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Pooja Ramakrishnan reviews the book Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Pooja Ramakrishnan read Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, a somewhat older book that tackles topics such as identity, nationalism and relationships with stunning clarity.

This month has been a sobering one for the world. The tragedy at Christchurch shocked us awake and when followed by the unprecedented incident in Utrecht, it was all too close to home for many of us. Since fiction offers me a brief reprieve from contemplating the various -isms and -phobias that exist in our world, I randomly selected Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun to read a few weeks ago.

Adichie hails from Nigeria and is one of the most compelling authors/speakers shaping the feminist narrative currently out there. Her previous fictional work, Americanah, that I had read in 2015, was relatable and had a lilting, familiar flow to it. It tackles topics such as identity, nationalism and relationships with stunning clarity. It became immediately apparent on reading her work that she is an excellent observer of the world around her. Furthermore, she possesses an admirable self-awareness that allows her to write characters with unique personalities. Adichie is also deceptively skilled at making readers support morally ambiguous personalities in her stories.

Chimamanda pens with chilling precision the horrors of blind rage

Half of the Yellow Sun is set in 1970s Nigeria and leans towards being categorised as historical fiction. It follows twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, as they navigate, in their very different ways, the conflict within their nation. The novel explores their relationships, their insecurities against the backdrop of Nigeria’s Civil War, otherwise known as the Biafran War. The book paints an unbiased picture of the geographical and political divide between the Igbo and Hausa communities. The storyline is filled with the drama of a coup followed by a counter-coup that leads to the birth of the nation of Biafra.

Chimamanda pens with chilling precision the horrors of blind rage, of misplaced justice in wartime and of the many things that can divide us. There is a telling scene in the book: Olanna is approached by a Hausa stranger who treats her warmly but as soon as he learns that she is Igbo, his hospitality disappears almost immediately.

Despite being a book about a land I have never lived in or visited, the communal disharmony within the nation are all too relatable. The elections here, in India and the ones next year in the US have all sparked dialogues regarding the treatment and representation of minority communities. While on this same subject, it is encouraging to read a popular novel that is not filled with characters called Joe and Jane. Rather, the book is beautifully peppered with local words that add to the ambience and tone of the book. Adichie’s excellent English vocabulary is only complemented by her descriptions of patterned boubous, making of garri and akara and using terms of endearment like nkem

Without giving much away, I can state that Half of the Yellow Sun tackles race, politics and everything relevant today in the most personal and descriptive manner possible. Although I turned towards fiction to distract myself, I was rewarded with a deeply insightful story. If you have some time to sit under our yellow sun, here’s a book you can enjoy this spring.

  • Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, € 9,99, bol.com

Pooja Ramakrishnan is studying MSc Environmental Engineering and has joined the Delta team as our book and podcast pundit. A science student during the day and a poet by night, she balances the two with her curiosity and fascination for the world we live in.

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