I first heard about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie through a friend of mine who sent an e-mail to a few people encouraging them to buy her book. I heard about her again when her second book 'Half of a Yellow Sun' was released and it was then that I heard about the critical acclaim she had received for her first book; Purple Hibiscus. I have to say I'm not generally a big fan of Nigerian authors, or at least contemporary Nigerian authors and since I first voiced that opinion, I've made a conscious effort to read a couple of Nigerian authors recommended to me in an attempt to hopefully change that opinion. However, it has only served to confirm that opinion. But I have to say I am glad that my book club picked 'Purple Hibiscus' as our read of the month a while ago or I might never have given it a chance.

I had read an excerpt from Purple Hibiscus in 2003, shortly after it came out. What I read was simple, sounding like something straight out of a book of children’s stories. A few years later, Purple Hibiscus was all the rage and I wondered what people saw in such a book.

Last month, when Vickii and I decided to do a book review together, I couldn’t help thinking, 'what have I gotten myself into?' when the Nigerian book she suggested we work on was Purple Hibiscus. I kept putting off ordering the book until the guilt mounted and I had no other choice. To my chagrin, I found I liked it! From the third chapter where things began to speed up until I turned the last page, I simply couldn’t put it down!

Purple Hibiscus is a novel whose story is told from the perspective of Kambili — a 15-year-old girl who begins to discover herself as well as the wider world. It explores themes as diverse as domestic violence, religion and media censorship in Nigeria, all with the naïveté one would expect from someone Kambili’s age. It’s amazing how well Adichie pulls it off.

It is particularly interesting that despite the simplicity of the language, the psychological makeup of the characters is complex, and their interaction with each other is especially interesting. Kambili is the easily impressionable one — with little outside interaction, she worships and adores her father completely until she meets the confrontation loving Amaka, her cousin who baits her until she begins to speak up and question things around her. The ‘love story’ between her and the priest was also well executed. Even though you might have expected something illicit to develop out of their relationship, nothing did and this was typical of the unpredictability of the book.

‘Papa’, Kambili and Jaja’s father is an intriguing character. Driven by some force - Is he a religious extremist or is his religion just an excuse he uses to justify his behaviour? - , he repeatedly harms those who love him while maintaining a good-guy image to outsiders. We got the feeling he was more concerned with his image and being in control of everything —including and especially his family. When Jaja stands up to him, he reveals himself for just what he is — a coward.

Amaka was highly entertaining as the stubborn girl willing to challenge norms without backing down, and responsible in part for Kambili’s opening up.

Some authors are critically acclaimed more because their stories are perceived as exotic and less for its actual literary value, but this is definitely not the case with 'Purple Hibiscus'. We enjoyed reading this even as people who have lived in Nigeria and heard similar stories. Adichie's characters are very real and have many different facets to them, and they are constantly challenging the reader's assumptions and opinions throughout the book. Is Kambili and Jaja's mother a coward or a victim? Is Jaja a hero or just plain stupid?

The realistic feel the story had to it was perhaps, its most compelling feature and combined with the plausible story line, the complexity of the characters and the themes explored, Purple Hibiscus is one book we wouldn’t mind reading again, tragedy and all.

Jessamy “Jess” Harrison is eight years old. Sensitive, whimsical, possessed of an extraordinary and powerful imagination, she spends hours writing haiku, reading Shakespeare, or simply hiding in the dark warmth of the airing cupboard. As the child of an English father and a Nigerian mother, Jess just can’t shake off the feeling of being alone wherever she goes, and the other kids in her class are wary of her tendency to succumb to terrified fits of screaming.
Believing that a change from her English environment might be the perfect antidote to Jess’s alarming mood swings, her parents whisk her off to Nigeria for the first time where she meets her mother’s family—including her formidable grandfather.
Jess’s adjustment to Nigeria is only beginning when she encounters Titiola, or TillyTilly, a ragged little girl her own age. To Jess, it seems that, at last, she has found someone who will understand her. But gradually, TillyTilly’s visits become more disturbing, making Jess start to realize that she doesn’t know who TillyTilly is at all.
Helen Oyeyemi draws on Nigerian mythology to present a strikingly original variation on a classic literary theme: the existence of "doubles," both real and spiritual, who play havoc with our perceptions and our lives. Lyrical, haunting, and compelling, The Icarus Girl is a story of twins and ghosts, of a little girl growing up between cultures and colors. It heralds the arrival of a remarkable new talent.

The book started off slow... I didn't know what to expect from it AT ALL.
I just didn't expect it to scare me so much. It's been long since I have really thought about "Ogbanjes" and "Abikus"... this book scared me.
It is not the best book out there but it's scary, I don't want to read it again. The synopsis says a lot about the book already - Me, I was uncomfortably scared o...
I guess some people might enjoy it... I just wanted to get it over and done with QUICKLY.

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