(In which wars cannot kill dreams.)
This is the first time I read a historical novel written by an African writer. It was lent to me by my boss who apparently and fortunately tolerates reading in the workplace and upon reading the blurbs, I was almost convinced that she just handed me a treasure.
And then I realized that the book would not only convince – it would enlighten.
In a carefully researched and internalized novel, Adichie narrates the life of Ugwu, an Igbo houseboy of Odenigbo who is a revolutionary teacher in Nsukka University; Olanna, his lover; Richard, a British man who aspires to become a writer and is in love with Olanna’s twin sister Kainene. Just like most war-time historical fiction, the characters’ life was peaceful and quiet regardless of Nigeria’s political instability. The British is still powerful in the country and there lies sensitive tribal divisions until a coup, for which other tribes blame the Igbo people, arises. Then the massacre of the Igbo follows, leading the way to a secession that separates the southeastern territory from the rest of Nigeria. And thus was the birth of the Republic of Biafra. And after a three-year war, it ceases to exist, but the violence continues.
In this moving and inspirational novel by Adichie, she proves how ruthless and insensible wars are, how it turns men into beasts and how fragile life is, all the while promising that choices are plenty and dreams are immortal. It is a touching story of life, hope, betrayal, forgiveness, death and the unending cycle of all these. In her patient narration and realistic characterization, Adichie holds the readers attention and never lets it go. And if one expects death as the most hair-raising conclusion a war story could have, then its conclusion could be an unforgettable surprise.
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Half of a Yellow Sun
In the Company of the Courtesan