Wednesday 29 June 2011

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

After reading and loving Half of a Yellow Sun (my review), I promised myself I would read more of Adichie's work.  Purple Hibiscus was her debut novel and it tells the story of fifteen year old Kambili and her brother Jaja, who are growing up under the shadow of a strict religious father in politically unstable Nigeria.

It's soon clear that Kambili's father is abusive.  The whole family walk on eggshells, scared to mispronounce a word during Mass, not look grateful enough whilst praying or come into contact with any heathens (Nigerians following their traditional beliefs).  When Kambili's mother asks to not join the family on a visit to the Reverend as she has morning sickness, the father beats her so hard she has a miscarriage.

But this isn't a typical abusive-family story.  Although I think the effects of the abuse were very well written - Kambili withdraws into herself and starts to police herself in the way her father would - there is more to the story than that.  Although their father is abusive at home, he's somewhat of a hero to human rights organisations as he's one of the few prepared to stand up to an unelected government.  He donates large percentages of his money to charities for the under-priviledged and goes out of his way to help his friends.  I found this dichotomy the most interesting part of the novel - how good people can do bad things - and felt like Adichie was putting forward a message about how religion can corrupt when taken too literally or to extremes.

There was lots to like about this book.  Aunty Ifeoma, who helps the siblings stand up for themselves, was a wonderful character.  Like Half of a Yellow Sun, the whole thing was very well written in a simple yet engaging style.

Yet I do think it lacked that something special.  The political situation of Nigeria was only a back-drop and was never fully explained - the story would have worked as well set in England, or America.  The ending seemed rushed and unexpected based on what we knew about the characters.

Verdict: Worth a read, but go for Half of a Yellow Sun first.
Source: Owned
Score: 4 out of 5


  1. I love Half of the Yellow Sun too!
    I'll try this one some day.

  2. I have HOAYS on my list, and have heard of this but not thought of reading it. I do really love characters that I feel conflicted about, it's a truth about humanity that I find fascinating - the ability to do both wonderful and terrible things. So, Im a bit more intrigued to read this now.

  3. Playing Librarian - It is worth a read, especially if you loved HOAYS.

    Mummazappa - Yes, the character of the father was very well done. And he did love his children, and thought he was doing the best for them.

  4. I hope to read Half of a Yellow Sun very soon-assuming I like it, I will then move on to Purple Hibiscus which sounds great-I have read and posted on two of her short stories-I enjoyed your post a lot

  5. The novel is written with sensitivity and originality in wonderful prose. It depicts an unfamiliar culture while describing family values and the universal turmoil of teenagers. I would highly recommend it to book clubs.

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  6. The book has its flaws but there are too many high points to notice them. I have read some of Ms. Adichie's essays and I do believe she is one to watch. No, let me rephrase that she is here to stay and I'm very proud of her.

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