Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways.
This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.
When I got to read Half of a Yellow Sun, I was so enamoured by Chimamanda’s way of writing that made me list all her books on my TBR shelf. I bought this book almost immediately but I have been procrastinating on when I to read it. In June, I lined it up on my TBR list just so that I could get over and done with the procrastination deal.
Then came the writing-block riding on a majestic chariot and voila, it has taken me approximately three weeks to finish up this post. Something I’ve never had to deal with before. Something I don’t want to deal with again! It’s really dragged me and got me so demoralised to write other book reviews. On that note, let me apologise in advance if my review doesn’t live up to your expectation. I honestly had to get it out of my way nonetheless.
Meanwhile, let’s unpack this book:
Title: Purple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
‘Purple Hibiscus’ is narrated by a 15-year-old girl, Kambili who is the second child to Eugene Achike and Beatrice Achike. Kambili is a timid and shy girl who’s born in a firm Catholic Christian faith family. She struggles to always please their father, who is a staunch Christian always manipulating and oppressing those around him. Jaja, Kambili’s brother and only sibling, is described to us as a resilient man who even when pinned down by their father, always finds a way to show his disappointments, unlike Kambili.
When we first meet them, Jaja is been confronted by their father for failing to attend church and more so taking the holy communion. We’ll only get to know the deeper reason of Jaja defiling their family status as we proceed on reading the book. We also learn of Mama’s pregnancy and the fear she’s been holding for not been able to carry another pregnancy to full-term after Kambili which led to her being mocked and teased by fellow women back in the village. Any time she got pregnant, Mama was prone to miscarry but the realisation to her miscarriages will leave you dumbfounded and disgusted, to say the least.
Eugene is a powerful respected man who happens to own the only publishing newspaper company that doesn’t hold back in speaking out against the government’s shortcoming. Everyone loves and respects him but that’s not the case with his immediate family who always lives in constant fear of him. His sister on the other hand, Aunty Ifeoma, doesn’t shun from speaking out against the oppression Eugene subjects his children and wife on, not to mention how he ill-treats their father, Papa Nnukwu, because he’s adamantly refused to drop his traditional religious way for Christianity, that Eugene keeps referring to him as a pagan.
When Aunty Ifeoma manages to convince Eugene to allow Jaja and Kambili to visit her in Nnsuka, these two get to experience freedom and liberation from their tyrant father. Their cousins turn the tide of what they’re accustomed to back at their home especially with the way they relate to their mother. Amaka and her siblings don’t shy off in speaking out their minds something they’ve picked from their mother who’s a free spirited and an outspoken character. Amaka, the eldest child of Aunty Ifeoma bullies Kambili and pushes her to break free from the timidity shell but well, in a loving way.
What struck me and kept me reading the book was the love that started developing between Kambili and Father Amadi who immediately read her mind when he first met her. Unfortunately, readers don’t get to read how that progresses on and we are left to question whether Amadi finally steps out from the priesthood or not.
I had mixed feelings about the book though. And for those who are yet to read any of Chimamanda’s literary work better kick off with Purple Hibiscus first. Why? In my honest opinion, I think that Chimamanda’s writing sparked more when she wrote Half of a Yellow Sun. The brilliance held in that book is far much better when compared to Purple Hibiscus. But well, being her debut work of literature, it’s quite understandable and deserves all the applause.
Still on my list is Americanah and The Thing Around Your Neck which I should be reading soon.
I hope though that this review gets you curious enough to read the book and share an honest review that I’ve missed.