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Purple Hibiscus: A Novel

Purple Hibiscus: A Novel

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Purple Hibiscus: A Novel

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (272 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
301 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
Apr 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781616202422
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

“One of the most vital and original novelists of her generation.” —Larissa MacFarquhar, The New Yorker

From the bestselling author of Americanah and We Should All Be Feminists


Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

Pubblicato:
Apr 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781616202422
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003, the New Yorker, Granta, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. Purple Hibiscus, her first novel, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Her novel Half of a Yellow Sun won the Orange Broadband Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and a People Best Book of the Year; her novel Americanah won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, was the winner of the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. A recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.


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Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Algonquin

BREAKING GODS

Palm Sunday

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. We had just returned from church. Mama placed the fresh palm fronds, which were wet with holy water, on the dining table and then went upstairs to change. Later, she would knot the palm fronds into sagging cross shapes and hang them on the wall beside our gold-framed family photo. They would stay there until next Ash Wednesday, when we would take the fronds to church, to have them burned for ash. Papa, wearing a long, gray robe like the rest of the oblates, helped distribute ash every year. His line moved the slowest because he pressed hard on each forehead to make a perfect cross with his ash-covered thumb and slowly, meaningfully enunciated every word of dust and unto dust you shall return.

Papa always sat in the front pew for Mass, at the end beside the middle aisle, with Mama, Jaja, and me sitting next to him. He was first to receive communion. Most people did not kneel to receive communion at the marble altar, with the blond life-size Virgin Mary mounted nearby, but Papa did. He would hold his eyes shut so hard that his face tightened into a grimace, and then he would stick his tongue out as far as it could go. Afterward, he sat back on his seat and watched the rest of the congregation troop to the altar, palms pressed together and extended, like a saucer held sideways, just as Father Benedict had taught them to do. Even though Father Benedict had been at St. Agnes for seven years, people still referred to him as our new priest. Perhaps they would not have if he had not been white. He still looked new. The colors of his face, the colors of condensed milk and a cut-open soursop, had not tanned at all in the fierce heat of seven Nigerian harmattans. And his British nose was still as pinched and as narrow as it always was, the same nose that had had me worried that he did not get enough air when he first came to Enugu. Father Benedict had changed things in the parish, such as insisting that the Credo and kyrie be recited only in Latin; Igbo was not acceptable. Also, hand clapping was to be kept at a minimum, lest the solemnity of Mass be compromised. But he allowed offertory songs in Igbo; he called them native songs, and when he said native his straight-line lips turned down at the corners to form an inverted U. During his sermons, Father Benedict usually referred to the pope, Papa, and Jesus—in that order. He used Papa to illustrate the gospels. When we let our light shine before men, we are reflecting Christ’s Triumphant Entry, he said that Palm Sunday. "Look at Brother Eugene. He could have chosen to be like other Big Men in this country, he could have decided to sit at home and do nothing after the coup, to make sure the government did not threaten his businesses. But no, he used the Standard to speak the truth even though it meant the paper lost advertising. Brother Eugene spoke out for freedom. How many of us have stood up for the truth? How many of us have reflected the Triumphant Entry?"

The congregation said Yes or God bless him or Amen, but not too loudly so they would not sound like the mushroom Pentecostal churches; then they listened intently, quietly. Even the babies stopped crying, as if they, too, were listening. On some Sundays, the congregation listened closely even when Father Benedict talked about things everybody already knew, about Papa making the biggest donations to Peter’s pence and St. Vincent de Paul. Or about Papa paying for the cartons of communion wine, for the new ovens at the convent where the Reverend Sisters baked the host, for the new wing to St. Agnes Hospital where Father Benedict gave extreme unction. And I would sit with my knees pressed together, next to Jaja, trying hard to keep my face blank, to keep the pride from showing, because Papa said modesty was very important.

Papa himself would have a blank face when I looked at him, the kind of expression he had in the photo when they did the big story on him after Amnesty World gave him a human rights award. It was the only time he allowed himself to be featured in the paper. His editor, Ade Coker, had insisted on it, saying Papa deserved it, saying Papa was too modest. Mama told me and Jaja; Papa did not tell us such things. That blank look would remain on his face until Father Benedict ended the sermon, until it was time for communion. After Papa took communion, he sat back and watched the congregation walk to the altar and, after Mass, reported to Father Benedict, with concern, when a person missed communion on two successive Sundays. He always encouraged Father Benedict to call and win that person back into the fold; nothing but mortal sin would keep a person away from communion two Sundays in a row.

So when Papa did not see Jaja go to the altar that Palm Sunday when everything changed, he banged his leatherbound missal, with the red and green ribbons peeking out, down on the dining table when we got home. The table was glass, heavy glass. It shook, as did the palm fronds on it.

Jaja, you did not go to communion, Papa said quietly, almost a question.

Jaja stared at the missal on the table as though he were addressing it. The wafer gives me bad breath.

I stared at Jaja. Had something come loose in his head? Papa insisted we call it the host because host came close to capturing the essence, the sacredness, of Christ’s body. Wafer was too secular, wafer was what one of Papa’s factories made —chocolate wafer, banana wafer, what people bought their children to give them a treat better than biscuits.

And the priest keeps touching my mouth and it nauseates me, Jaja said. He knew I was looking at him, that my shocked eyes begged him to seal his mouth, but he did not look at me.

