Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The novel, "Half of a Yellow Sun" is based around the Nigerian-Biafran War 1967-70 and as such is a fascinating telling of the conflict from a Biafran/Igbo point of view. I found it very moving to be reminded so lucidly about these tragic events of such a short time ago. In a note about the book, the author tells of her father's stories about the war and the fact that he always ended his stories with the phrase "war is very ugly". This book re-inforces that truth very convincingly. So there is a lot about human suffering but it is told always with graceful prose and fine characterisation. What is more it is an exciting, pacy read - and even though told from the Biafran point of view it is certainly not simplistic and provides fascinating insights into recent history and this wealthy part of modern Africa - Nigeria. Also it is fair to say that the first approximately half of the events of the novel take place before the civil war starts and sets the scenery so well for us that when the conflict unfolds it is all that more sad because of what is cast aside with the conflict.

Having started off my comments about the conflict based part of the novel I would like to emphasise the fine style of the writing especially the liveliness of the personal stories throughout and the brilliance of the novels composition. This comes out particularly for me in the narrating style. It is not told in a first person style - the story is played out through the experiences of three main characters and several secondary and also important characters. You don't get the sense of one all-knowing-narrator telling you about whats going on either - the characters show it to you. The writer uses these three and other characters to carry the story along - in particular - Olanna , an female upper middle class Igbo academic , who marries a Igbo/Biafran academic and patriot; Ugwu - their houseboy who is undertaking self improvement and education as the action paced story goes along and Richard, an English journalist and lover of Olanna's twin sister, Kainene. Consequently it is a visually clear, easy flowing style of a novel - I think it is very well constructed. We as readers are watching and feeling the episodes unfolding as the characters experience and learn of them too. The fine personal stories and detail contribute greatly to the liveliness of the book.

There is such a lot to enjoy in this book - fast paced story-telling, humour, romance, sex , colourful background, and there is a lot to ponder. Along with this good read stuff there is the background of world politics as it affects the civilians sruggling to survive and protect each other from the ravages of a war fought all around them in villages and towns. I would recommend it from several points of view not the least of which is that the author is an exceptionally fine writer. She manages to deliver a complex story seemingly effortlessly.