olanna returns and moves to Odenigbo's house, she feels a little isolated from discussions with his academic friends. She rejects Odenigbo's offer of marriaege at this stage although she is madly in love with him.
Ch 3: Richard is an Englishman and, at this stage has an English girlfriend, Susan. He does not apprecaite how Susan's friends lack respect for the Nigerian people and has a particular interest in Igbo-Ukwu art. Susan suggests that the Igbo are "surly and money-loving." Richard meets Kainene at a party and is intrigued by her and her cynicism. Richard and Kainene begin to see more of each other and Richard must break off his relationship with Susan. He leaves for Nsukka where he intends to write and Kainene goes to her home but arranges for Richard to be introduced to Olanna's boyfriend, describing Odenigbo as Olanna's "revolutionary lecturer lover." Richard visists Kainene and feels a connection with her, although he wonders about her circumstances, running the family business.
The reader is introduced to excerpts from a book entitled, "The World Was Silent When We Died," and is left wondering what may lie in store. There is an underlying connection between this book and events which will follow.
Ch 4: Ugwu, Odenigbo's houseboy, has been attending school and his intelligence is obvious...
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