It is the body of our Lord. Papa’s voice was low, very low. His face looked swollen already, with pus-tipped rashes spread across every inch, but it seemed to be swelling even more. You cannot stop receiving the body of our Lord. It is death, you know that.

Then I will die. Fear had darkened Jaja’s eyes to the color of coal tar, but he looked Papa in the face now. Then I will die, Papa.

Papa looked around the room quickly, as if searching for proof that something had fallen from the high ceiling, something he had never thought would fall. He picked up the missal and flung it across the room, toward Jaja. It missed Jaja completely, but it hit the glass étagerè, which Mama polished often. It cracked the top shelf, swept the beige, finger-size ceramic figurines of ballet dancers in various contorted postures to the hard floor and then landed after them. Or rather it landed on their many pieces. It lay there, a huge leatherbound missal that contained the readings for all three cycles of the church year.

Jaja did not move. Papa swayed from side to side. I stood at the door, watching them. The ceiling fan spun round and round, and the light bulbs attached to it clinked against one another. Then Mama came in, her rubber slippers making slap-slap sounds on the marble floor. She had changed from her sequined Sunday wrapper and the blouse with puffy sleeves. Now she had a plain tie-dye wrapper tied loosely around her waist and that white T-shirt she wore every other day. It was a souvenir from a spiritual retreat she and Papa had attended; the words god is love crawled over her sagging breasts. She stared at the figurine pieces on the floor and then knelt and started to pick them up with her bare hands.

The silence was broken only by the whir of the ceiling fan as it sliced through the still air. Although our spacious dining room gave way to an even wider living room, I felt suffocated. The off-white walls with the framed photos of Grandfather were narrowing, bearing down on me. Even the glass dining table was moving toward me.

"Nne, ngwa. Go and change, Mama said to me, startling me although her Igbo words were low and calming. In the same breath, without pausing, she said to Papa, Your tea is getting cold, and to Jaja, Come and help me, biko."

Papa sat down at the table and poured his tea from the china tea set with pink flowers on the edges. I waited for him to ask Jaja and me to take a sip, as he always did. A love sip, he called it, because you shared the little things you loved with the people you loved. Have a love sip, he would say, and Jaja would go first. Then I would hold the cup with both hands and raise it to my lips. One sip. The tea was always too hot, always burned my tongue, and if lunch was something peppery, my raw tongue suffered. But it didn’t matter, because I knew that when the tea burned my tongue, it burned Papa’s love into me. But Papa didn’t say, Have a love sip; he didn’t say anything as I watched him raise the cup to his lips.

Jaja knelt beside Mama, flattened the church bulletin he held into a dustpan, and placed a jagged ceramic piece on it. Careful, Mama, or those pieces will cut your fingers, he said.

I pulled at one of the cornrows underneath my black church scarf to make sure I was not dreaming. Why were they acting so normal, Jaja and Mama, as if they did not know what had just happened? And why was Papa drinking his tea quietly, as if Jaja had not just talked back to him? Slowly, I turned and headed upstairs to change out of my red Sunday dress.

I sat at my bedroom window after I changed; the cashew tree was so close I could reach out and pluck a leaf if it were not for the silver-colored crisscross of mosquito netting. The bell-shaped yellow fruits hung lazily, drawing buzzing bees that bumped against my window’s netting. I heard Papa walk upstairs to his room for his afternoon siesta. I closed my eyes, sat still, waiting to hear him call Jaja, to hear Jaja go into his room. But after long, silent minutes, I opened my eyes and pressed my forehead against the window louvers to look outside. Our yard was wide enough to hold a hundred people dancing atilogu, spacious enough for each dancer to do the usual somersaults and land on the next dancer’s shoulders. The compound walls, topped by coiled electric wires, were so high I could not see the cars driving by on our street. It was early rainy season, and the frangipani trees planted next to the walls already filled the yard with the sickly-sweet scent of their flowers. A row of purple bougainvillea, cut smooth and straight as a buffet table, separated the gnarled trees from the driveway. Closer to the house, vibrant bushes of hibiscus reached out and touched one another as if they were exchanging their petals. The purple plants had started to push out sleepy buds, but most of the flowers were still on the red ones. They seemed to bloom so fast, those red hibiscuses, considering how often Mama cut them to decorate the church altar and how often visitors plucked them as they walked past to their parked cars.

It was mostly Mama’s prayer group members who plucked flowers; a woman tucked one behind her ear once—I saw her clearly from my window. But even the government agents, two men in black jackets who came some time ago, yanked at the hibiscus as they left. They came in a pickup truck with Federal Government plates and parked close to the hibiscus bushes. They didn’t stay long. Later, Jaja said they came to bribe Papa, that he had heard them say that their pickup was full of dollars. I was not sure Jaja had heard correctly. But even now I thought about it sometimes. I imagined the truck full of stacks and stacks of foreign money, wondered if they had put the money in many cartons or in one huge carton, the size our fridge came in.

I was still at the window when Mama came into my room. Every Sunday before lunch, in between telling Sisi to put a little more palm oil in the soup, a little less curry in the coconut rice, and while Papa took his siesta, Mama plaited my hair. She would sit on an armchair near the kitchen door and I on the floor with my head cradled between her thighs. Although the kitchen was airy, with the windows always open, my hair would still manage to absorb the spices, and afterward, when I brought the end of a braid to my nose, I would smell egusi soup, utazi, curry. But Mama did not come into my room with the bag that held combs and hair oils and ask me to come downstairs. Instead, she said, "Lunch is ready, nne."

