I thought the idea of half a yellow sun, a poetic idea, a trope with no real meaning. I knew nothing of Nigeria. Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an alibi. However unfeasible I associated Biafra with tearstained and potbellied children starving to death. I wasn’t far wrong. Half a Yellow Son was the emblem worn on the sleeves of Biafran soldiers during the Nigeria-Biafar war, when the latter fought for independence, to become a separate nation. That failure shapes this book. The structure see-saws between the innocence and hope of the early sixties and contrasts it with the bitter herbs of civil war and defeat in the late sixties. But this book is by no means a failure.
Ugwu, near the end of the book, comes to the realization, ‘There is no such thing as greatness’.
He’s right and he’s wrong. Chimamda Ngozi Adichie has, with this book, achieved greatness. She is a writer that people should stand up for when she comes into a room, a person that should be honoured. Such words do not come very often.
Ugwu (Adichie) ‘listened to the conversations in the evenings, writing in his mind what would be later transferred to paper. It was mostly Kainene and Olanna who talked, as though they created their own world that Master and Mister Richard could never quite enter.’
These are the narrators in the story, the creators of worlds. Adichie stands outside time and listens and there is beauty in defeat and greatness in the awfulness of life, but not all is misery, listen to the seeds which begin this masterpiece.
‘Master was a little crazy; he had spent too many years reading books overseas, talked to himself in the office, did not always return greetings, and had too much hair.’
Read on. Do yourself a favour.