Tuesday, 20 October 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Today is an exciting day (for me, at least). Writing my post about reading slumps really kicked me into gear, and I've finished the first book of my Booktober challenge!

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie checks off two of my Booktober goals: A book written by a non-white author, and a book written by a woman.

And what a book.

When I read Americanah earlier in the year I loved it, so I picked up Half of a Yellow Sun with much excitement. It didn't disappoint.

Being entirely ignorant of much of African history, let alone Nigerian, I found this book fascinating. Set in 1960's Nigeria, it moves through the decade, covering the build-up, the climax, and the end of the civil war. It focuses on the life of one family, jumping between three key characters with each chapter. The changing perspectives, whilst initially jarring, flowed together seamlessly and provided a wonderful 360 look on events.

The movement through time worked wonderfully. The story is in four parts, the early and late 1960's split evenly between them. I really appreciated the even split as it gave just as much gravitas to the events before the war as the events within the war - this made the story very personal, even relatable. Adichie held back just the right amount of information when she made her moves. Nothing felt unfinished, and the moments in part two when Ugwu is talking about an unknown event gave enough information that I didn't feel left out, whilst not giving away so much as to remove the delicate tension.

This novel is a novel about tension, in many ways. The tension between lovers, families, races, and the self. All these strings are held taut, if one were to be loosened the others would slacken too. Adichie has full control over them, and pulls them this way and that, to weave a beautiful creation.

Beautiful is the only way to describe this novel. The language is exquisite yet realistic and not once did I doubt that it was the characters who were speaking. In other hands much of this book could sound overdone and false - beauty for beauty's sake. Yet this novel demands beauty to shield from the horror. The novel, being about war, has triggers for rape, violence and gore. Yet the beauty makes them simultaneously more bearable and more horrific in its contrast.

I loved this book, and can't wait to read more from Adichie. Have you read it? Share your thoughts on twitter or in the comments below.

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