Purple Hibiscus

By Swapna Peri

The story is about a 15-year-old girl who lives with her brother and family. They are wealthy, and her father is a fanatically religious person. Kambili, the girl with dreams lives a life that her father dictates. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer.

During the reign of the Nigerian Military’s rule, Kambili’s father is involved in a mysterious instance and faces a severe political crisis. He sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family. Her aunt is a professor at the University. They find love, but it lacks compassion. From a very different setup of the family, Kambili and her brother Ja Ja discover new horizons of life.

With no loads of twists and turns but with the most honest and brutal way of writing, the story of this teenager gives an insight of how her father played a hero in a different manner played and how he injected the religious practices in her with fear and oppression.

The word ‘Kambili’ in the Telugu language means ‘ blanket’. I can infer this name with the character of Kamibili as a girl who is always wrapped in herself. This perception made me dig deeper into her character as I read every page.

It is understood that Kambili and her brother Ja Ja lived a restricted life charted by their papa, a strict Christian, who believes that the White Man’s supremacy in the free country of Nigeria. This belief in due course of the story creates problems. He is a very rich man, which is quite strange in those days of Postcolonial country of Nigeria. He owns a newspaper company that always speaks against the government, and hence he is a revolutionary person. Contrary to his personality in the outside world, he is a man of cringed mindset with his family. This is where the writing skills of author Chimamanda unveil. The contrast in personality is very well attributed to her writing.

Talking about the book title, Purple Hibiscus is a common flower found in the sub-tropical region of the country, but the purple one is rare. Though a common flower, it is its colour that separates it from the rest. This trait is seen in Kambili’s character at times.

The religious views expressed in the story gave me a mixed impression. While serving God with love and compassion is very nice, forcing the children to follow some traditions was hurtful. There, a person’s individual choice and freedom were at stake. At the same time, aunt also practices Christianity, but as Jesus says, she only spreads love. I remembered my school when I was reading about an aunt and her views.

Our View on the Cover:
The book’s cover image is a young woman’s half face projecting her lips, with a close-up image of a Purple Hibiscus focusing on the pistil and stigma with the pollen grains. The flower’s intricate details can be perceived as protagonist’s ever evolving thought process.

This book has some powerful characters. The central character, though the story runs in the first person and from Kambili’s tone, she is not the most robust character. Her characterization is quite complicated.

She is a good kid with all the aspects and virtues to be a bright and disciplined kid. The family looks impressive but somewhere the traces of being fakeness in their personalities reflected. As the story progresses, one can identify that Kambili is not as kind or fragile as she describes herself and the situations around.

Coming to the character of her father, Eugene – a wealthy and extremely religious fanatic; often an aggressive and abusive monster. His wife and kids are the victims of his domestic violence. In the name of bringing perfection in every mundane task, he offers them a violent beating. Another main character is her brother, Ja Ja. He is a hero for himself. His name is also likeable. Then her aunt. Ifeoma and her kids are warming and sweet.

However, Kambili, after being abused extensively, still loves her father. While this trait did not appeal to me, what I understood is that being beaten up and abused for every small thing, a person’s spirit to fight or stand for herself is lost somewhere. A difference n her personality can be observed when she lives with her aunt, she becomes more open-minded, cheerful, becomes self-sufficient and enjoys ascent of freedom.

I also loved Kambili and Ja Ja’s aunty and her kids. They provided an alternate world for Kambili, and she got to see how a real family is like and how life without the constant state of fear can be like.

Writing Style:
The book is written in the first person, and Kambili narrates the readers with the story. Apart from the rantings that a 15-year-old does in the story, the author has also given her readers a chance to taste Nigerian food, visit places and get lost in the serenity that the country provides. Also, on a personal level, I am a fan of the author’s writing. She writes simply and beautifully. This was the second book of hers that I read, and I loved it. The realistic writing to show how the children are abused in the name of strict life is described well. Also, the author’s introduction to Nigerian culture, food and places is interesting. Other things that the author focused on is how families are built on values and morals.

One point I would love to highlight is that aunt Ifeoma, though not so rich and more children shares love, and compassion and her house are always in harmony. The happiness doesn’t come with riches is a strong point that the story conveys.

Who can read:
Though a disturbing read, the readers who look for serious fiction with realism and unbiased views about regions, religions and traditions can read the book.

Our Final Verdict:
Overall, this book – Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a captivating, emotional and intriguing book which must not be missed!

TitlePurple Hibiscus
Edition ReviewedEdition 1, 2007
AuthorChimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Asian Review Rating9 out of 10

5 replies »

  1. Generally I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite great post.


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