I meant to say I am sorry Papa broke your figurines, but the words that came out were, I’m sorry your figurines broke, Mama.

She nodded quickly, then shook her head to show that the figurines did not matter. They did, though. Years ago, before I understood, I used to wonder why she polished them each time I heard the sounds from their room, like something being banged against the door. Her rubber slippers never made a sound on the stairs, but I knew she went downstairs when I heard the dining room door open. I would go down to see her standing by the étagère with a kitchen towel soaked in soapy water. She spent at least a quarter of an hour on each ballet-dancing figurine. There were never tears on her face. The last time, only two weeks ago, when her swollen eye was still the black-purple color of an overripe avocado, she had rearranged them after she polished them.

I will plait your hair after lunch, she said, turning to leave.

Yes, Mama.

I followed her downstairs. She limped slightly, as though one leg were shorter than the other, a gait that made her seem even smaller than she was. The stairs curved elegantly in an S shape, and I was halfway down when I saw Jaja standing in the hallway. Usually he went to his room to read before lunch, but he had not come upstairs today; he had been in the kitchen the whole time, with Mama and Sisi.

Ke kwanu? I asked, although I did not need to ask how he was doing. I had only to look at him. His seventeen-year-old face had grown lines; they zigzagged across his forehead, and inside each line a dark tension had crawled in. I reached out and clasped his hand shortly before we went into the dining room. Papa and Mama were already seated, and Papa was washing his hands in the bowl of water Sisi held before him. He waited until Jaja and I sat down opposite him, and started the grace. For twenty minutes he asked God to bless the food. Afterward, he intoned the Blessed Virgin in several different titles while we responded, Pray for us. His favorite title was Our Lady, Shield of the Nigerian People. He had made it up himself. If only people would use it every day, he told us, Nigeria would not totter like a Big Man with the spindly legs of a child.

Lunch was fufu and onugbu soup. The fufu was smooth and fluffy. Sisi made it well; she pounded the yam energetically, adding drops of water into the mortar, her cheeks contracting with the thump-thump-thump of the pestle. The soup was thick with chunks of boiled beef and dried fish and dark green onugbu leaves. We ate silently. I molded my fufu into small balls with my fingers, dipped it in the soup, making sure to scoop up fish chunks, and then brought it to my mouth. I was certain the soup was good, but I did not taste it, could not taste it. My tongue felt like paper.

Pass the salt, please, Papa said.

We all reached for the salt at the same time. Jaja and I touched the crystal shaker, my finger brushed his gently, then he let go. I passed it to Papa. The silence stretched out even longer.

They brought the cashew juice this afternoon. It tastes good. I am sure it will sell, Mama finally said.

Ask that girl to bring it, Papa said.

Mama pressed the ringer that dangled above the table on a transparent wire from the ceiling, and Sisi appeared.

Yes, Madam?

Bring two bottles of the drink they brought from the factory.

Yes, Madam.

I wished Sisi had said What bottles, Madam? or Where are they, Madam? Just something to keep her and Mama talking, to veil the nervous movements of Jaja molding his fufu. Sisi was back shortly and placed the bottles next to Papa. They had the same faded-looking labels as every other thing Papa’s factories made—the wafers and cream biscuits and bottled juice and banana chips. Papa poured the yellow juice for everyone. I reached out quickly for my glass and took a sip. It tasted watery. I wanted to seem eager; maybe if I talked about how good it tasted, Papa might forget that he had not yet punished Jaja.

It’s very good, Papa, I said.

Papa swirled it around his bulging cheeks. Yes, yes.

It tastes like fresh cashew, Mama said.

Say something, please, I wanted to say to Jaja. He was supposed to say something now, to contribute, to compliment Papa’s new product. We always did, each time an employee from one of his factories brought a product sample for us.

Just like white wine, Mama added. She was nervous, I could tell—not just because a fresh cashew tasted nothing like white wine but also because her voice was lower than usual. White wine, Mama said again, closing her eyes to better savor the taste. Fruity white wine.

Yes, I said. A ball of fufu slipped from my fingers and into the soup.

Papa was staring pointedly at Jaja. "Jaja, have you not shared a drink with us, gbo? Have you no words in your mouth?" he asked, entirely in Igbo. A bad sign. He hardly spoke Igbo, and although Jaja and I spoke it with Mama at home, he did not like us to speak it in public. We had to sound civilized in public, he told us; we had to speak English. Papa’s sister, Aunty Ifeoma, said once that Papa was too much of a colonial product. She had said this about Papa in a mild, forgiving way, as if it were not Papa’s fault, as one would talk about a person who was shouting gibberish from a severe case of malaria.

"Have you nothing to say, gbo, Jaja?" Papa asked again.

"Mba, there are no words in my mouth," Jaja replied.

What? There was a shadow clouding Papa’s eyes, a shadow that had been in Jaja’s eyes. Fear. It had left Jaja’s eyes and entered Papa’s.

I have nothing to say, Jaja said.

The juice is good — Mama started to say.

Jaja pushed his chair back. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Papa. Thank you, Mama.

I turned to stare at him. At least he was saying thanks the right way, the way we always did after a meal. But he was also doing what we never did: he was leaving the table before Papa had said the prayer after meals.

