Thursday, October 05, 2006

Half A Yellow Sun

There's near unanimous praise around the new novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian authors second. Chinua Achebe notes that the twenty-nine year old Adichie is "endowed with the gift of ancient storytellers" and her grasp of character and pacing, indeed of the fundamentals and craft of a novel is remarkable.
Adichie's second novel, following Purple Hibiscus concerns the Nigerian civil war in the late 60s' that resulted in the short, bloody history of Biafra in the eastern half of the country.
Five main characters anchor the book, most notably two sisters; the beautiful and complex Olannah, a mistress to Odenigbo, a revolutionary and academic. Olannah leaves her relatively monied family to follow her lover to a university town outside of the capital city.
Her sister Kaniene, is smart, blessed with a head for business and is the most enigmatic character in the book. She takes a visiting English writer for a lover and Richard ends up writing a novel of reportage around the gathering crises that turns to civil war.
Turning from boy to man during the Sixties is Ugwu, a houseboy to Odenigbo who serves as a window to everything in the book and has the bad luck to come of age as the war comes to the Igbo-dominated villages of eastern Nigeria.
Military campaigns are not uncommon in the modern novel, but Adichie has fashioned a singularly fine work by getting the village life right as well as the trajectory of low level military conflict. Minor indignities and all out calamity share the stage but never completely elbow the other off. The tumultuous love around the sisters and their very different men, and the incendiary politics of the emerging nation make for pleasing close reading, yet pages turn quickly throughout. The result is a book that rivals Tim O'Brien for reportage and bests books by many other writers who are deep into their careers.
She's so young and as Achebe notes on the book jacket, " came almost fully made."
Adichie is really a writer to watch.

Posted by Dave

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