As war erupts inside of a country and they are coming to kill you and your loved ones, to destroy your home, and to callously erase your very existence, you have no choice but to escape. These times of turmoil are sometimes interspersed with a certain type of calm and quiet. The journey of escaping war is a series of flights to places of safety, be it jumping from home to home, town to town, or city to city. The quiet and calm that follows and catches up with you has an interesting quality. Perhaps it is better to say that when you are escaping from war, time dissolves. Not time flying. Time disappearing — slowly, unnoticeably. For short periods, one looses sense of time. It dissolves into the ether. But then, all of a sudden — a bomb here or a shooting there — time burst back into existence much like an iodine clock reaction. In “Half of a Yellow Sun,” Chimamande Ngozi Adichie faithfully captures what it is like as one escapes from the death and destruction that accompanies war. I am now half way into the audiobook. What started off as a patch work of perspectives is coming together nicely.
Incidentally, I made an observation that has escaped me all these years of reading. One night, after I had finished a few chapters and was sitting in the dark thinking about the story, something felt out of kilter. Then it occurred to me that it was the world as seen through the men in the story was sprinkled with observations that I would ordinarily not pick up. That is, I don’t think men naturally make observations in this way. It then occurred to me that Adichie had to imagine the world as seen by a man. Certainly the converse must be true when men are writing stories and imagining the world through women’s eyes. To Adichie’s credit, she is such an excellent writer that the disparities are only very subtly apparent. This also got me thinking that very likely the vast majority of the books I have read have been written by men, and thus, I never had an opportunity to notice this previously. Fascinating!
I cannot end this post without mentioning Robin Miles who narrates the audiobook. As with all great narrators, Miles becomes a supporting character in the story, albeit, an invisible one. Authors typically make for the best narrators of their own works, but in this case, we have a rare exception to the rule. If not for Miles, I likely would not have made it past the first few chapters.