Jaja! Papa said. The shadow grew, enveloping the whites of Papa’s eyes. Jaja was walking out of the dining room with his plate. Papa made to get up and then slumped back on his seat. His cheeks drooped, bulldoglike.

I reached for my glass and stared at the juice, watery yellow, like urine. I poured all of it down my throat, in one gulp. I didn’t know what else to do. This had never happened before in my entire life, never. The compound walls would crumble, I was sure, and squash the frangipani trees. The sky would cave in. The Persian rugs on the stretches of gleaming marble floor would shrink. Something would happen. But the only thing that happened was my choking. My body shook from the coughing. Papa and Mama rushed over. Papa thumped my back while Mama rubbed my shoulders and said, "O zugo. Stop coughing."

THAT EVENING, I STAYED in bed and did not have dinner with the family. I developed a cough, and my cheeks burned the back of my hand. Inside my head, thousands of monsters played a painful game of catch, but instead of a ball, it was a brown leatherbound missal that they threw to each other. Papa came into my room; my mattress sank in when he sat and smoothed my cheeks and asked if I wanted anything else. Mama was already making me ofe nsala. I said no, and we sat silently, our hands clasped for a long time. Papa’s breathing was always noisy, but now he panted as if he were out of breath, and I wondered what he was thinking, if perhaps he was running in his mind, running away from something. I did not look at his face because I did not want to see the rashes that spread across every inch of it, so many, so evenly spread that they made his skin look bloated.

Mama brought some ofe nsala up for me a little later, but the aromatic soup only made me nauseated. After I vomited in the bathroom, I asked Mama where Jaja was. He had not come in to see me since after lunch.

In his room. He did not come down for dinner. She was caressing my cornrows; she liked to do that, to trace the way strands of hair from different parts of my scalp meshed and held together. She would keep off plaiting it until next week. My hair was too thick; it always tightened back into a dense bunch right after she ran a comb through it. Trying to comb it now would enrage the monsters already in my head.

Will you replace the figurines? I asked. I could smell the chalky deodorant under her arms. Her brown face, flawless but for the recent jagged scar on her forehead, was expressionless.

Kpa, she said. I will not replace them.

Maybe Mama had realized that she would not need the figurines anymore; that when Papa threw the missal at Jaja, it was not just the figurines that came tumbling down, it was everything. I was only now realizing it, only just letting myself think it.

I lay in bed after Mama left and let my mind rake through the past, through the years when Jaja and Mama and I spoke more with our spirits than with our lips. Until Nsukka. Nsukka started it all; Aunty Ifeoma’s little garden next to the verandah of her flat in Nsukka began to lift the silence. Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do.

But my memories did not start at Nsukka. They started before, when all the hibiscuses in our front yard were a startling red.

SPEAKING WITH OUR SPIRITS

Before Palm Sunday

I was at my study desk when Mama came into my room, my school uniforms piled on the crook of her arm. She placed them on my bed. She had brought them in from the lines in the backyard, where I had hung them to dry that morning. Jaja and I washed our school uniforms while Sisi washed the rest of our clothes. We always soaked tiny sections of fabric in the foamy water first to check if the colors would run, although we knew they would not. We wanted to spend every minute of the half hour Papa allocated to uniform washing.

Thank you, Mama, I was about to bring them in, I said, getting up to fold the clothes. It was not proper to let an older person do your chores, but Mama did not mind; there was so much that she did not

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Cosa pensano gli utenti di Purple Hibiscus

4.4
272 valutazioni / 106 Recensioni
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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (4/5)
    A delicately painted portrait of a Nigerian girl coming of age in a tightly-controlled, wealthy Catholic family. While the pace is somewhat slow, and the main character's devotion to her autocratic, violent father is as frustrating as it is well-drawn, the book is interesting and deeply believable.
  • (4/5)
    Horrible but engrossing. There was a big chunk in the middle where I couldn't put it down, because I was too worried about the characters' wellbeing.
  • (5/5)
    I really, really loved this book. The very first chapter captivated me and the book held my attention right until the last page. The writing was good- using the exact amount of description needed to bring the book to life. The characters all felt very real and believable. The story was intriguing and emotional. I definitely did not predict the ending and it was very fitting. All in all, a very enjoyable read and one of my new favourites.

