Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Purple Hibiscus

Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Country: Nigeria
Year: 2003
Rating: A
Pages: 307 pgs.

First sentence: 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.

Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, live under the shadow of their fanatically religious father, Eugene. A highly respected man in the community who stands up for injustice and donates vasts sums of money, Eugene is an expert at hiding the violence and strict obedience he uses to force his family to comply with his unrealistic ideals of duty and religion. It is not until Kambili and Jaja visit their aunt, Aunty Ifeoma, and cousins, that both begin to break the spell under which their family is held.

Purple Hibiscus is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut novel, and it is a masterpiece. I was particularly struck by one particular image. In the beginning of the novel, Kambili and Jaja communicate to each other with their eyes, as their tongues our silenced under the oppression of their father. As the story progresses, and both siblings open up to the world shown to them by Aunty Ifeoma, their silence lessens, as the physical act of speaking is made easier. 'I laughed. It sounded strange, as if I were listening to the recorded laughter of a stranger being played back. I was not sure I had ever heard myself laugh.' (p. 179) I will definitely be watching for further works by this amazing author.

'Papa changed his accent when he spoke, sounding British, just as he did when he spoke to Father Benedict. He was gracious, in the eager-to-please way that he always assumed with the religious, especially with the white religious.' (p. 46)

'Everything came tumbling down after Palm Sunday. Howling winds came with an angry rain, uprooting frangipani trees in the front yard. They lay on the lawn, their pink and white flowers grazing the grass, their roots waving lumpy soil in the air...Even the silence that descended on the house was sudden, as though the old silence had broken and left us with the sharp pieces.' (p.257)

18 comments:

Marg said...

Having really enjoyed Half of a Yellow Sun I am looking forward to reading this.

iliana said...

I loved this book. I bought Half of a Yellow Sun at Half Price Books recently but just haven't gotten to it. I hope it's just as good.

Nyssaneala said...

@marg, @iliana - I really loved Half of a Yellow Sun as well, but I thought Purple Hibiscus was just a little bit better.

MyUtopia said...

Sounds almost lyrical

CapCity said...

your review is as well written as the snippets you provide from the book. Will have to add this to my list of Must Reads! thanks! this is my first time here thanx to The Hidden Side of a Leaf's BlogRoll game. I'll be back:-)

Imani said...

I thought Purple Hibiscus was better too. Did you volunteer to be interviewed at Dewey's blog, for this book? I think you should, I'd bet you'd have interesting things to say about it.

Literary Feline said...

I plan to read Half a Yellow Sun this month and am really looking forward to it. Purple Hibiscus sounds wonderful too from your review. I will definitely be adding it to my wish list.

Lotus Reads said...

I loved both, "Purple Hibiscus" and "Half of a Yellow Sun" although "Half...Sun" probably held me captive for much longer after I read it. A truly wonderful review, thanks!

Ced.It/Meant.It said...

Soooooo...Cap talked about a lady whose blog is a haven for the avid reader, and I wanted to see what this haven held for me. You've ignited a fire in me! Some things here are old and intelligent classics, while other reads are as new for me as the day's first breath. I'm looking forward to adding more and more to my list of good things to put in my literary belly!

Dewey said...

I'm reading Half of a Yellow Sun right now, and enjoying it immensely, so I'll definitely be reading Purple Hibiscus!

MC said...

I love that initial subtle reference to Achebe's "Things Fall Apart"

Definitely on my list of "Must Reads"!

Anonymous said...

it was the worst book i ever read.
do not buy it

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