Feminist and author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun” is a well-crafted story about the Biafran War in the late 1960s. A war many outside of Nigeria never heard of until recent years. Like many other Nigerian writers of Igbo descent, she keeps the memory alive through literary fiction despite its absence in historical accounts. As Adiche mentions in the author’s note, “Agha Ajoka,” or “War is very ugly.”
The story starts off innocent enough: a Professor; his intellectual friends; his beautiful partner; and their obedient country servant, living their lives. Soon the Biafran war and other personal events, tears the family apart, turning reasonable people into carbon copies of their former selves. The ugliness of war is addressed in multiple ways, with scenes of rape, murder, theft, stinginess and arrogance taking center stage. Adiche’s tale starts out quietly and develops into a crescendo of loss screaming at the end. With each loss and unresolved issue, war is shown as debilitating and the only way to survive is by adapting to and accepting tragedy. The stages of grief are depicted throughout: denial of the war by the inhabitants of Biafra; the isolation the characters typically feel due to the world ignoring their efforts to preserve Biafra; the anger at the lack of laughter and love in their lives; bargaining with soldiers, relief workers and one another in an effort to establish normalcy; depression over the lack of food and sustenance; and finally accepting that their lives will never be the same again.