    For more of my reviews and recommendations, visit my blog: here
  • (3/5)
    Purple Hibiscus is Adichie's debut novel. She introduces Kambili, a fifteen-year-old privileged Nigerian girl, along with her mother, father and older brother, Jaja. Kambili shares the daily experiences of her and her family's life and is exposed to her not-so-well-off relatives. Life inside the Kambili's home may not be so privileged after all. I can't put my finger on the deciding factor that caused me to not enjoy this book as much as I had hoped, but I do know that there were several things that made me uncomfortable. First, it took me almost half the book to become interested in the story, and the religious and political views that represented the Nigerians was unsettling. In addition, the storyline and characters both were sluggish, but they all had their purpose. Even with all my dislikes, I found it to be a well-written, good book, but not one I can rave about. I'm thinking timing played a part in my rating as well. (3.25/5)Originally posted on: "Thoughts of Joy..."
  • (5/5)
    I love those moments of serendipity that occur in a favourite second hand book shop, moments in which a hankering to return to post-colonial writers lead me to reach for a new author. In this instance it was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and I too, like one of her blurbists, noted the deliberate echo of Chinua Achebe in the very opening line of her first novel, Purple Hibiscus.As it happened it would be six years before I read it. A trip to parts of Africa inspired me to read another “coming of age” post-colonial, feminist(ish) novel, Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions . Dangarembga wrote first, and may have influenced Adichie; Achebe certainly did. But like Dangarembga, Adichie is a new generation, building on the insights of the first round of New Literaturists, building on the shoulders of the Achebes and Ngũgĩs. The terse, intercultural narrative is similar, the feminism is new. The familiar themes are there, though: coming of age as a society emerges from a hegemony that was both exploitative and yet sometimes paradoxically munificent. I do not say that lightly: the post-colonial narrative that dictates that all colonization and all Westernisation and all Christianization is destructive, evil, parasitical. It’s worth recalling for example that Botswana sought British protectorate status, that Ethiopian Christianity is as old as the religion itself, that all was not Utopia in pre-contact tribal societies. Adichie gets that. The metaphor of the purple hibiscus is a blending of DNA, if that’s the right genetic term, and underscores the entire narrative to which it gives its name. Hibiscus is not naturally purple, but with skill and manipulation and blending it can, apparently, become so. Black is not good and white is not evil. Christianity is not per se evil, nor tribal religion per se nirvana, despite some narratives that suggest this to be so. Adichie gets that. Papa Eugene, the protagonist’s abusive, destructive father is not all evil: he funds entire villages, and bankrolls the one Nigerian media outlet, the Standard, that dares to stand up to a dictatorial military government. The editor of the Standard, Ade Cocker, who sacrifices his life in the pursuit of justice, is bespectacled and jovial, an unlikely description of a martyr. Adichie gets that life is not a war comic, in which the good are handsome and the bad are ugly. Papa Eugene could so easily have been a pompous, destructive, abusive Christian bully, yet in his tortured way he bankrolls justice: just not justice for his family. Fr Amadi, the hip priest who stands as a foil to the severe and conservative Fr Benedict, stands in the narrative as a powerful symbol of compassion and justice, but those of us trained in the warning signs of pastoral care would suggest that he dangerously oversteps pastoral propriety as he permits the protagonist Kambili to fall in love with him. Yet he never exploits her love, even if he does engage in sexual brinkmanship. Kambili is a gorgeous protagonist. If Fr Amadi is undoubtedly a little in love with her, so was this aged reader by the time she left the pages with her bowed but unbroken mother. This is a coming of age novel, like Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions , but it is more clear in Adichie’s novel that Nigeria, as well as Kambili, is coming of age in all the complexity of that passage. Other characters, too have greater complexity than the secondary characters in Dangarembga’s novel: Jaja is a complex sacrificial self-offering, and with the feisty but in the end America-pliable cousin Amaka is a more fully fleshed, fifty shades of grey human being than and caricature could offer. The only reviewer Adichie has ever taken notice of is Chinua Achebe, who admired her work. I can see why. Achebe was a man who would be proud to see the torch he lit handed on to new and more complete writers. Achebe’s torch is safe in the hands of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: this is one of the finest novels, and perhaps the finest first novel of any post-modern era writer that I have read.
  • (4/5)
    Purple Hibiscus is a rather harrowing coming of age story told from the point of view of Kambili, a 15-year-old girl living with her brother Jaja and her wealthy mother and father in Nigeria, just as a military coup takes place.We discover that Kambili's father works to give his children a strict Christian upbringing while regularly inflicting violence on their mother. There are several shocking moments where we see just how far he'll go to ensure his family meet his rigid moral standards.Kambili and Jaja get some respite when they go to stay with their aunt and her three children, who seem to live a more relaxed life despite the pressure the coup places on the aunt's job as a university lecturer and their relative poverty. Kambili is encouraged to see her real potential as a person - but this has consequences when the children return home.As always with Adichie's vivid writing, Purple Hibiscus is both compelling and heartbreaking, and peopled with characters who seem to jump off the page. Having already read Americanah and Half Of A Yellow Sun, I think Purple Hibiscus isn't quite as sophisticated in developing its themes as those novels, and I also found the ending a bit hurried and perhaps less satisfying as a result. Still, it's an incredible debut and I'm very glad to have read it. I'm so eager to see what else Adichie can produce!
  • (5/5)
    amazing book-
  • (4/5)
     Slow burning comming of age book set between the secrets of a family and the political upheaval of Africa. Really wanted it to end well, as the main character is so appealingly portrayed that I really felt for her
  • (5/5)
