Reviews and Reception



“At once historical and eerily current, Half of a Yellow Sun honors the memory of a war largely forgotten outside Nigeria, except as a synonym for famine. But although she uses history to gain leverage on the present, Adichie is a storyteller, not a crusader … Whenever she touches on her favorite themes — loyalty and betrayal — her prose thrums with life. Like Nadine Gordimer, she likes to position her characters at crossroads where public and private allegiances threaten to collide. Both Half of a Yellow Sun and Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus, explore the gap between the public performances of male heroes and their private irresponsibilities. And both novels shrewdly observe the women — the wives, the daughters — left dangling over that chasm.” Review by Rob Nixon

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The Guardian :


Half of a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation. Adichie’s powerful focus on war’s impact on civilian life, and the trauma beyond the trenches, earns this novel a place alongside such works as Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and Helen Dunmore’s depiction of the Leningrad blockade, The Siege.” —Review by Maya Jaggi

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Publishers Weekly :


“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 from Nigerian novelist Adichie … This is a transcendent novel of many descriptive triumphs, most notably its depiction of the impact of war’s brutalities on peasants and intellectuals alike. It’s a searing history lesson in fictional form, intensely evocative and immensely absorbing.” —Publishers Weekly

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“Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has delivered a big novel about life in modern Nigeria during wartime. The war in question is the Biafran War of the 1960s, during which the southern region of Biafra fought unsuccessfully to secede. The book’s title comes from the Biafran flag, a symbol of the rebellion. We get a clear description of the flag’s colors from Olanna Ozobia,a beautiful, well educated Igbo woman … The book mainly follows the fortunes of Olana and those of a psychologically fascinating and varied cast of characters, from high society colonials on down to Ojukwu, an Igbo country boy. Though their daily lives and destinies as well are tied to the end of peace and the rise of war, Adichie makes them, above all else, interesting, even compelling, as sharply defined individuals. This lends to the novel a powerful psychological element that we don’t always find in historical fiction.” —Review by Alan Cheuse

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The Los Angeles Times :


“Yet, along with making a powerful case against Britain’s bad stewardship, Adichie’s novel also explores the depth and stubbornness of ethnic prejudices among Africans: not only Muslims versus Christians, or light-skinned Hausa versus dark-skinned Yoruba and Igbo, but even among members of the same group who come from different classes, different villages or even different families. 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.” —Review by Merle Rubin

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Kyna Smith 2019

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