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.


Hey Guys... nice write up.

I wrote a little something about the book HERE.

I liked it too...

2:56 AM  

i'm reading the book for the upteenth time and it probably won't be the last time(lol)!!!

Each time it gives me the thrill of the first read!!!!!!!

1:47 AM  

Thanks everyone. Does any other set of people want to do a collab?

9:34 AM  

I have read the book ana absolutely loved it.
The language was simple, yet direct and I think the author did a great job of painting an accurate picture from the view point of the young girl.
As a non-christian and someone who has had all her life, people trying to ram the faith down her throat, I saw some insight into how through the spread of the teachings, people have ended brainwashed, confused and with a distorted interpretation of how to practice the path.
I also realised that even if the mother had fled and told the world what was going on, she would have been told to return and stop aggravating her husband. He was perfect in the eyes of the world and until his death, she would never be free. For one, with his fanatical interpretation of catholicism, he would never have divorced her.
I loved the book, have encouraged many to read it and am looking for a used copy of her latest work.
Also check out "EVERYTHING GOOD WILL COME" by Seffi Atta. I hope that is the spelling of her name

11:55 AM  

i absolutly love this book. Seffi Atta 's Everything good will come is also wonderful. I just got into Nigerian authors and i must say I AM LOVING THEM. U should read Icarus girl by Helen Oyeyemi. A brillant novel by a 20 year old girl.. good stuff.

7:23 AM  

Just discovered this blog,nice1,Will def not be reading Icarus Girl now no need to scare me self.May I recommend a book for you guys? Check out Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Michard. I loved it and the Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw,both really good reads.
BTW I read that ready or not book, stupid chick lit, but Lisa Jewel writes exceptional chick lit and I find that I collect her books and Maeve Binchy, its real odd

3:56 PM  

Its been a while since i read this book but i love your description of it... i remember thinking about the simplicity of language and how well Adichie was able to write so well about this young girl's view of the world around her. Like i said... i think everyone should read it. Its an interesting take on Nigeria post-paganism

1:32 AM  

The raving reviews have revved up my appetite... I certainly can't wait to get my hands on it.

6:13 AM  

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