    This is my first foray into any literature set in a country other than the US or England / Ireland / Scotland (blushing shamefully). This novel - set in Nigeria - is a mixture of literary fiction and coming-of-age with a twist of family dysfunction and violence. I knew a bit about the plot from other reviews before I began this, but did not imagine how angry I would become with the abusive father in the tale. I very much enjoyed "Purple Hibiscus" and am looking forward to reading more Adichie.I listened to this on audio book so I loved hearing the pronunciation of the Nigerian words but did often wonder how they were spelled...
  • (4/5)
    “Fear. I was familiar with fear, yet each time I felt it, it was never the same as the other times, as though it came in different flavors and colors.” (196)Kambili Achike, the fifteen-year-old protagonist of Purple Hibiscus, and her older brother, Jaja, lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They attend an elite, private school and live in a beautiful home. But their existence is anything but indulged. Their father, Eugene, is a tyrannical, religious zealot. He rules the lives of his wife and children with rigid, unreasonable schedules – their lives characterized by fear, silence, and fanatical devotion. When Enugu, wracked by government corruption and civil unrest, erupts into danger, Eugene agrees to let Kambili and Jaja go their Aunty Ifeoma’s home in Nsukka where they will be out of harm’s way. Ifeoma is a activist university professor, and the upbringing of her three children could not be more different than that of their cousins. Kambili and Jaja are stunned at the laughter and the freedom in Ifeoma’s home. Jaja, older and more mature than Kambili, soon embraces the experience of independence; but Kambili remains withdrawn, fearful even. Ifeoma’s purple hibiscus, very rare, becomes a metaphor for the efflorescence of Kambili.“The afternoon played across my mind as I got out of the car in front of the flat. I had smiled, run, laughed. My chest was filled with something like bath foam. Light. The lightness was so sweet I tasted it on my tongue, the sweetness of an overripe bright yellow cashew fruit.” (180)Adichie’s debut novel is an impressive one. She skillfully juxtaposes Nigeria’s natural beauty, the frangipani trees and bouganinvillea, with a family demoralized and broken by its father’s cruelty. Her acknowledgement of nature makes the extended metaphor of the purple hibiscus for Kambili’s transformation the more perfectly suited. And her prose is simply enchanting; this next passage, in which Kambili speaks of freedom in a way I’d never quite imagined it, is one of my favourites:“I laughed because Nsukka’s untarred roads coat cars with dust in the harmattan and with sticky mud in the rainy season. Because the tarred roads spring potholes like surprise presents and the air smells of hills and history and the sunlight scatters the sand and turns it into gold dust. Because Nsukka could free something deep inside your belly that would rise up to your throat and come out as a freedom song. As laughter.” (299)Purple Hibiscus is highly recommended. I look forward to reading Aidichie’s next novel, Half of a Yellow Sun.
  • (4/5)
    i started this book not entirely excited about reading it, i started it through the recommendation of a friend. and now i know why i listen to her recommendations. i felt myself grow with the main character of the book. i felt her stress, her apprehension, her fear. i have to say, i really enjoyed this book. thanks again jill!
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed listening to this book.The accent was charming.I was torn on the father. In many ways he was a very good man. And he obviously loved this family. Yet what he did to them was wrong.
  • (4/5)
    This is a lovely portrayal of the inner workings of a 15 year old girl. Painfully shy Kambili lives in fear and in awe of her father, a religious and community leader. She needs his approval, and strives to make him proud of her in school and life. It is not easy, and she sometimes falls short of his limitless expectations. For this she, along with her brother and mother, are punished harshly. Kambili goes to visit her Aunt and realises there is a whole lot more to the world than what her pious father has indoctrinated her into believing. She gets to know her cousins, marvels at their ability to speak freely, and also a local priest who sees more potential in her than anyone else has. The simple writing goes well with the young and shy narrator. The story told is big enough to get by without a heavy literary style. But by that same rationale a part of me feels that if I didnt have to work hard for it it isnt quite as rewarding (just call me a sucker for punishment). I still loved the journey this book took me on, and will read more of this author.
  • (3/5)
    reading this for the second time for a book group. also read Half a yellow sun, but enjoyed this more. Poignant story of a young girl with a domineering father ...her relationship with her mother and brother and her relation to the outside world. She has an intense and articulate inner dialogue but is often unable to speak.
  • (3/5)
    In another recent book I've read a character quotes that "every new film director must use all the skills they have learned at University". Pretty much the same here I'm afraid. The plot is an excellent premis for a novel, a great introduction for anyone in the Nigerian culture. However it's too wordy and not heart-felt at all. Kimbali and her brother Jaja suffer some horrific beatings at the hands of their father; yet there is little emotive writing comes through. These bits touched me only because I began to stop for a moment and think about the difference between these children and their cousins. It's cold and lacking in emotion for most of the 307 pages actually. Both the children know their is something not right with their life but they have difficulties in expressing this and become lonely children at school (again, this is something that could have been developed) unless it was meant to show the coldness of their lives by the coldness of the writing? Their mother has lost child upon child and yet still suffers the abuse from her husband. She has been encouraged by her sister-in-law time and time again to leave but as her husband is such a respected member of the community she chooses to stay. I found this a challenging read purely because of the prose not the plot. At the beginning it would only have gained a 1 out of 5 but on the introduction of Aunty Ifeoma the quality of prose rises and it becomes engaging. She is an excellent character - vibrant, thoughtful and courageous. Her children seem aloof to begin with but you realise they are questionning the life that Kimabli lives. The blurb has Kimbali aged 15 yet on reading the novel I felt she was only about 11 or so in how she comes across. The relationship with Father Amadi was unclear. She seems to love him but I was uncertain whether it was a platonic love and one born out of respect or whether it was a love she was hoping would develop between the two of them. 'Purple Hibiscus' will not have me actively seeking anything else by her at the moment.
  • (4/5)
