6 Jul 2020


Purple Hibiscus
ISBN 978-0007189885

Fifteen year-old Kambili lives in fear of her father, a charismatic yet violent Catholic patriarch who, although, generous and well-respected in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home. Escape and the discovery of a new, liberated way of life come when Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, forcing Kambili and her brother to live in their aunt's home, a noisy place full of laughter. The visit will lift the silence from her world and, in time, unlock a terrible, bruising secret at the heart of her family life.

An extraordinary debut, Purple Hibiscus is a novel about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred - the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and true living is begun.
- Back Cover Blurb

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 étagère.
- First Sentence, Breaking Gods; Palm Sunday

I did not, could not, look at Papa's face when he spoke. The boiled yam and peppery greens refused to go down my throat; they clung to my mouth like children clinging to their mothers' hand at a nursery school entrance.
- Memorable Moment, Page 41

MY THOUGHTS ... The atmosphere of living within an abusive household, your father a wealthy local manufacturer, a 'pillar of the community' and yet, behind closed doors, both physically and mentally abusive, palpable.

Fifteen year old Kambili came across as shy and oppressed and somewhat world weary (no doubt the result of never quite living up to the high expectations of her father) and yet, oddly enough, it was just that, a feeling. Incredibly frustrated by the character, alas (to me anyway) she was never really given a voice, she just came across as, well, 'beige'. That the author does not comment in any meaningful way upon Kambili's situation (that of a young woman whose very existence is cowed by a father who demands perfection of his family in every aspect of their lives) a lost opportunity. 

Excited that this is a Young Adult novel set in Nigeria at this time (off the top of my head I can't name that many), however ...

Difficult to get into, long winded and with what I felt were far too many unnecessary fillers (all of the lengthy descriptions of food interested me to begin with but I quickly grew bored of them). And as for the use of local vocabulary ... Hmm! I admit this did distract me in that I kept on having to make a note of it in order to Google it at a later time. Perhaps a glossary of the vocabulary might have been useful but then where to put it; as a foot note? In brackets immediately after the word? In a glossary at the beginning/end of the book? I guess its one of those things whereby you can't please everyone and ultimately a decision has to be made.

An interesting enough plot in that it hi-lights some of the tensions that arose as a result of the country being colonised by the British. What for me was far more interesting was that it explored some of the tensions between Christians and followers of the old religion; that one of the priests preferred a mix of Christian worship and Igbo worship, the other priest, traditional Catholic worship intriguing. 

SUMMED UP IN A SENTENCE ... An OK read though, the setting, the religious differences and the politics (which for most of the time came across as little more than background noise anyway) aside, essentially a story of Domestic Violence; yes, there were some powerful moments but nothing I haven't come across countless times before. 
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Kelly said...

I'm sorry this one didn't live up to your expectations. Even before you began with your thoughts, I was having my doubts about it. I'm so easily frustrated these days by difficult situations that I can't "help", and this story sounds as if it's filled with them!

I've read a number of books that include glossaries of regional words and phrases, so I think your suggestion for that is good. Maybe the powers that be will see your review and offer that in future editions.

Literary Feline said...

I am sorry this one didn't live up to your expections, Felicity. I have read other of Adiche's work and enjoyed it immensely. I haven't read this one yet though, although it is on my TBR pile.

Suko said...

This book seems to be brimming with potential, but it fell short for you. Thank you, Felicity, for your honest review.

Mary (Bookfan) said...

I've heard a lot of praise for the author so I'm thinking I'd start with another book. I appreciate your review!

Brian Joseph said...

I have heard a fair amount about this book. Too bad that it fell a bit short for you as it sounds like it has a lot of positive elements. Personally, I need to read more African literature.

nightwingsraven said...

I am truly sorry that this book did
not deliver in several ways for you.
And thank you for your nuanced and
excellent review.