I had heard a lot about Chimamanda Adichie and seen a few of her interviews but had never gotten around to reading any of her novels. When I picked up the book Purple Hibiscus I did not know what to expect. You see, I am very picky when it comes to the types of books I read. By reading the first few pages, I can usually tell by the author’s writing style if the book will transpose me into another world or simply be another piece I will use to balance my étagère!
I am pleased to announce that I could hardly put Purple Hibiscus down.
I love the way Adichie writes. The way she describes Nigerian culture is subtle and yet so vivid. One could swear they’d visited the country even if they had never really been. Traditional dishes, customs, ways of living, the reader gets a taste of it all. (OK, I’ll even admit I began to speak pidgin when I was done with the book, shouting: “Naija where you dey!” and “Wettin dey happen” one too many times! My twin sister had to kindly remind me that I am from Guinea not Naija LOL).
The story itself is so deep without being overwhelmingly complicated. It’s about a well-to-do family, living in Nigeria with a very religious and “borderline” abusive father. I say “borderline” because despite it all, I could not help but understand what it feels like to be so religious and want your loved ones to follow suit (which most of the time did not justify his extreme behavior, don’t get me wrong). I also felt sorry for him at times.
Kambili and her brother Jaja grow up shielded from the real world. They are brought up in a loving yet restricted environment. Good grades, polite and never questioning the only religion they know. Thanks to their devoted father, they never miss church, pray constantly and take pride in referring to God as often as possible. It is only when the political situation gets unstable in the country that they are allowed to go visit and stay with their aunt who, contrary to them, lives very modestly with her family, to say the least. It is during their stay in Nsukka that they learn about other things: laughter, real family relationships, friendship, culture, music, work, tradition (from their grandfather who believes in a different kind of higher power) and even love. It is only then that they are able to open their eyes and realize that the world they have known all their lives has been their dad’s world. It is only then that they decide to challenge this world. Still, the way they do this is so subtle yet in their dad’s eyes so unfathomable, so daring. Their worlds clash and that is when life as they’ve always known it changes forever.
A MUST read! So what are you waiting for? Go get it!
I know what I am reading next: Half of a Yellow Sun by the same author! 😉
Saran Kaba, MPA