Adichie’s second novel is set during the Nigerian civil war of the 1960s, during which the breakaway state of Biafra in eastern Nigeria survived for three years while its inhabitants were systematically starved into submission. The three main characters in the book are: Olanna- a young middle-class woman who lives with a radical university professor; Ugwu- the village teenager who works as their houseboy; and Richard- an English expatriate who becomes involved with Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. The book follows their lives before, during and shortly after the war and presents an insightful account of the devastating impact of conflict on civilian life.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
The reactions to this book were evenly split -though it did not seem to be a novel you could feel indifferent to. Some found the story gripping and heartwrenching while others found it confusing and the characters unapproachable. The novel was strangely structured with a flash forward at the mid point and references to a troubled period in Olanna’s household, which when eventually revealled, seemed trivial in light of the future horrors they will endure. The descent into one room squalor was sympathetic and the ways the community came together to share was impressive. However many of the characters were unappealling (the professor Odenigbo in particular was quite a pompous idiot) and there was too much political commentary from the university set without context for the reader.