    The book speaks of the lives of a wealthy family in Nigeria during a time of political turmoil. However, it is more about living in a household with an abusive father/husband. When the children have a chance to stay with their less-privileged cousins, they find an entirely different way of life, a life of books and laughter and spontaneity.
  • (5/5)
    Kimbali is the 15-year-old daughter of a wealthy Nigerian businessman. Her father, Eugene, is adored by the community for his philanthropy. Their home is spacious, luxuriously furnished, and immaculate. But within his home Eugene rules with an iron hand, guided by his fanatical religious beliefs. He keeps his children on a tight schedule and closely monitors their activities. He is estranged from his own father because of his refusal to convert to Christianity, and his children’s visits with their grandfather are limited to 15 minutes. When Kimbali and her brother Jaja are allowed to visit their Aunty Ifeoma and her children, they experience love and laughter for the first time. Kimbali is intimidated, afraid that she is going against her father’s will, and against God. She is also embarrassed by her lack of basic household skills. Jaja adapts more easily to his cousins’ lifestyle, and finds satisfaction in household chores, tending the garden, and playing sports with local boys. They both return home changed by the experience. All of this unfolds against a backdrop of Nigerian political unrest which threatens the lives of several characters. But this story is primarily a coming-of-age novel: Kimbali’s process of self-discovery continues, and Jaja begins to resist his father’s authority. Their abusive home environment is increasingly evident. This was Adichie’s debut novel; it was long-listed for the 2004 Booker Prize and made the Orange Prize shortlist the same year. While it was not as compelling as her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, it is beautifully written and filled with believable characters. I found the symbolism behind the purple hibiscus particularly moving:Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, do do. (p. 16)
  • (4/5)
    Beautifully written, touching story. I loved it.
  • (4/5)
    This book is set in Nigeria at a very unstable time of government. The children's father is deeply religious, yet beats his wife and tortures his children. The story follows the family through several years and the changes that they go through. I found it hard to put down.
  • (5/5)
    The words "beautiful", "touching", "amazing", "wonderful" and "enjoyable" don't even come close to describing this book. I think the only word I can find to describe it is "real", which doesn't at all reflect the perfection of writing or storytelling achieved in the pages. The author made the shortlist for the Women's Prize for Writing and is more than deserving of the notice. Her words are chosen perfectly and strung together with just enough length to make the point without rambling on. There are times the words are so well chosen that the shortest sentence makes you blink with the amount of knowledge it contains. Every character feels as real as if they were flesh and blood, standing in front of you, inviting you to their house or walking with you to their car. As I was reading the book I felt as if I had developed relationships with each of them, I would feel relief when reading about some and feel my body tense in preparation for dealing with others. I kept this book with me wherever I went so I could bring myself back to this community in Africa as frequently as possible. A world so far away from my own, became suddenly familiar to me with every page I turned.The only times I found the story difficult were when the first person narrative dealt with the abuse happening in the home, which is where the word "real" comes in, because I was so caught up in the story that I felt I had to pause to protect myself the way someone would hide from what was to come from the anger of an abuser. I can honestly say that I felt as if I lived with Kambili and her family for a short time and that I will most likely read this book again, so that I can make a return visit in the future.
  • (5/5)
    I was deeply moved by this novel. It is a heartrending story of abuse by a poweful father who is controlled by his religion. It tells the story of a rich Nigerian family and their cousins. poor Nigerians and what daily life is like in a country on the borderline of a cuop. This novel is rich in sensory detail and poignant feeling of love between a brother and sister, a twisted father, and a local priest.
  • (4/5)
    Having lived in Nigeria in the sixties, I was fascinated by this account of life there more recently. A poignant story, well-told.
  • (4/5)
    Difficult to read as a survivor of domestic abuse myself, but beautifully written and a story that captures the reader. The central character of Kambili is one that I could really identify with, and she engaged me from the first paragraph.An excellent insight into Nigeria too.
  • (5/5)
    Jaja's defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma's experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do. -From Purple Hibiscus, page 16-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel - Purple Hibiscus - is a poignant, beautifully written story. It is narrated by Kambili, a 15 year old Nigerian girl who grows up with her brother, Jaja, amid domestic violence, religious fanaticism and political unrest. Kambili and Jaja's father, Eugene, is a well-respected and wealthy man who gives generously to his church and community; and as the publisher of a liberal newspaper, he speaks out against the tyranny of a new government following a coup. But, Adichie reveals a dark side to Eugene as he elevates his religious faith to something horrifying and tragic. As the story unfolds, we watch through Kambili's eyes as she matures and is transformed into a girl able to see beauty in a world full of cruelty, able to find love where she least expects it, and ultimately to realize hope amid tragedy. Lyrical, honest, exquisitely crafted and with an ending that stuns the reader … Purple Hibiscus will resonate with those who appreciate an authentic tale. Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    This was a novel that I could not put down. Set in Nigeria, it is the story of a 15-year-old girl, Kambili, and her older brother Jaja. Their wealthy, influential, and devoutly Catholic father is incredibly strict. He schedules every minute of their days and punishes them severely for even minor offenses.When Kambili and Jaja go to stay with their Aunt Ifeoma, they are amazed at the freedom her children enjoy and get to spend some time with their grandfather, whom their father had forbidden them to speak to because he is a "heathen."The plot comes to a head when Aunt Ifeoma loses her job at the university and makes plans to move to America, leaving Kambili and Jaja dreading the return home to Papa's strict rule.I won't tell you what happens, but I will say that this book lets you experience life in Nigeria, a country where government coups are commonplace, supplies of fuel and electricity can be cut off at any time, and sometimes the only way through a police roadblock is to bribe the officers. Their way of life may be foreign to most of us, but Kambili, Jaja, Aunt Ifeoma and the rest of the characters are not.
