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Book Talk
Book Talk: Half of a Yellow Sun
October 29, 2010

Here are some questions to make Book Talk discussions richer. Please leave your responses as comments to this post.We urge everyone who is reading, to leave a line or two.

  • Though Ugwu is only thirteen when he begins working as a houseboy for Odenigbo, he is one of the most intelligent and observant characters in the novel.Why does the the story begin with Ugwu’s point of view?
  • How does his presence throughout affect the reader’s experience of the story?
  • How does Adichie reveal the differences in social class among the various characters? What does this kind of nuanced  characterization give to the story? Is it necessary?
  • How does the War change some of the major protagonists in the story?

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  1. To narrate the story through Ugwu is for me in iteself a shift in perspective and class narratives. I have loved how Ugwu has grown in the book ( yes, I am done, have about 40 odd pages marked and numbered for comments but concerned about ruining it for others who are reading at a different pace)
    I am also struck by Adichie own positions that come through in her writing, her understanding of diffferent classes in society and her ability to present all without any trace of prejudice or bias, how gifted.
    What I particularly like is the way the two sisters take positions that are quite contrary to those of their parents – they both do it for love of different kinds I think, but in direct opposition to the seeming cowardice of their parents.
    Have you met Baby, yet? I think there is lies another fascinating moral conundrum that lends itself to discussion.. and then her phrases. poetry all.

    Talk people, talk!

  2. Sujata,

    Hold on! I’m still in the early 300s. But I agree with you on most things. Most of all, your point about Adichie straddling the different classes, without a trace of prejudice.

    It’s quite remarkable how Kanneine communicates so much by saying so little. Her scathing retorts and gentle jibes (to Richard) tell so much about her personality. I think it was Karen who said earlier about Kanneine…even I’m intrigued by her silences and her.

    Why do you think Odenigbu’s voice remains unheard? We’re mostly seeing and hearing him through the others…though he is one of the central protagonist’s in the story.

    Characterization is of course detailed and vivid. But even her plot and the denouement is so intelligent, isn’t it?

  3. Been done for a few days now, but emotionally tripping!
    Too taken in by the book to think and write and not gush!

    One of the biggest errors of the colonial perspective has been that of categorizing the colonies/ the rest of the world into uniform, blanket categories without recognizing differences. This is highlighted in the novel as Adichie reveals the politics of war. The British created the concept of ONE Nigeria, which fell apart leading to the horrors of war. Within Biafra too, we can see the clashes between different sections of the Igbo people. This multitude of perspectives that weaves the fabric of society if crucial to the book, and therefore, are crucial, Ugwu and Ricahrd’s perspectives. Because, one narrator, one understanding of an existing reality, would make Adichie just what she seems to be critiquing – a colonizer.

    1. Meghna

      This is what I have been seeking! I am more a reader from reading your coments. It is true that the one voice would have lent a stance that defeated the purpose of the story, I am wondering, how much is conscious for Adichie as a writer and how much was just her gifted story telling ability. But, yes the book haunts and it is a personal story in many ways for her, yet she is able to see a wider picture.

  4. I read through the second part of the book a little confused – the fast-forwarding into the late sixties threw me off a bit. The lack of a backstory puzzled me at first and made me keep going back to the earlier pages to check if I had perhaps inadvertently missed something. So when Baby shows up suddenly or we hear of Richard not coming over any more, it made me wonder. The next part, of course, clarifies it and I can’t put the book down. The description of war and of how each character copes with it is gripping. It makes me want to learn more about Nigeria’s history.


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