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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie proves herself a talented and ambitious writer with "Half of a Yellow Sun," a far-reaching and engrossing historical novel about the 1967 Nigerian civil war. Unlike "Purple Hibiscus," her intimate debut novel about a troubled Nigerian girl's coming-of-age, "Half of a Yellow Sun" encompasses a large cast whose individual dramas are set within the panoramic landscape of war. Adichie's fully realized and finely observed characters hook the reader and carry the story through wrenching events to its sorrowful, tragic conclusion.
The novel spans the 1960s, which began with the slaughter of Igbo members living in Northern Nigeria and ended in civil war. In 1967, Igbo resistance was centered in the Eastern region, which declared itself the independent Republic of Biafra. The ensuing three-year war resulted in the deaths of at least 1 million Igbo (by some estimates, many more), mainly as a result of starvation and illness. In writing about Biafra, Adichie joins a long line of prominent Nigerians including Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Buchi Emecheta. Unlike her predecessors, Adichie did not live through this traumatic period. Yet the appearance of her novel, nearly 30 years later, demonstrates how entrenched the memories of Biafra remain.