  • (5/5)
    Purple Hibiscus, is the first novel by a masterly author. It is a nuanced depiction of family life in a fanatically religious household, wielded over by its wealthy, indomitably violent father, during the time of a Nigerian coup. What complicates the picture, and adds to the pathos, is the huge admiration that the community at large has for Eugene, the father - he funds activism against oppression, feeds his local community upon Christmas largesse, unfailingly attends Church and consistently donates to charities and his Church group - all whilst assuming a modest air.Meanwhile, his daughter Kambili, who narrates, her brother Jaja and their Mama, are the silent victims of a constant barrage of bodily and spiritual assaults, as a result of real or imagined sins, no matter how slight. The household tension is broken, however, during a Christmas visit to their local village, where Kambili and Jaja are reacquainted with their Aunty Ifeoma and her vibrant, outspoken children, Amaka, Obiora and Chima. A consequential couple of visits to their cousin’s cramped abode later, and their transformation from religious oppression begins to manifest itself. This is, of course, much to the horror of Eugene, and the two siblings must negotiate their enlightenment with care, as their world disintegrates around them.The novel is composed of three temporal parts - Palm Sunday, Before Palm Sunday, and after Palm Sunday, in that order. The effect of this is a dramatic depiction of Eugene’s violence, coupled with evidence of a slow unravelling of the family, before we go back in time to witness the transformation of the siblings, and the consequences of Palm Sunday’s events.The text is beautifully written, consistently supplementing the narrator’s growth from a frightened, naive girl, into a young lady with unleashed feelings of love, friendship and laughter, and the building of strength of character for the road ahead. It also explores the very painful aspect of domestic violence - how you may still love the hands that cause the hurt, and how the one doing the hurting is not always so evil.Overall, it is an easy read, despite the difficult themes. The characters are well-fleshed out, and in spite of the unhappiness, there is a bit of joy to be found that saves the novel from being just another depressing post-colonial novel. Adichie is further careful not to indict Christianity in the typical binaristic manner - while it is the source of Eugene’s violent fervour, it is also redemptive for others, and brings music into the lives of Kambili and Jaja. The source of their pain or joy, therefore, is not directly attributed to religion itself, but through the way in which people around them choose to use it.
  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed this book, it is all told from a young girls perspective and I felt that it invoked that mindset very well. The narrator doesn't understand really what is going on with her family or that their are ways out of her situation. Additionally, all the characters seemed very realistic, especially from a child-like perspective. Adichie did an excellent job seeing all the characters, especially the father and the cousin just as they would be.I also enjoyed the descriptions of Nigeria, older traditions were juxtaposed with new Christianity along with characterizations of festivals, food, family and school.I would recommend this to people who are more interested with novels about family, war, or Africa. It would also be very appropriate for young people. If you like a lot of plot and action you should probably look elsewhere.
  • (4/5)
    A study of catholisism in Africa and why this of all western religions is seductive to the African people. The intolerance of christianity to accept other beliefs, personalised in the father, was deeply disturbing. His nemesis, Father Amardi, whilst seemingly without the fire and brimstone drive of the father, was ultimately equally cruel to Kambali as he was unable to act upon the love which they shared.
  • (5/5)
    I'd like to emphasize the possible allegory (intended by the author, or not)that the Nation is a Family, and that the family she writes about represents the struggles of her native Nigeria. For me, this interpretation enhances her treatment of characters and plot. This book also stimulated me to search the Internet for information and photos about Nigeria (foods, plants, maps, and political analyses), of which, like most Americans, I know so little. Tagged by some as a "coming-of-age" story sadly misses the depth of this novel. I look forward to reading more from this young, insightful writer.
  • (4/5)
    Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja live in a privileged world within Nigeria, where their wealthy father Eugene can provide them with many comforts and luxuries. In stark contrast, Eugene’s sister Ifeoma struggles as a university professor to put food on the table for her children. However, for all their wealth, Kambili’s family has much less joy than her cousins’. While Eugene and Ifeoma were both converted to Catholicism by missionaries, Eugene embraced it to the exclusion of his culture and his former life, while Ifeoma was able to incorporate Catholicism into her life without rejecting her heritage. Eugene sets exacting, impossible standards for his children, who only learn to enjoy life and find out more about their family and their heritage when they are sent to stay with Ifeoma during a school holiday.One of my favorite books I read last year was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, about the Nigerian war to create the independent state of Biafra, so I approached Purple Hibiscus, her first novel, with a mix of eagerness and dread. I confess to being rather hard on first novels, and I wanted this book to compare favorably to Half of a Yellow Sun. Purple Hibiscus is not nearly as wide in scope as Half of a Yellow Sun–while political unrest in Nigeria informs the work, Adichie’s main focus in Purple Hibiscus is family and religion. Within its narrower confines, and more familiar territory, Adichie still manages to demonstrate her considerable talent as a writer, and while the book doesn’t equal Half of a Yellow Sun, the path to it from this work is clear.On the surface, Purple Hibiscus reads like a YA novel, and Kambili’s narrative voice at times seems younger than her 15 years. Yet Adichie’s oblique questioning of Catholicism/Christianity as any more valid than polytheism gives the mature reader plenty of food for thought. Eugene’s abuse of his children is at times tough to take, and while I would recommend this book to mature teenagers, their parents should be prepared to discuss this difficult issue.