Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has really impressed me with her writing abilities. Purple Hibiscus was Adichie’s first novel. I read her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, last year and it was in my Top 20 for 2007. Although some have stated that Purple Hibiscus was not as good as Half of a Yellow Sun, I disagree. I think it was just as well-written, and in fact I may prefer it.
Kambili and her family are of the wealthy upper class in Nigeria. Her father owns several factories and is a major benefactor of his local church. Kambili is a very compliant child, always wanting to please her parents, while her brother Jaja is much more independent. Their father is very strict regarding his household in every detail. He puts both of them on a schedule everyday and they must not deviate from it. He insists on each child being first in their respective classes.
I felt so much for Kambili. In the beginning she truly looks up to her father and wants to please him. She believes he is perfect. As the story progresses, she sees more and more of his faults and begins to have more questions about his discipline. Kambili’s mother also suffers from his excessive demands. Any missteps he considers as sins to be physically removed from those committing them. Adichie doesn’t totally set him up as a monster, though; somehow she manages to make the reader sympathize (a little) with him as well.
Purple Hibiscus is not just a story of domestic abuse. It is also about the past political conflicts in Nigeria, about how Christianity has affected the region, and also about the strong bonds among family members. Adichie truly is following in Achebe’s footsteps as one of Nigeria’s greatest writers.
2003, 307 pp.
2005 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize – Best First Book