by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published September 12th 2006 by Knopf
“The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.”
This is a book about the Biafran War that took place in the late sixties. The author gives a narrative that shows the events leading up to the war and the lives of the characters during the war. The Biafran War, also known as the Nigerian Civil War, was an attack to stop the secession of Biafra from Nigeria. It was written is such an intriguing way, there was no point I felt like the book was too long. I know for a fact that I never learned about this from my teachers, it might have been mentioned in passing at one point but I never knew all the details. I was in high school the first time I read this book and that’s when I knew a country called Biafra existed at some point in time.
The story follows five main characters; Ugwu, Odenigbo, Olanna, Richard and Kainene. Ugwu is a village boy brought in to work as a houseboy in Odenigbo’s house. He comes in not having gone beyond class three but the professor in Odenigbo finds it unacceptable and sends him to school. Odenigbo is a professor in Nsukka and has his eyes set on Olanna, a girl who comes from one of the wealthiest families in Lagos. She is an Oxford graduate and she chooses to follow her own path rather than the one chosen for her by her father.
Richard is a British man who chooses to come to Nigeria after he fell in love with an ancient artifact. There he captures the attention of Kainene, Olanna’s twin sister. Kainene is focused on her career, building her father’s companies and making them a lot more profitable. Their relationship, Kainene and Olanna, has become strained. They have nothing in common anymore and that always disturbs Olanna. She wishes they were as close as they used to be.
As much as the main takeaway was the Biafran War, the book was about so much more. There were themes of love, grief, death, suffering, betrayal, fidelity and infidelity. I remember the first time I ever read this book, I was so taken by it. I kept thinking I want to be like Adichie when I grow up. I mean, she had strong characters in her book who were not the usual ones we would see in all the set books we had in school. And now that I have read it almost ten years later, I still find it commendable. It was because of this book that I fell in love with historical fiction.
I highly recommend this book!