The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is an annual battle royale amongst the top novels in “literary fiction” published throughout the year. Read more about this year’s tournament »
Half of a Yellow Sunby CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
The Emperor’s Childrenby CLAIRE MESSUD
Claire Messud is a fantastic writer. It’s just a pity that she doesn’t seem to have anything to say. Her sentences and paragraphs are lovely, she can concisely and vividly sum up a character in a gesture, and she makes the first 250 pages of The Emperor’s Children fly by.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on the other hand, is a young writer, and it shows. The pacing of Half of a Yellow Sun is off, and chunks of the book could be removed and no one would notice. But the story and the idea of the book are tremendous, and even when the reader becomes acutely aware of just how many of the 448 pages are left, the politics and the horrors keep you going until the end.
Which takes me back to the immense readability of The Emperor’s Children. It’s rare that such a skillful prose writer comes along. Her writing is so charming, it’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly Messud either couldn’t figure out what to do with her characters or got so bored that she started to rely on stereotypes. Danielle, it seems, is successful and ambitious with her career because she’s the dumpy, less-attractive one. Julian, the gay one, is about as believable a character as Jack from Will & Grace. (By the end of the novel, I was beginning to wonder if Messud, not knowing any gay men, simply watched the sitcom for all of her research.) Each of the three characters is revealed in the second half of the novel to be empty, dull, and tedious. They’re nothing more than (barely) two-dimensional figurines that are excuses for Messud to write her pretty sentences.
I was so disappointed with The Emperor’s Children that I became bitter enough to whoop with joy when one of the three main characters is attacked and permanently scarred. In keeping with the shallowness of the rest of the book, however, of course the scar only works to make the character more handsome. So even though I wouldn’t normally consider Half of a Yellow Sun one of the best books of 2006, it’s moved on to the next round by default.
|Jessa is like like a mom to the world’s books and the ones she enjoys are all married surgeons.||Kevin||John||The Echo Maker going out in the first round is the equivalent of Duke losing to VCU.|