My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was expecting this to be a feminist book, having read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's books, "We Should All be Feminists" and "Dear Ijeaweale", and was expecting a lot of social commentary involving race; this book had both.
Set in Nigeria in the 1960s, it jumps around in the timeline a few times, and centres around two main subjects.
First off, there are the relationships between all the characters; Ugwu works as a houseboy for a professor, Obedigno, who is in love with Olanna, and Olanna's sister Kainene is in love with Richard, an aspiring writer. As usual with a novel about relationships, things don't go entirely smoothly, and characters end up having one-night stands and affairs with other characters.
Secondly, there is the matter of the Biafran War; this was not something I'd heard of until I read this book, but it started because an area of Nigeria got partitioned off during the 1960s and became an indepependent state, Biafra. The scenes involving the war, and related military coups, proved to be some of the most shocking I had read in a while, with civilians being massacred and raped, and teenagers being forcibly conscripted into the military.
This was a very readable book for me, although the characters frequently got into long debates about Nigerian politics that went completely over my head, and made me feel that I should learn more about this subject.
The commentary on race, particularly 1960s attitudes is also well-observed, and some of it felt like it was very relevant in our modern world. In one scene, a white person is allowed to go to the front of a queue, despite several black people being ahead of him, and one of the characters later comments on how one white life seems to be given the same value as a hundred black lives.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and found myself caring for all the characters; I also noticed that unusually, the book did not tie up all of its loose ends, so one of the plotlines was left hanging, but somehow it seemed to work that way. I definitely want to read more of Chimamana Ngozi Adichie's books.
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