Half of a Yellow Sun is another one of those books that I had been meaning to read for years. It became on of my 2013 Bucket List choices, and thanks to The Backlist Book Club created by Nomadreader, I finally had a chance to experience it. What a great book!
The novel takes place in mid-late 1960's Nigeria, during the time the Igbo people attempted to become the independent nation of Biafra. I heard about this civil war, but really did not know much about the horror which resulted.
The story is told through the perspectives of (3) main characters (but there are other terrific characters as well). There is Ugwu, a 13 year old house boy for professor Odenigbo who teaches at the university in Nsukka. He is a very observant young boy who notices how well he is treated compared to other house boys. For example, he sleeps in a bed and is given his own books. He tries his best to do everything right, but sometimes he takes things a bit too far like when he ironed his Mr. O's socks and burned a hole in them. He provides much needed humor at just the right times. Ironically, Odenigbo seems nicer to his house boy than most other people he encounters.
Olanna and Kainene are twin sisters who come from a wealthy family. Olanna is the beautiful sister, but lacks confidence. She becomes involved with Professor O and later moves into his home and the two eventually marry. At first Ugwu feels threatened by Olanna'a arrival, but then he becomes devoted to pleasing her.
Richard is a shy Englishman, a man who is not comfortable in his own skin. He's always felt inferior whether at home or in Nigeria. Richard has come to Nigeria as a expat to write a book about Igbo art. He becomes involved with Kainene, the twin sister of Olanna. Kainene is not considered to be attractive. She's somewhat aloof, very intelligent and financially savvy, and her relationship with Richard is tumultuous at times.
This story covers so many topics: war, genocide, relationships - infidelity, personal identity, loyalty, class struggles and more. It is a book that would make a great choice for book groups. It's beautifully written, the characters are fully explored and they are ones that will stick with you. The author knows how to write, and although this is a work of fiction, the information about the civil war was very informative. I found the graphic details of the war tough to read about at times, but because the writing had moments of humor and the characters were so interesting, it helped to take my mind off the horrors of war.