This is a story of the Biafran War, a civil war in Nigeria in the late 60's, a time and place I know very little about. The main characters in the book are middle class Biafrans and we follow their struggle to survive the calamities of war times in their country. There was a lot of suffering in the story, but the focus was on hope and humanity, which caught my interest on page one and kept my interest throughout. My only complaint is that the mystery surrounding "the events leading up to Baby's birth" felt forced and unnecessary. It seemed as though the book would have been as good or better if the story had been told straight through without trying to create that mystery. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone.
This is a tremendous book, very well written. I encourage readers to also listen to the speech this author recently gave at a TED conference:
For anyone with an interest in Nigeria and the Biafran conflict, this is must reading. Her earlier book (for which she was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize), Purple Hisbiscus, is another that is well worth reading.
Wonderful, wonderful read. The author does an outstanding job of depicting the war that occurred when Biafra struggled to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria. The characters endure the loss of friends, neighbors, relatives, and lovers. Yes, there is a good deal of death, starvation and loss of life.
My favorite character was Ugwu, 13, who works for Odenigbo, a university professor who lives with the lovely Olanna, a beautiful wealthy young woman. Ugwu loves the two and becomes like part of their family. There is also an Englishman, Richard, who is shy and in love with Olanna's outspoken twin sister, Kainene. We view the conflicts among individuals as well as the tragic aspects of war which affects the most innocent in such terrible ways. While this is fiction, it is based on many interviews and stories that were shared with the author. Once again I found a fiction based on historical issues and experiences to be a fascinating read.
I enjoyed reading this book very much. It was an eye opening look into the Biafran War and the Nigerian culture. Adichie has a beautiful writing style that brings all of her characters to life. It is definitely a book that will be hard to forget. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history.
The intersection of lives in Nigeria during the era of the secession of Biafra. Heartrending descriptions of the horrors and effects of war. Beautifully written, and like "Purple Hibiscus", well worth your time.
Taking place during the Biafran war (which I remember from my childhood), this book is somehow sad and yet hopeful at the same time. Wonderful characters and beautifully written. It is people surviving a war but also humanity. Love, jealousy, sadness, loss...I loved this book.
Very powerful and disturbing novel set against the backdrop of the Nigerian Civil War and the founding of Biafra in the late 1960s. The title of the book comes from the symbol and flag of Biafra which is half of a yellow sun.
The novel takes place prior to and during the conflict and is told from the perspective of several different people. There is Ugwu, a young boy who is brought as a houseboy into the household of Odenigbo, a professor at Nsukka University, and his significant other, Olanna. Olanna has a twin sister, Kainene, who is very different from Olanna and very outspoken and opinionated. Her boyfriend is Richard Churchill, a white English writer who came to Nigeria to explore Igbo-Ukwu art. The first part of the novel paints a somewhat idyllic setting where Odenigbo's friends congregate at his house to discuss politics and the state of affairs in Nigeria. Then their life in Nigeria deteriorates when the Muslims in Northern Nigeria start to massacre the minorities including the Igbo who they feel control too much of the commerce in the country. The descriptions of these massacres are very brutal and disturbing and they affect many of the family members of Olanna and Odenigbo who are Igbo. A new republic, called Biafra, is then created by the Igbo leading to the Nigerian Civil War. As a result of the conflict, Olanna, Odenigbo, their infant daughter, whom they refer to only as "Baby", and Ugwu are forced to flee Nsukka and finally end up in the refugee town of Umuahia, where they suffer as a result of food shortages and the constant air raids and paranoid atmosphere. The novel shifts in time from the early 1960s to the late 60s and tells of some infidelities between Odenigbo and a servant of his mother and of Olanna and Richard. However, these affairs are later overshadowed by the horrors of the war.
Part of the strategy of the Nigerians was to cut off the food supply to Biafra which resulted in thousands of deaths. I remember when this conflict was occurring, there were often pictures in the news of starving children with extended bellies and bald heads. I never knew until reading this book that this was caused by a lack of protein in the diet and is called kwashiorkor
. This book was very enlightening about what happened in Biafra and lays a lot of the blame on England for supplying arms to the Nigerians and on America for standing by and letting this happen. As Richard states to some American reporters in the book, "Power comes with responsibility. Your government knows that people are dying!" Reading about war is always horrific and this novel was very hard to stomach in some places but the writing was powerful and I would definitely recommend it.