Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The group had a ranging discussion on this book, with an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5

(Quote from the Financial Times, Helen Dunmore): Adichie uses language with relish. She infuses her English with a robust poetry.

(Quote from the Observer): The many-sided nature of conflict is graphically realised in this stunning second novel …………. It has a ramshackle freedom and exuberant ambition.

(Guardian Review): Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation. Adichie's powerful focus on war's impact on civilian life, and the trauma beyond the trenches, earns this novel a place alongside such works as Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy and Helen Dunmore's depiction of the Leningrad blockade, The Siege.

The novel captures horror in the details of "vaguely familiar clothes on headless bodies", or corpses' "odd skin tone - a flat, sallow grey, like a poorly wiped blackboard".

The novel's structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips but these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu's adolescent forays and the mature couples' passions, to the ugliness of rape.

Literary reflections on the Biafra war have a long and distinguished history, from the most famous poet to have died in the war, Christopher Okigbo, to Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi and Flora Nwapa. Born in 1977, Adichie is part of a new generation revisiting the history that her parents survived. She brings to it a lucid intelligence and compassion, and a heartfelt plea for memory.