Half a Yellow Sun, takes its title from the emblem for Biafra, the breakaway state in eastern Nigeria that survived for only three years, and whose name became a global byword for war by starvation.
Adichie takes her time in reaching the privations of war. Covering the decade to the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967-70, the novel first develops its characters in a period of peace and – for some – plenty after Nigerian independence in 1960. Among the protagonists are Odenigbo, or “the Master”, a radical maths lecturer at the University of Nsukka – in what became the secessionist Igbo land – and Ugwu, the village teenager who becomes his houseboy, but whom he enrolls at the university staff school. A novel that descends into dire hunger begins with Ugwu’s devoted creativity in the kitchen, confecting pepper soup, spicy jollof rice and chicken boiled in herbs. Beer and brandy flow as he serves the Master’s friends while absorbing snippets of intellectual debate in the era of Sharpeville, de Gaulle in Algeria and the struggle for US civil rights.
The novel also brings the theme of colonisation, not least in the tragicomic figure of Richard’s anglophile servant Harrison, who prides himself on serving roast beef and rhubarb crumble, but adapts in wartime to roasting lizards and bush rats “as though they were rack of lamb”. While Richard identifies with Biafra and intends to write the history of the war, it is Ugwu who takes up the pen and the mantle. As Richard concedes, “The war isn’t my story to tell really,” and Ugwu nods. “He had never thought that it was.”
The novel’s structure, moving in chunks between the late and early 60s, is not without blips. At times I wondered how far Ugwu’s omnivorous reading was reflected in his development. But these are quibbles in a landmark novel, whose clear, undemonstrative prose can so precisely delineate nuance. There is a rare emotional truth in the sexual scenes, from Ugwu’s adolescent forays and the mature couples’ passions, to the ugliness of rape. Overall, this is a very engaging read, which captures life during the colonisation in Africa, through the character’s eyes.
A new girl in town, Hannah Baker has high hopes for a new life. However rumours, betrayal and revenge affect her life more than anyone can see; for Hannah the only way to escape is to remove herself from the equation. Before committing suicide, she records a series of 7 tapes. The novel follows high school student Clay Jensen who one day, 2 weeks Hannah’s suicide, receives a package of the 7 tapes with very clear instructions; he is to listen to the tapes to find out how he fits into the puzzle of her death and then mail them to the next person on a list of 13 names. Jay Asher directly addresses issues facing modern day students in an eerie, mysterious but at the same time hard hitting and powerful way. As a reader, you are constantly left waiting to find out who is next on Hannah’s list and what for possible reason they could be on it, finding out at the same time as the characters do themselves. Asher has created and entrancing character study and a look into the psyche and thoughts of an individual who made this unfortunate choice. Furthermore, the novel teaches you that the actions that you carry out could potentially affect someone’s life drastically; you start to put yourself in the shoes of other people more and pay more attention to understanding their attitudes and behaviours.
‘Every once in an awhile in the block, there’s a day doesn’t start right. A day when all the repeating patterns that Melanie uses as measuring sticks for life fail to occur, one after another, and she feels like she’s bobbing around helplessly in the air- a Melanie- shaped balloon. The week after Miss Justineau told the class that their mothers were dead, there’s a day like that
It’s a Friday, but when Sergeant and his people arrive they don’t bring a teacher with them and they don’t open the cell doors. Melanie already knows what’s going to happen next, but she still feels a sprinkle of unease when she hears the clacking of dr Caldwell high-heeled shoes on the concrete floor. And the a moment or two later she hears the sound of dr Caldwell’s pen, which Dr Caldwell will sometimes keep clicking on and off and on and off even when she doesn’t want to write anything. Melanie doesn’t get up off the bed. She just sits there and waits. She doesn’t like Dr Caldwell very much.’
Classic zombie thrillers have been a stable in our societies bibliography for generations; traditionally they are an escapism by transporting us to a different time, place. I would recommend this book as it was a different approach to the horror genre and it allowed me to explore a unique take on the stereotypically gory thriller.
This book starts out by meeting a young girl called Melanie; we are placed in a classroom with Greek mythology being our lesson. The classroom is the only joy that is in all of the children’s lives, Justineau teaches them about Greek history, Melanie feels as though her name is a disappointment and takes a great fondness towards the girl Pandora, which coincides with her being the girl with the gifts as Pandora opened the box and released problems, but once opened could be very powerful. Melanie is believed to have all the gifts Doctor Caldwell wants to open her to find out why this young girl is able to act like a human but still be classed as a zombie.
