I really do love historical fiction. I’ve imagined and theorized why I love it in other places, so let me just say here that I love it a whole lot as a genre. And so when a great book in my favourite genre comes along, there’s naught to do but enjoy the experience of encountering a historical story turned fiction as history.
*Half of a Yellow Sun* follows a (loosely constituted) family of five as Nigeria separates into Biafra and the attendant starvation, war crimes and crisis of identities that attended the separation and then reunification. It’s embarrassing (but also revealing) to realize how little I knew of the history of the region and the conflict, and a testament to the strength of the novel and the genre that I left the book feeling as though I know more, but also that I really must know much more – need to find out much more.
I should note a dissatisfaction in the narrative voice. The narrative moves through third person limited narration in the different chapters as the reader is invited to experience the conflict through different gendered, class and national points of view. The purpose of this shift and its effect are well executed, but the voices themselves miss the unique quality that make them distinct “voices,” rather they read as a single authorial voice attempting to thread the particular character. So I praise the intent and the effect of the different perspectives, but suggest that the different perspectives themselves could have been (much) better developed.