Saturday, 10 January 2009

Half of a Yellow Sun

I read Half of a Yellow Sun on the return trip from Paris. Though my aunt ribbed me about only reading depressing books (its not far from the truth), I really, really enjoyed it.
While staying far away from sentimentality, it tells the story of the Nigeria - Biafra war. Of course, I don't think anything happy has ever been written about that war, so there is plenty of suffering to go around. But instead of slogging through the misery, the author takes us along with several main characters - a poor houseboy, a pair of twin sisters from a wealthy Nigerian household and their partners, a Nigerian professor and a British expat. the novel begins in the relative comfort of the pre war years, and jumps back and forth to the midst of the war. None of the horror is skipped - the massacres, the rape, the disappearances, the starvation is all there but the author manages to keep the characters human, blurring the line between victim and perpetrator just enough to make it believable.
Throughout the book, there are snippets from a book being written by one of the characters, which are largely to fill in the history of the Biafran war for people that may not know anything about it. And that idea alone is chilling - how quickly a small country, defeated in a single war, can disappear into obscurity along with all its stories and suffering.
PS - as if to make this piont clearer, the blogger spellcheck doesnt even have the world Biafra in its dictionary!

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