Half of a Yellow Sun

A masterly, haunting novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as “the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe,” Half of a Yellow Sun recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra’s impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, and the chilling violence that followed. Published in 2006, Half of A Yellow Sun garnered numerous accolades and was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007.

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade.

Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and they must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

Epic, ambitious, and triumphantly realized, Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and about the ways in which love can complicate them all.

Half of a Yellow Sun is licensed for publication in 37 languages.

Awards/ Distinctions

  • Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (fiction category), 2007
  • PEN ‘Beyond Margins’ Award (now called PEN Open Book Awards), 2007
  • Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction (now called Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction), 2007
  • Winner of the ‘Best of the Best’ of the second decade of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, 2015

Praise for:

Half of a Yellow Sun

"At once historical and eerily current, Half of a Yellow Sun takes place in the forests of southeastern Nigeria 40 years ago, and honors the memory of a war largely forgotten. Adichie’s prose thrums with life. Like Nadine Gordimer, Adichie position[s] her characters at crossroads where public and private allegiances threaten to collide. Half of a Yellow Sun [has] an empathetic tone that never succumbs to simplifying impulses, heroic or demonic...Reaching deep, [it] speaks through history to our war-racked age not through abstract analogy but through the energy of vibrant detail, [and] a mastery of small things."

The New York Times Book Review

"We do not usually associate wisdom with beginners, but here is a new writer endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie knows what is at stake, and what to do about it. She is fearless, or she would not have taken on the intimidating horror of Nigeria's civil war. Adichie came almost fully made."

Chinua Achebe

"A landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance...Literary reflections on the Biafra war have a long and distinguished history...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."

The Guardian

"It is hard to do brief justice to this book's achievement…Adichie entwines love and politics to a degree rarely achieved by novelists, who usually focus on one or the other…[She writes] with a generosity to her characters that seems handed down from Charles Dickens. Though compassionate, she's no fool...Novelists interested in history tend to depict their characters as the innocent victims of larger forces, the spindrift of impersonal waves. Adichie shows how history's victims can also be the perpetrators of its excesses...As The Iliad came to displace the realities of the Trojan War, whatever they may have been, so shall Half of a Yellow Sun subsume the history upon which it is based. That is what great fiction does—it simultaneously devours and ennobles, and in its freely acknowledged invention comes to be truer than the facts upon which it is built."

Elle Magazine

"Astonishing...fierce and beautifully written. [Adichie] continues to lead us from the front with her powerful new book...Half of a Yellow Sun is honest and cutting, and always, always human, always loving…It is a pleasure to read [Adichie’s] crisp, resonant prose. We see how every person's belonging is contested in a new nation; find out that nobility of purpose has no currency in this contest; how powerfully we can love; how easily we can kill; how human we can be when a war dedicates itself to stripping our humanity from us. Half of a Yellow Sun is ambitious, impeccably researched...Penetrating...epic and confident. Adichie refuses to look away."

Binyavanga Wainaina

"When the Igbo people of eastern Nigeria seceded in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra, a bloody, crippling three-year civil war followed. That period in African history is captured with haunting intimacy in this artful page-turner... This is a transcendent novel of many descriptive triumphs. It's a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing."

Publishers Weekly

"An immense achievement...Half of a Yellow Sun has a ramshackle freedom and exuberant ambition...No matter how dire the circumstances, censure is not Adichie’s thing. She leaves the judging to us...As well as freshly recreating this nightmarish chapter in her country's history, she writes about the slow process by which love, if strong enough, may overcome."

The Observer

"Vividly written, thrumming with life, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun is a remarkable novel. In its compassionate intelligence, as in its capacity for intimate portraiture, this novel is a worthy successor to such twentieth-century classics as Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and V.S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River."

Joyce Carol Oates

"Adichie's ability to see and acknowledge failure in the good and good in the failing make her a sane and compassionate new voice in an often strident world. Half of a Yellow Sun is full of awful happenings but the whole is somehow oddly uplifting; it...manages to be a deeply political book while simultaneously celebrating the spiritual and the sexual."

The Financial Times

"Ingenious...This superbly talented writer has tackled a broad, ambitious subject: the civil war that took place [in Nigeria] in the decade before her birth...Although Adichie sharply depicts the dreadful pettiness that's all too often part of human nature, she never loses sight of our capacity to rise above such limitations...[With] searching insight, compassion and an unexpected yet utterly appropriate touch of wit, Adichie has created an extraordinary book, a worthy addition to the world's great tradition of large-visioned, powerfully realistic novels."

Los Angeles Times

"A sweeping story that provides both a harrowing history lesson and an engagingly human narrative...Adichie puts a powerfully human face on this sobering story, which is far from over."

The Seattle Times

"A stealthy and subtle piece of work...destined to become a classic…What will keep this book on the shelves and in the classroom for years to come is simply Adichie’s storytelling, which like all really great writing, manages to be vivid and invisible at the same time...The characters may scream, but the author never does, and so that scream echoes in our heads. It is the kind of sound that resonates in its silence, and it can only be created through a deft use of words and story. This book confirms the notion that if you want to understand a country’s soul, read its fiction."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune

"This, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel, deserves to be nominated for the Booker prize. What is so memorable and accomplished about Half of a Yellow Sun is that political events are never dryly recited; rather they are felt through the medium of lived lives, of actual aching sensitive experiences. To my knowledge it is unusual for a young woman author to capture with such precision and verisimilitude the feelings of a man, but Ugwu is a totally realized character—ambitious, devoted, sexual, scholarly, courageous, uncomplaining, resourceful and intuitive. These characteristics, easy to rattle off, are all dramatized and substantiated in this long and intricate but always compelling narrative. When I think of how many European and American writers rehash the themes of suburban adultery or unhappy childhood, I look with awe and envy at this young woman from Africa who is recording the history of her country. She is fortunate—and we, her readers, are even luckier."

Edmund White

"I was swept along...rarely have I felt so there, in the middle of all that suffering. I wasted the last fifty pages, reading them far too greedily and fast, because I couldn't bear to let go. There are not many novels where war is seen mainly from the women's point of view, rather than that of the soldier, which makes this one double valuable...a magnificent second novel [which] can't fail to find the readership it deserves and demands."

Margaret Forster

"Adichie resolutely refuses to show off. She writes in a stately, almost grandiloquent manner—the mode of eons-old epics about civilizations battered by war—and relies on the potency of her story rather than flashy phrase-making to sustain the interest of her reader...[Over] the course of the book the characters burrow into your marrow and mind, and you come to care for them deeply."

The Daily Telegraph (UK)

"Engrossing...[Half of a Yellow Sun] incisively explores the disjunction between history as it is experienced personally and its result: that the world will continue to trundle on its way in spite of history’s injustice...Adichie’s characters are ultimately powerless to control the course of events...[but] the consolation for the trials of history, the novel seems to say, are the human bonds that individuals forge with one another. In its deeply insightful portrayal of one of Nigeria’s most traumatic epochs, Adichie’s novel affirms a different kind of historical ‘truth’—not the facile truth of facts, figures, and dates, but the deeper truth of throbbing, lived experience."

The Nation

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