Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Release Date: October 30, 2003
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Kambili is a 15 year old girl growing up in Nigeria with her brother and parents. Though the country as a whole is relatively poor, Kambili’s father is well off. He owns factories and also is the publisher of a newspaper that isn’t afraid to publish the truth, even in a country where that can be very dangerous.
However, there is also a dark side to Kambili’s family. Her father is very strict – Kambili and her brother Jaja aren’t allowed to associate with their grandfather, who chooses to worship the traditional gods of Nigeria rather than converting to Christianity. Additionally, when they don’t do as their father expects, Kambili and Jaja are punished physically. It’s a heartbreaking, yet extremely interesting look at one family living in Nigeria.
Purple Hibiscus is a fascinating look at Nigeria through the eyes of a fifteen year old girl. Adichie writes Kambili very well, making her sympathetic and easy to relate to. Though the world she lives in is foreign to those who don’t know a lot about Africa, her impulses and feelings are very familiar. Adichie uses Kambili to reach out to the reader, to show them that though the setting and feel of the story might be foreign, we have a common humanity.
In a lot of ways, Kambili is a sad character. She is so sheltered and the parameters of her life are so rigidly set by her father. It’s clear that even if she had free time to have fun, she wouldn’t know how. It’s wonderfully interesting to see her growing and changing as the novel progresses, developing her own unique personality.
It’s fascinating to read about Nigeria in Purple Hibiscus. Adichie shows the reader the good and the bad, writing a deftly layered and textured novel that really exposes the reader to African culture. She also illustrates the conflicts within everyday society, especially between the traditional religions of the people and Christianity. It’s an incredibly interesting look at how Africa is changing, and the issues it has been facing for many years.
The issue of abuse runs through Purple Hibiscus. While the book is never difficult to read, my heart broke for Kambili and her family multiple times. It was frustrating and horrifying, yet Adichie’s beautiful writing soothes the reader and helps ease the pain. It’s a difficult issue to tackle, and Adichie does it with grace and dignity.
I highly recommend Purple Hibiscus, especially if you are interested in Africa. Additionally, if you have been wanting to read more literary fiction but want a book that will move quickly, this is a great one to choose. It’s a powerful yet beautiful novel that will stay with me for a long time.