Book Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

There are those books out there that when we first see them something clicks and we want to read them. This is how I felt about Half of A Yellow Sun. I can’t even tell you how many times I stopped and picked up this book when I went to the store, how I would look at the cover and then read the back and think to myself ‘I want to read this book’ but then I would set it down and repeat this the next time I was at the store. I can’t say exactly what brought my attention to the book, the cover is not the type that would normally draw me in, but obviously something caught my attention and kept bringing me back to this book until finally I broke down and about it. Then it sat on my shelf for over a year before I finally got around to reading it.

Initially I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book. The synopsis on the back cover doesn’t give much detail on what the story is about except that it is set during the Biafran in Nigeria was during the last 60’s and that it follows the lives of five individuals. The first few pages of the book didn’t draw me in. This was where some of the background was given, characters and events were introduced, but what truly held me back from instantly falling in love with this book was the writing style. It is quite different from other writing styles I have seen in other books that it took me some time to get used to it and how things flowed among the words. However with each page that I read the writing became more appealing, the characters became more real and the story absorbed me more and more.

The five main characters, Ugwu, Odenigo, Olanna, Kainene and Richard, were a unique mix of personalities and though they shared many of the shame ideals and visions, they also butted heads from time to time over certain issues which made them feel so real. While these five characters have a large impact on the story, there are plenty of other minor characters as well as those who are merely mentioned by not present within the book, that shape how events play. I found that each character, whether main or minor, leapt from the pages and I felt myself transported into their world, seeing and experiencing what they did.

The writing, as I mentioned before, initially felt foreign to me. However it didn’t take long for me to fall into the flow of words and soon this writing style felt beautiful to me. The flow of the story was very solid and though I found the last two thirds of the book to be the best I have a great appreciation for those first few chapters that really set the tone for things to come in the future. It is not every book that I find myself fully engrossed by the lives of the characters within the pages but that is exactly what I felt with Half of A Yellow Sun. Everything pulled me in, made me want to keep reading, to experience what those characters were to go through, to feel their joy and sadness, their triumphs and their failures.

Though a work of Fiction this book is based upon real events and I feel as those that aspect of the book was well researched. The transition from pre-war to war time, the affect on the characters, the country and the world as a whole was beautifully done. The author did an amazing job of showing the hardships of a war torn country and how it can affect everyone from the rich to the poor in much the same way. The struggles of each and every character, even those who appeared only for a single paragraph, were so well portrayed that I felt for them.

Overall I thought this book was amazing. I might have had a bit of a slow go at first, however once I fell into the story I did not want to leave it. It is a tale of love and loss, hardships and joys, struggles, courage and change. It is so beautifully written and wonderfully brought together that I find it could not have ended any differently. I would highly recommend everyone to read this book as it really is a masterpiece.

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