Thursday, 24 November 2016

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
First published by Algonquin Books in October 2003.

One of my WorldReads - Nigeria book choices.

How I got this book:
Bought Purple Hibiscus from the Children's Society charity shop in Garstang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer. When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.
This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived.

Purple Hibiscus is a Nigerian-set coming of age novel following fifteen-year-old Kambili over the months after a military coup in Nigeria is the catalyst for massive change in the country and also in her oppressive home life. I was reminded a little of the obsessively religious patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible who, like Eugene here, puts ridiculous strains onto his family in the name of his God. Eugene however has been so brainwashed by a particularly sadistic strain of Catholicism that he is simply vicious to his wife and children. I found several of the abuse scenes in Purple Hibiscus difficult to read and what makes it more so is Kambili's apparent quiet acceptance of her treatment. It is not until she experiences life with her aunt instead of her parents that she finds a hint of self-respect and courage.

I love Adichie's descriptive prose which really brings urban and rural Nigeria to life for me. She has a wonderful eye for detail and creates realistic complex characters that I could easily believe in, even when I didn't like them! The menace of the political instability surrounds every scene meaning that there is always a sense of unease - within the family or within the country, perhaps one is a microcosm of the other? The contrasts between our rich central family's lifestyle and that of their poor village back home are shocking. Even the forced frugality of Aunt Ifeoma, awaiting her university salary which hasn't been paid, made me realise how much I take for granted. At least our caravan generally has reliable power!

I think I liked Purple Hibiscus the most of Adichie's books that I have read so far, but it's only my third title so I still have lots more to discover!

Etsy Find!
by Fabulously Feminist in
Pennsylvania, USA

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / Contemporary fiction / Books from Nigeria

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