The doctor is hated by all of the children, as she is the one who disrupts their day. She is the inconsistency within their day. Young Melanie displays much hatred towards her until she feels uncomfortable with this and tries to have a more positive approach to her previous nemesis ‘she doesn’t like Dr Caldwell very much’ she later demonstrated regret about the feelings she used to have towards her. This is the catalyst as to why she is tested; no other zombie has human traits apart from the children. Dr Caldwell feels as though she has determined why these children are still humans and not shells of human bodies wandering the earth feasting on each other. Melanie shows affinity towards her teacher miss Justineau, their relationship mirrors a parent/ child bond. I enjoyed the fact that this book explored a family relationship rather than the typical man and women.
The ending shows how we allow ourselves to be enwrapped in our own successes instead of helping the people around us, as doctor Caldwell gets swallowed up by her own power, her life physically vanishes. The question that arose was whether or not she was trying to find a cure for humanity or to better herself?
Middlesex is a novel written by Jeffrey Eugenides that explores the controversial issues associated with gender and sexual identity. One way in which the author does this is by introducing the influences of nature and nurture and demonstrating how each has an effect on the sexual identities of individuals.
The novel tells the story of a protagonist known as both Cal and Calliope (masculine and feminine identities), who was born with 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, a recessive condition that caused him to be intersex. Cal’s family were initially unaware of his condition and so he was raised as a girl, however we see him begin to struggle with this identity as he grows up and experiences his first sexual encounters with both male and female partners. Cal’s condition is later discovered during surgery as a result of being injured by a tractor; facing sex reassignment surgery Cal runs away and assumes a full time male identity, working as Hermaphrodites in a burlesque show in San Francisco. He later returns to his family home for his father’s funeral, at which point his grandmother recognizes his condition and confesses that it is a product of incest, as her husband is also her brother.
I enjoyed Eugenides’ use of the themes of nature and nurture in the novel because it emphasized not only the internal and biological struggle acing intersex individuals, but also the additional pressures imposed by society because of the stigma surrounding such issues as a result of the polarization of male and female gender identities in society. Eugenides’ use of imagery from Greek mythology is also a clever addition to the novel not only in terms of historical context but also because of the subtle parallels found between certain myths and the actuality of Cal’s condition; for example, the minotaur is half-man, half-beast and the Chimera is a monster composed of various animal parts.
I also enjoyed Eugenides’ use of the family tree which allowed the novel to span nearly a century, tracing the Stephanides family three generations. This style enabled a build up of intrigue as to when the recessive gene was going to come forth and affect one of the family members, therefore each birth and monumental family event in the novel is tainted by the inevitable threat of this biological condition. As a result the reader is urged to read on.
Overall this novel is very well written and explores a sensitive and controversial topic in a manner that is both appropriate and avoids being too heavily based on the science of the matter. However for me personally, the novel was not as engaging and entertaining as I had hoped and therefore I would rate it 2.5/5 and would suggest a more upbeat subject mater for a leisurely read.
This book describes the wonders of birdwatching and that birdwatching is easily available to anyone with a pair of binoculars and a window. Barnes also goes onto to describe and give us, the readers, a plethora of information on birds. The book is not part of a series meaning you can fully understand Simon’s journey.
I found this to be a witty and charming book. It focuses on the world of birdwatching in a way that very few people would think of. It has a great introduction to birdwatching and environmental action with a great sense of humour. Most of the book contained some tense, mysterious scenes on the voyage to catch the Goldcrest, for example, which is one of the rarest birds in England. The story kept me guessing from page to page on how Simon and his friend, Bob tracked the erratic movements of the Sparrowhawk considering its speedy movements across the countryside. I enjoyed most parts of the book and some parts made me feel quite upset due to the slowly increasing figure of birds becoming extinct. For example, Simon Barnes’ describes species such as the cuckoo and the turtledove decreasing to a staggering 90% in their populations.
Although Simon describes birds in a humorous and wonderful way, there a few criticisms and downfalls about the book. One of them would be that some chapters felt very stretched and boring. Simon could have easily summed up his journey in one or two pages, if he focused on the main statements that was made. Most people, also, seemed to agree on the book being a little too simple. Normal people, like you and me, would pick up the book thinking it would be full of scientific knowledge about birds and habitats but we are sort of tricked into thinking that. One of my favourite parts of the book was when Simon referred to a bird by their scientific name, eg Fringilla coelebs is a Chaffinch. But, scientific names were mentioned very rarely in this book and they should have been elaborated more. Another disadvantage of the book is that it felt like an autobiography. Most people enjoy that, considering they have watched Simon’s programs on TV. But for a person who doesn’t know the author at all, and speaks about his past experiences relating to his programs, not many people know what he is trying to state.
To sum up the book, if you are interested in a humorous, non-scientific, engaging, detailed and are more invested with the author type book, How To Be a Bad Birdwatcher is the right book for you! I would rate this book 8/10.