This epic novel is about "War and Peace" revisited , African wise, on the horrendous Biafra civil war of the seventies which raked Nigeria and tried to vanquish the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria.It was the first African civil war that Europeans heard about after the wave of African Independences of the Sixties and we all saw in the Press starving African babies with huge bellies for the first time . The book has historical roots and a complex political background magnificently told by a writer who heard war and devastation stories all her life from her father and relatives in Nsukka, a University town and one of the bastion of the Igbo resistance to the armies of the North..
As in Tolstoy , she writes in the first part a comedy of manners of sorts where the Nigerian social classes ,including the Northern Hausa of Muslim tradition , are described in all their snobbery, self aggrandizement, greed and corruption in the most delightful and ironic way. Adichie is capable of the detachment necessary to paint accurately the pains and foibles of a developing nation with the deep disappointment and melancholy of inevitable failure, none of the heroics of Russian generals in front of mighty Napoleon appear here, but interestingly enough, the story is told from the viewpoint of a servant boy named Ugwu . This is remarkable and useful devise, since we then can hear the inside story, how a people really live this burning desire for a Nation and accept terrible deprivation for this goal which will lead to world recognition . We are now in the second part of the novel, which is dramatic and bloody as all wars of invasion and occupation are. Biafra in the end, will never make it as a Nation but a profound bond of patriotic fervor has transcended the old tribal social context ; now we do not know naturally what will happen to Nigeria in the future while we watch helplessly as Africa is re-writing its own history and breaks away from the old Colonial partitions of land .
These horrendous tribal wars will end one day inevitably . African authors of note all have this urge to write the history of their own people , as Achebe did for ex, while the events are still vivid in their memory and the need of witnesses acute, so these books are coming forth everywhere and are often fascinating . Besides, they are marvelous vehicles for the gifted writer who can tell a narrative with gusto and force, Adichie is certainly one of those people and she write enthralling tales , as " Purple Hibiscus" already was in 2003.