Monday, November 17, 2008

Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was originally published in 2003. My hardcover copy is 307 pages. Purple Hibiscus was Adichie's first novel. Since her novel Half of a Yellow Sun was on my best of 2007 list, I had planned to read Purple Hibiscus, but it was always past over for another book. The recent review by Michelle at 1morechapter put it on the top of my list and for that I will always be grateful. I do believe that I may like Purple Hibiscus even more than Half a Yellow Sun, but certainly equally as well.

Fifteen year old Kambili is a gentle narrator whose telling of her family's story belies the pain underneath the surface. It is a story that confirms the truth that wealth isn't necessarily dependent on money and that how things appear on the surface may hide the truth underneath. The novel is broken into sections: Palm Sunday; Before Palm Sunday (the bulk of the novel); After Palm Sunday; The Present. An exquisite novel. Rating: 4.5

Synopsis from the publisher, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

From the outside, fifteen-year-old Kambili has the perfect life. She lives in a beautiful house, has a caring family, and attends an exclusive missionary school. She's completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less than perfect in her wealthy Nigerian home. Although her papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home. He looms over his family's every move, severely punishes Kambili and her older brother, Jaja, if they're not the best in their classes, and hits their mama if she disagrees with him. Home is silent and suffocating.

But everything changes once Kambili and Jaja visit Aunty Ifeoma outside the city. For the first time they experience freedom from their papa. Jaja learns to garden and work with his hands, and Kambili secretly falls in love with a young, charismatic priest.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, tension within the family escalates. And shy Kambili must find the strength to keep her family together after her mother commits a desperate act.

Purple Hibiscus is a stunning debut that captures the fragile beauty of a young woman's awakening at a time when both country and family are on the cusp of change.

"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." opening sentence.

"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." pg. 9

"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." pg. 10-11

"We had to sound civilized in public, he told us; we had to speak English." pg. 13

"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." pg. 15

"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." pg. 16

"What is a worshipper of idols doing in my house? Leave my house!" pg. 70

"...sometimes life begins when marriage ends." pg. 75

"I wanted to tell her that....we did not watch TV. Papa did not pencil in TV time on our schedules." pg. 79

"Eugene has to stop doing God's job. God is big enough to do his own job. If God will judge our father for choosing to follow the way of our ancestors, then let God do the judging, not Eugene." pg. 95-96

1 comment:

1morechapter said...

So glad you liked this, too! She's such a great writer. She has a new one coming out in the middle of next year that I'll probably end up buying -- something I rarely do nowadays.