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Old 06-11-2018, 12:44 PM   #1
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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

'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 the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.'

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This is the MR Literary Club selection for June 2018. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time, and guests are always welcome! So, what are your thoughts on it?

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Old 06-12-2018, 04:23 PM   #2
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As the description noted, Adichie seems a natural storyteller from what I've read so far. I was quickly pulled in. I was surprised by the humour and I've already laughed out loud a few times, such as when Ugwu wishes curses on guests of Odenigbo that he doesn't like, such as wishing bad diarrhoea on someone and their future children.
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Old 06-13-2018, 12:47 PM   #3
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The writing is wonderful so far. Nice cadence and lots of imagery. I think it will read quickly. I am slowed down because I keep looking up terms and places. It will be interesting history to learn.
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Old 06-13-2018, 05:38 PM   #4
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It is a very sad history. I was in high school when the war started, and still remember the coverage on the suffering of the people in Biafra. Very many Igbo starved to death due to the wartime disruption of agriculture and the tight blockade of Biafra.

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Old 06-17-2018, 06:26 AM   #5
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Biafra: A People Betrayed by Kurt Vonnegut

From Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
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Old 06-17-2018, 09:47 AM   #6
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Biafra: A People Betrayed by Kurt Vonnegut

From Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons
Thanks for the link, BenG!
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Old 06-17-2018, 06:37 PM   #7
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I am past half way through my reread of this book and am glad I returned to it. It rereads as being quite fresh.

For me the story flows well and the prose is great, no rough to read sentences and scenes are set with no use of the exaggerated or tired adjectives, metaphors, etc. many writers use.
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Old 06-17-2018, 07:32 PM   #8
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I am past half way through my reread of this book and am glad I returned to it. It rereads as being quite fresh.

For me the story flows well and the prose is great, no rough to read sentences and scenes are set with no use of the exaggerated or tired adjectives, metaphors, etc. many writers use.
Yes, I love the way she writes about things without sentimentalizing or dramatizing; she can write about cockroach eggs, the smell of the night soil, the act of sexual intercourse all without fuss in what seems to be the most natural manner.
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Old 06-19-2018, 07:49 PM   #9
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I am about 50% complete now. It seems that the book is going to follow a timeline something like A, C, B, D rather than a chronological A, B, C, D. I found that a little confusing in Part 2 when it jumped ahead and then only hints at things that happened in the past. It appears the missing links are going to be presented in Part 3 now. It's not immediately obvious to me the benefit of why she has structured the book in this fashion. However maybe it will be once I read the second half!
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Old 06-19-2018, 08:25 PM   #10
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It had me wondering what was happening timewise too, for example Baby seemed to suddenly appear on the scene from nowhere.

I am into the last section now and am finding it all hangs together but despite that I am not sure why the book was constructed non-serially in time. It does seem to keep related events of a particular nature together rather than dispersed through the length of the book - well, I think, perhaps maybe .

I had Adichie's Purple Hibiscus already, but not yet read, and was wondering about getting some others which took me to the Wikipedia page for her short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck where I came across this review "She makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong" (Daily Telegraph).
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Old 06-19-2018, 10:00 PM   #11
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...I came across this review "She makes storytelling seem as easy as birdsong"
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Old 06-25-2018, 08:48 PM   #12
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The taste and texture and aromas of food have a lot of presence in this book, and includes some of the most vivid passages, for example, where Ugwu is sucking on Olanna's discarded chicken bones.

I was a bit puzzled by this and then
At some point in this novel, people will be starving and probably dreaming of Ugwu's jollof rice and chicken, his chin-chin and moi-moi
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Old 06-26-2018, 07:51 AM   #13
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Have any of you read her most recent novel Americanah? I tried and failed, to finish it last year and I am wondering how Half of a Yellow Sun compares.

I generally love books that deal in African culture as I spent a good deal of time there doing relief work when I was younger. But I had a hard time caring about the characters.
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Old 06-26-2018, 08:04 PM   #14
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So far I am definitely interested in several of the characters - Ugwu, Olanna, Kainene and Richard.

I have Americannah on my TBR, but haven't gotten to it yet.
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Old 06-26-2018, 10:44 PM   #15
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I have not read Americanah yet but in a fit of trifecta madness I bought it recently (I already had Purple Hibiscus) and have just scanned it. I can't comment at all on the quality of the storyline but it did seem to me that maybe the prose is not so easy flowing as Half a Yellow Sun, almost as if Adichie was trying too hard - those only impressions from a quick scan of Americanah, but enough to put it a bit further down my to-read list than I had originally intended.

------------------

I have now finished my reread of ...Yellow Sun and liked it again, one of the better modern novels I have read and in my opinion worthy of its good reputation and reviews (it seems to me ALL modern novels get glowing reviews, regardless of merit ). I think the Wikipedia page on it is a pretty fair brief roundup of the storyline and characters as I saw them to be. It also sets out the themes in the book; my view is that in the book the themes are handled in a subtle way and do not come across to me as strident propagandizing, or as seeming from an immature student politician as some of such themes can be by those who see everything in black and white terms or who set out to seek to be offended in their pet missions by others in any way they can be.

It was interesting for me to compare and test some of the politics and identity themes, as expressed by the opinions of the characters, with modern day Nigeria 50 years on where ethnic and religious violence is still commonplace, for example Islamic terrorism in the North and just a few days ago religious/ethnic violence killing over eighty persons in central Nigeria.

One thing I felt was that in the prewar years she did not make much of the divide between village life subsistence living and the life of the privileged (in comparison, and at that pre-war time) intelligentsia in the cities who were the main characters. But there are subtle, but despite that very strong image forming sentences. Bfisher mentioned the cockroach eggs, so, for example, Olanna's noticing of those in one short sentence gives an image of the rudimentary table, the hygiene problems, the presence of vermin, etc. in simple village life.

I have not worked in Africa nor even visited (was supposed to go there to do an assignment but, for me very happily, it fell through), but I have worked in a developing country, being an ex colony, with very a high crime rate and ethnic violence, some political instability and a similar privilege divide between subsistence village life and city living intelligentsia/government officials. I felt that the tone of the book carried its story in that type of environment very well.

Despite the non-serial nature of the book's four parts, which had me wondering, it all hung together for me. In the end I thought that structure allowed the book to progress its storyline without getting too cluttered along the way, but I have no idea as to what Adichie's own reasons were .

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