Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Reading Nook: Purple Hibiscus

I've read Half of A Yellow Sun.  I loved Half of A Yellow Sun.  I think I love Purple Hibiscus even more! 

The debut novel and baby sister of the aforementioned novel by author Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus draws you into the world of Kambili, a privileged girl in postcolonial Nigeria whose life is dominated by her devoutly Catholic father, Eugene.  Her life is one of routine and rigid timetables, contemplation and prayer in shadowed rooms, academic discipline and vicious physical violence initated as punishment for any small misdemeanor by the father she adores.

Kambili and her brother, Jaja have their lives regimented by their father's timetable.  They know when they are studying and when they are reading, when they are eating and when they are travelling to school.  They are banned from spending time with their grandfather who still observes the old gods and is kept away from anything that their father perceives as a corrupting influence.  Kambili is a quiet, considered, withdrawn girl who shares a close relationship with her brother.

When a military coup breaks out and their father's editor at his underground human rights newspaper goes missing, Kambili and her brother are sent to their aunts cramped, hot apartment for safety, against the wishes of their father.  Whilst there their eyes are opened to a world of light and laughter. Catholic as well, her cousins Catholicism allows for laughter and debate, humour and love and gradually Kambili learns that there is more to life than her timetabled existance.

As Kambili matures she falls in love with a young local priest.  At the same time her family disintegrates around her, mirroring the disintegration of her community as rebellions spark at the University her aunt works at, framing the unraveling of her world.
Purple Hibiscus is a stunning debut novel.  The characters are engaging and multidimensional and the relationships between them, particularly between Kambili and her aunt and cousins, are mesmerizing.  Eugene is never presented as a tyrannical monster, but rather as someone who is devoted to his family and his community, caring for the sheep in his flock and not realising that the physical and psychological abuse he subjects his children and wife to is ripping his family apart. Whilst not a sympathetic character, the love that Kambili carries for him shines through her narrative and challenges the readers perceptions.

The world that Adichie creates is one that is unfamiliar to most Westerners.  I am a very visual reader; I like to be able to imagine the places being described so I read most of this novel with my phone in my hand, searching for the meaning of various Igbo phrases which are scattered throughout the book and woven into the majority of conversation and also looking up the  foodstuffs mentioned.  Food and drink play a huge part in this story with meal times often being the focal point for family relationships to progress and develop. 

Purple Hibiscus is a story of conflict vs love, noise vs silence, the old religion vs the new and, most of all, oppression vs freedom.  Utterly breathtaking. 

If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my facebook group or twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment