IB Diploma recommended read – Half Of A Yellow Sun

15 May

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie.  Knopf (US)/Fourth Estate (UK), 2006

  • ISBN-10: 1400095204
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400095209
  • Historical fiction; war; family; cultural conflict; colonialism; race and enthnicity

The plot:

Set in Nigeria, spanning the decade of the 1960s, Half of a Yellow Sun (named so after the symbol of the Biafran flag) is the story of the emergence, rise and crushing fall of Biafra; a country created by civil war which struggled and failed to maintain indepedence from Nigeria.  The plot follows the lives of three characters whose lives become entangled.  The first, Ugwu, is a poor hourseboy. The second, Olanna, is a young Igbo woman from the priveleged Nigerian elite in Lagos. The third, Richard, is an Englishman who falls in love with Nigiria and Olanna’s twin sister.  Adichie takes the reader on a journey following the lives of these characters, who offer three very different perspectives on the terrible events which unfolded during this time period.  Rich in characterization, the novel humanizes the events leading up to and during the Biafran war.  Adichie’s interweaving of personal and political events, and use of time shift within the novel’s four parts creates a memorable reading experience.

Book Snitch’s thoughts for using this book in the IB English A Diploma course:

Half of a Yellow Sun is a superb novel for either the English A Literature course, or the English A Literature and Language course for higher level students.  It could be used in either parts two, three or four of the course, as it offers many opportunties for detailed close analysis (suitable for the Individual Oral Commentary), a critical analysis (written assignment 2), or an analytical essay (paper II exam based on part 3).

This novel allows the opportunity to engage with literature in a specific context, which has become a key emphasis in the new Language and Literature course.  The novel contains a wealth of material which can be used in an essay in response to one the paper II prescribed questions. Adichie’s clever use of symbolism is one of the array of literary techniques which contribute to the tangible descriptions that bring the novel to life for student readers.

Adichie anticipates that not all readers will know the political and historical background, and so includes intermittent excerpts from a novel describing the history of Nigeria written by one of the characters within the narrative to give readers the political and social context for the Nigerian-Biafran war.

Written in four parts, the narrative shifts in time between the early sities and the late sixties (parts one and three being set in the early sixties, and parts two and four focusing on the late sixties) with different narrative perspectives.  This distortion in chronology is suspenseful, with elements of the plot being resolved for the reader as through shifting time and perspective.  Adichie uses several narrative perspectives in her novel, which gives student readers the opportunity to consider a situation from contrasting cultural viewpoints.

Adichie is listed on the Precribed List of Authors (PLA) for 20th century African prose.  Book Snitch highly recommends this novel as a refreshing alternative to other commonly used African 20th century prose.

Useful Links:


2 Responses to “IB Diploma recommended read – Half Of A Yellow Sun”

  1. Katy Jean Vance May 16, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Hi Book Snitch,

    I LOVE the look of this book. I’ve been a fan of Ms. Adichie ever since I saw “The Danger of a Single Story”, and now I am adding this text to my to-read pile. Thank you sharing such a useful post.

    Keep up the great work,

    • chloe7ed May 16, 2013 at 8:58 am #

      Hi Katy,

      Thanks for visiting Book Snitch! You might want to add ‘Purple Hibiscus‘ to your reading list – Adichie’s earlier best seller. Thanks for you comments!

      Chloe (Book Snitch)

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