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Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

June 12, 2012

Purple Hibiscus: A Novel, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  London ; New York : Fourth Estate, 2004.

A fine Nigerian novel about a young woman moving beyond the control of a strict and violent father.

As in Half a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of conflicts within  an extended family.  The narrator is Kambili, a teenage girl.  Along with her brother and mother, she is held in fear and awe of her father, a man highly regarded in his community but capable of demanding and destructive behavior toward family members.   When Kambili and her brother visit their aunt, his sister, they discover a very different world, one full of tolerance and flexibility. On their return, their father strikes back.  At the same time, Nigeria itself is facing internal violence as a new group of leaders take over government and crack down on those they fear.

Adichie skillfully waves her story of conflict without reinforcing polarization between those colonizers and colonized or those of different ethnic groups or classes.  She tries to show that Kambili’s father could be loving or generous, but I found him hard to tolerate.  Her description of the ambiguity with which his daughter and wife view him is more convincing.   I think he would be a tyrant in any culture or religion.  Aunty Ifeoma belongs to the same religion, but for her and her friends, religion is about loving and caring  more than strictly followed rules.   A university lecturer, she is as educated as her brother, but has much less income to support herself and her children .   Despite being financially stressed and about to lose her job, Aunty Ifeoma proves to be a lifeline for her niece.   And Kambili’s mother is not as submissive as she appears to be at first.   Her brother proves himself to be a hero, and Kambili develops into a woman able to care for herself and others.

With her skill as a writer, Adichie makes us care for her characters and the dilemmas in which they find themselves.

I strongly recommend this book to everyone, especially those interested in family dynamics, in Nigeria, or in the options women face in different parts of the globe.

Reading Pleasure has an important comment below.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2012 3:24 am

    This is one of those books that I feel ashamed for not having yet got round to. ‘Half A Yellow Sun’ was one of the two or three most powerful books I’ve ever read. Thank you for pricking my conscience.

    • June 14, 2012 10:18 am

      Half a Yellow Sun is one of my all-time favorites too. Purple Hibiscus is very good but I didn’t think it was equal to the later book. I have recently read early books by authors of my favorites. I find it hard not to expect too much from them. But do read it.

  2. June 13, 2012 6:14 am

    This is a fine reivew, Marilyn. I read Purple Hisniscus some time ago before I started blogging. I found Kambili’s father to be a tyrant and an abusive father, hiding behind the cloak of Catholic piety and myopic enlightenment to unleash his tyranny. The ambiguity of emotions the chidren feel towards thier father is based on the fact of his being so loving out of guilt, usually after his bouts of cruelty.

    I think what Adichie does here is to protray what the tenets of a warped interpretation of religion and superficial educational valuescan do to a person. In the end, Kambili’s father’s death is more of a liberation for his wife and chidren than sorrow.

    • June 14, 2012 10:09 pm

      Your’re absolutley right. And while his death allowed more space for his family, it was costly to all. You are articulate important points clearly. I really am glad to be getting your remarks.

  3. June 14, 2012 3:39 am

    Thank you for your review. This is one of my favourite books by Adichie. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t drop it and ever since I have been a fan.

  4. Aso Hozy permalink
    November 24, 2012 2:52 pm

    this book is a must read one that shows theme of domestic violence, conflict within families and patrichal dorminace of male in the society

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