Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

518314gjk1l_sl160_Purple Hibiscus’s heroine is 15 year-old Kambili who is raised in a very uptight, almost delusional, rich Catholic family in Nigeria. The family that is run by tyrannical Papa, who is truthfully a very frustrating and depressing character, because he doesn’t just abuse. He abuses in the name of God and cries like he’s forced to by divine hands.

You wouldn’t realize it at the beginning though, because Kambili is so reserved and so in awe of her father, that as the narrator, she doesn’t tell you the story as it is. It feels like she tries to hide the fact that her father isn’t the perfect guy she desperately believes and wants him to be. That’s probably why for the first half of the book, I felt the story was almost static. It was a fine family story, but I wasn’t sure where it’s gonna go.

It peaks in the middle of the book when something terrible happens to Kambili and it is a revelation to everyone. And by everyone, I mean Kambili, her family, and us readers. At this point we’re definitely sure what’s going on and it is not right. That’s when the pace starts to pick up and the storyline runs with full force.

As central characters, apart from Kambili’s immediate family: Jaja her older brother, Papa and Mama, there are Aunty Ifeoma and her three children, and Papa-Nnukwu (Papa and Aunty Ifeoma’s father, Kambili’s grandfather). They play a big part in showing Kambili and Jaja the real world, the other world, just a different world with the one they’ve been living.

I often found myself wanting to shake Kambili to open her eyes, to stop yearning for approvals from her father, to see things as they are. On the other hand, I pity her and probably understand in some ways. Fortunately her character is developing throughout the book and we are left with hopes in the end. For me it doesn’t end up bleak. It ends okay.

The mood and atmosphere of the book reminds me of The Color Purple. Somehow when I started reading I had the impression that there would be politics involved. There are some, but really, it’s a story about family and religion. I love the writing. It’s very accessible and it captures the innocence of a confined 15 year-old.

4.5 stars
2003, 302 pp

Awards
2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – Best First Book
Shortlisted for 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction

First line
Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the etagere. (inspired by Adichie’s favorite author Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart)

Last line
The new rains will come down soon.

Quotes

“Papa spent some time describing hell, as if God did not know that the flames were eternal and raging and fierce.” ~ p61

“She said ‘teenagers’ as if she were not one, as if teenagers were a brand of people who by not listening to culturally conscious music, were a step beneath her. And she said ‘culturally conscious’ in the proud way that people say a word they never knew they would learn until they do.” ~ p118

opening_address_with_chimamanda_ngozi_adichie

Chimamanda Adichie’s Top Ten Favorite Books (I found at the end of this book):

  1. Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
  2. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi
  3. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
  4. Efuru by Flora Nwapa
  5. Reef by Romesh Gunesekera
  6. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  7. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  8. Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane (aren’t they Harry Potter’s friends? :P)
  9. A Strange and Sublime Address by Amit Chaudhuri
  10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If You Loved This, You Might Like … (also at the end of this book)

  1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  2. Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangeremgba
  3. Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
  4. Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  5. In the Heart of the Country by J. M. Coetzee
  6. The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
  7. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
  8. A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  9. Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Also reviewed by

1morechapter | caribousmom | The Hidden Side of Leaf | Book Haven | A Striped Armchair | Farm Lane Books Blog | Books for Breakfast | Joystory | Book Maven’s Blog | Out of the Blue | She Treads Softly | Everything Distils Into Reading | things mean a lot

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23 thoughts on “Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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  3. mee Post author

    No I haven’t read Half of a Yellow Sun. I would like to though definitely, after reading this one.

    Reply
  4. gautami tripathy

    I have read Half of a Yellow Sun too. Loved both. Like the recommendations too.

    You can check out reviews of short stories by Adichie on my blog along with both her novels!

    Great review!

    Reply
  5. estelle

    I can’t wait to read a book by Adichie. I really would like to read Half of a Yellow Sun first. But I have read An autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid, and I loved that, so it won’t be long until I finally get around to Adichie, hopefully!

    Reply
  6. Paperback_Reader

    I loved this book and the one it pays homage to, Things Fall Apart.

    Half of a Yellow Sun is very different but exceptionally good.

    I have only read a handful of books on either of those lists but own a few of them, which I must read.

    This was the first time I had read the comparison between Purple Hibiscus and The Color Purple; I have
    guiltily never got around to reading the latter but I must remedy that now.

    Reply
  7. mee Post author

    susan: Thank you.

    Suko: Yes, pick it up if you get a chance :)

    bethany: And I need to pick up Half a Yellow Sun.

    Nymeth: It did remind me of the Color Purple for the mood, the family theme, and changes in your life (not the language). I think you’ll like it.

    estelle: I purposely picked this one first because it’s Adichie’s first book. And I didn’t know what they were about before reading, so I had no pre-judgement. But I read that some people like this one more and some the other more. Either way you start should be fine I think.

    Paperback_Reader: I’m actually glad that you said Half of a Yellow Sun is very different. It makes me want to read it more. I haven’t read any on the lists lol, never even heard of some of them. Yes I think you should pick up The Color Purple, and I should Things Fall Apart :)

    Reply
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  14. Muneyi

    I’m from Zimbabwe and teach Advanced Level Literature. I found in Purple Hibiscus effortless honesty that’s captivating. Discussions on this book make me appear very talkertive. I speak of Adichie as if she were my sister. Adichie must be very intelligent and observant. Humourously naughty as well.

    Reply
    1. mee Post author

      Hi Muneyi, thank you for visiting. I met Adichie before at a literary festival and she really impressed me in person, being well-spoken, articulate, humorous. I’ve only read Purple Hibiscus so far but I will surely read more of her books in the future!

      Reply

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