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Purple Hibiscus (2003)

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,6211642,589 (4)1 / 558
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili's father, involved in mysterious ways with the unfolding political crisis, sends Kambili and her brother away to their aunt's. Here she discovers love and a life - dangerous and heathen - beyond the confines of her father's authority.
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English (148)  French (4)  Finnish (3)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (163)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This is a masterful book, it is hard to believe it was Adichie's first.

Kambili is a young teen girl, raised in a brutal home where regular violent abuse is couched as actions showing love and religious faith. Her father's is the prototypical iron fist in the velvet glove. (It is clear that he is trying to be a good man for the record, and he is not an ogre. He is in many ways a kind man and brave one, and a very sad one.) Also brutal is the Nigerian government's treatment of all, though this iron fist comes with no soft wrapper.

So far this sounds interminably bleak but it is not. The story is also very much about love of all sorts. Love of family, love of country, and romantic love all survive even when the Catholic church and the Nigerian government do all they can to rip those things to bloody shreds, to bury them in poverty and shame and abuse the love still lives. So strong and glorious is that love, it bears the power to resurrect the barely alive. Characters who run from the deprivation and cruelty perpetrated by the government love and miss their country and recognize the good things amidst the violence, repression and squalor.

So for all the pain (and blood, and piss, and shit, and decaying flesh) this is a hopeful book, a book that reminds you that Kambili, Jaha and Auntie Ifeoma exist, and rise above. The subtlety and complexity of these characters astounds. This is brilliant writing and engrossing storytelling. ( )
  Narshkite | May 8, 2021 |
Amazing that Adichie wrote this at 26. Her talent for painting the richness of human interaction (spoken and unspoken) knows no rival. Eugene is an interesting allegory for postcolonialism. Capitalistic prosperity brings the illusion of freedom, or at least political and material freedoms that can be bought. However, internalized racism and the rejection of heritage fortify the unbroken chain of colonial violence. As much as I love Adichie, endings are her weakness. I’d like to have seen more of Kambili’s transformation. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
best book I've read in ages. has made me question all the stars I've assigned this year, might have to downgrade everything else.

there is all this Nigerian food which I have no idea what it is, but I want to try it.

also, lots of bigoted dogmatic Catholics fucking up their children. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
Gosh this author is good. I first read her Half of a Yellow Sun (go read it right now if you haven't -- it's the best newish thing I've read in several years) and loved it. I didn't love Americanah, but I also think I misread it. This her earliest novel is lovely (if horrible in some of what it depicts), and the story is so well told, so evocative. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
Adichie's 2003 novel Purple Hibiscus tells the story of the young Nigerian girl Kambili and her family. It is set in postcolonial Nigeria and the political instability in the country shines through in several places. Kambili and her brother Jaja grow up in a well-to-do family as their father Eugene is a successful businessman. The novel follows Kambili in a decisive and formative period of her life and shows her struggles as a teenager trying to find her place in her family as well as in life.

Kambili's father is a devout Christian who rules his family with a strong hand. Everything has to go according to his will. He provides his children with daily schedules that are focused on learning and praying and do not leave much time for fun, hobbies or the things teenagers usually do. When something does not go according to his plan, Eugene punishes the members of his family, often violently. Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene's sister, provides the children with the much needed escape from the regime of their father. Although she is not wealthy and lives in rather simple living conditions with her own children, she can provide the love, the warmth and the interest that Kambili and Jaja lack in their own home. Eugene is obviously not happy with their children being out of his reach, even if it is just for a couple of days.

The novel's main themes are religion, family life and domestic violence. There is always the underlying dynamic between Christianity and traditional beliefs, between love and violence, between a father trying to keep the family together and actually driving them further apart. The title Purple Hibiscus can be seen as a symbol for Kambili's attempt at creating a life for herself between her father's upbringing and the newfound freedoms. Just as the purple hibiscus is a new creation, Kambili has to create meaning in her own life by trying to balance her father's violent but well-meant upbringing with her aunt's more open lifestyle.

I found Purple Hibiscus to be a fascinating bildungsroman that vividly portrays the sad story of Kambili growing up as a young girl in postcolonial Nigeria. 4.5 stars. ( )
1 vote OscarWilde87 | Dec 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichieprimary authorall editionscalculated
Strömberg, RagnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Professor James Nwoye Adichie and Mrs. Grace Ifeoma Adichie, my parents, my heroes, ndi o ga-adili mma
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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.
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When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili's father, involved in mysterious ways with the unfolding political crisis, sends Kambili and her brother away to their aunt's. Here she discovers love and a life - dangerous and heathen - beyond the confines of her father's authority.

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