I heard a lot of great things about this book. And after all, it won the “orange broadband prize”. I did not know much about the Biafran war; so reading this book was like discovering a part of Africa’s story that I did not know about. Every serious bookworm had read this book, so of course, I had to read it. But first, as usual, a word about the author.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian-born author. She graduated from the Eastern Connecticut State University with a major in Communication and a minor in Political Science. She holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a Master’s degree in African Studies from Yale. She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels. She has won several prizes for her two novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a yellow sun. She is also well-known for her speech about “the danger of the single story” at TEDGlobal in 2009.
This is the story of the Biafran war through the eyes of six Igbos from different background. I am not from Nigeria, so I had no idea whatsoever of the reasons of the war.
Life before the war was quite amazing in Igboland. But even then, on the background, tensions was running high. Igbos living in the North had problems. Strangely,those in Lagos also had problems. Tribalism was inherent in everything, it seems. Many people blame the colonization. The settlers established new borders without any regards to ancestral borders and kingdoms. They formed countries like Nigeria where a lot of ethnic groups were thrown together. And to be able to govern them , they patronized some groups at the expense of others. This theme is recurrent in Ms Adichie’s book. How the British support some ethnic groups and how minorities were left out. It has obviously fomented resentment. This story is the same in a lot of African countries. And unfortunately, tribalism is still going strong. Just look at Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Mali more recently and many others…
I end up wanting to know more about the Biafran war. The author gave us references for those who wants to know more. I will just identified the top two books on her lists.For for more you can always consult her website here.
Books on the Biafran war
Surviving in Biafra by Alfred Obiora Uzokwe is a marvellous memoir of war seen through the eyes of a young boy
The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafra War by Alexander Madiebo is a fascinating personal accounts from top-ranking Biafran Army officers
I was particularly enthralled by two character Ugwu, the houseboy and Kainene, the withdrawn twin. There are strong, yet there are vulnerable.
Ugwu captured my imagination. The boy came to the city at thirteen, he does not know much about modern life. It was really great to discover modernism through his eyes. He is a living example of the wonders of education. At the end of the book Ugwu is writing a book, his personal account of the war. This is why they say that Africans must be educated; it is the only way for us to go forward. The more people are educated, the more the country will move forward. Also, when Ugwu is circumscribed in the army against his will, he is forced to rape a woman at a bar. Then, Ugwu’s sister at the village was gang raped during the occupation of her village. This is a really strong example of the consequences of the war.
Kainene is everything Ugwu is not. She is rich and has had lived a life full of privilege. She was educated in the most exclusive school of Lagos and went to university in London. She got involved on the oil business. Even during the war, she was an army contractor. Despite all her riches, she is not happy, she is withdrawn. She does not belonged. She really reminds of myself at one point. She is my favourite character. So I was distressed at the end of the book, when she did not come back. I was truly distressed, I couldn’t believe the book was over. I keep asking myself :is she dead? has she lost her memory? will she ever come back? Again, this is one of the consequences of the war. Some people just disappeared.
One thing that I retain from this book is that war changed people. When you witnessed such destruction and evil, you can never be the same again. It does not matter that the war was justified or not.Moreover, Can a war be justified? When one think of all the consequences afterward.
I strongly recommend you this book. Plus, It is widely available.
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