5.0 out of 5 stars Inner and outer turmoil blend in this complex story
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is actually a young adult fiction title - but it'd be a shame to limit its depth and complexity to teens, so is reviewed here as a recommended pick for adult readers as well. Set in Nigeria, it tells of a privileged teen and her older brother who find themselves increasingly at odds with their father's religious fanatic ways...
Published on April 3 2004 by Midwest Book Review
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreary dark tale...
I had every intention of wanting to love this book but will alone wouldn't suffice. It is dreary, seemingly long for it's relative size. Until the very end Kambali and her mother come across as weak and needy women enduring endless beatings while continuing to have a twisted reverence for their husband/father. The story has a depressing flatline rhythm. One that would...
Published on Oct 27 2003
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inner and outer turmoil blend in this complex story,
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first novel,
"Purple Hibiscus" is a coming-of-age story set in Nigeria during the Abacha military regime of the mid-1990s, told through the eyes of 15-year-old Kambili Achike. Kambili's father Eugene, a wealthy Igbo businessman and newspaper publisher, is in many ways a heroic figure; he is a pillar of the church, loyal and generous to his employees and home village and one of the few publishers with the courage to stand up to the military government. The same fanatic religious faith that feeds his stern public morality, however, leads him to ostracize his father and physically abuse his wife and children.
Kambili, who has lived under her father's hand throughout her life, is a shadow of a person as the novel begins. As the story progresses, she learns independence and self-reliance from her university-professor aunt Ifeoma, her teenage cousin Amaka and the iconoclastic priest Father Amadi. At the same time, the deterioration of the country and her father's increasingly abusive behavior drive the family closer to collapse.
"Purple Hibiscus" is a powerful and sophisticated first novel, and comparison between Adichie and Igbo literary giant Chinua Achebe is not out of place. Achebe's novels, though, tend toward the epic, using their characters to tell the story of their country. Adichie has also spoken in this voice, in short stories such as "Half of a Yellow Sun," but "Purple Hibiscus" is a more intimate portrait. Politics sometimes intrudes through scenes of student riots and the persecution of one of Eugene's editors, but most of the political events happen offstage and are seen through their effect on the family. For all the powerful sense of place in "Purple Hibiscus," Kambili's story is one that could happen anywhere.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely and Poignant Debut, 4 1/2 Stars,
PURPLE HIBISCUS is the story of a sister and brother, Kambili and Jaja, who, outwardly, seem to have the "perfect life" but who, inwardly, are starving...not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. The family at the center of PURPLE HIBISCUS is a strongly patriarchal family, i.e., it is definitely ruled by the father and the father is nothing if not tyrannical and religiously fanatic. Like many tyrants, Eugene, or "Omelora," as this father is known, is well thought of throughout his village and the surrounding area and is committed to improving both the political and religious scene as well as improving life for the villagers. He's charming and he's warm...but only outside of his own home. Home, for Kambili, Jaja and their mother, Beatrice, is a place of dark secrets, secrets they would never dream of revealing to the "outside world" for a variety of reasons.
Kambili and Jaja do get to escape the joylessness of their own home when they visit their much poorer but happier aunt, Ifeoma, and her children. Even though Ifeoma has trouble just finding enough food to put on the table for her own family, Kambili and Jaja are always welcome and it is there that they discover that life contains joy as well as sorrow. Gradually, Kambili and Jaja learn to relate to others, including their own grandfather, whom they have been forbidden to see because his principles do not conform to those of his son.
I found some of the characters in PURPLE HIBISCUS to be rather clichéd, especially Beatrice. This long suffering, battered wife was just a little too "stock" for me. And Ifeoma and her family were the very expression of "money can't buy happiness." No, it can't, but poverty ensures misery and Ifeoma and her family just weren't miserable enough to be realistic.
Kambili and her father were extremely complex characters, though, and they are the characters that make PURPLE HIBISCUS both interesting and engrossing. "Omelora" is a tyrant, but he is a tyrant who can't help himself, who is at odds with himself, who loves his family as much as he sometimes deplores them and who chastises himself for the pain he knows he inflicts on them. He is also a man who, though he sets inflexible rules and impossibly high standards for others, also sets them for himself. He's a man we find it impossible to like but also to completely dislike.
Kambili is also quite complex. While yearning for a life of her own, Kambili finds that her identity and her world are tied to her father and her father's opinion of her. She lives for his love and when he withdraws it, she withers. I don't know how anyone could fail to love this shy and charming girl. If you do, you must have an extremely hard heart.
Kambili's collapsing family serves as a metaphor for the collapsing government of Nigeria and this makes the book doubly sad and poignant. Ifeoma, especially, must make some very difficult choices, but Kambili will be called upon to make choices of her own as well.
Even though I've never been to Nigeria, I could identify and empathize with Kambili, to the author's great credit. And, while reading PURPLE HIBISCUS, I really felt as though I were in Nigeria. The author paints a very vivid scene of her native country, its government and its family life.
PURPLE HIBISCUS is a lovely coming of age novel and a lovely debut. I hope to read more from this young author and I hope she continues to set her novels in Africa. To me, that is one of the things that made it special. That, and the lovely and complex character of Kambili. I would give this novel four and one-half stars and recommend it without hesitation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Purple prose,
This review is from: Purple Hibiscus: A Novel (Paperback)I don't seem to be able to pick a bad book lately. "Bitter is the New Black" was the last one I read and that was funny AND disturbing on so many levels. And talk about something completely different. "PURPLE HIBISCUS" is not like anything i've ever read before. It is a great story, though it is upsetting and very horrific at points, much like McCrae's "Tour of Southern Homes and Gardens" or the book "Blood Meridian." Still, give it a try. The story centers around a teenage girl who grows up under the most horrible father. She's physically abused and all this happens in Nigeria--not the most stable place in the world. So not only is life inside the home a living hell, but life on the outside is not much better. Her realization that this is not a normal life is a hard transition for her, but with all the complex political and religious struggles going on, I can't imagine how she did it. The story is very touching and you'll love the ending. This is one book you won't be able to put down.
5.0 out of 5 stars a remarkable, lyrical book- a must-read,
This is a beautiful novel. The characters are complex and thought-provoking. I could not figure out the father character, how he seems to genuinely love his wife and kids and even suffer along as he inflicts terrible pain and torture on them. In contrast are his sister, Aunty Ifeoma, and her lively kids who may want for material things but whose spirits soar. In the background is the turmoil of Nigeria- the corruption, the politics, the shortage of fuel, the power cuts, the unrest.
When I reached the end of the book, I found myself hoping for a sequel. What happens next to Kambili, Jaja and Aunty Ifeoma's family? Someone said that you know a book is good when you reach the end and feel you have lost a friend. I felt a bit like that on the last page. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hauntingly Good Book!,
5.0 out of 5 stars "Intricately Cultural and Exposing",
By A Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly believable; precise sense of place and character,
And so, how can his family--his teenaged daughter, her brother Jaja and her mother--not love him? How can they complain when his fervor to keep them all righteous and spotless in God's eyes tips into rigidity and, ultimately, into violence?
Purple Hibiscus explores, through the eyes of its young protagonist, the dicotomy of life with a Great Man who is a dictator to his own family. The situations and the characters are utterly believable; even the scenes that made me flinch were so beautifully written that I could not dismiss the complex glue that held this family together--the economic dependence, the paternalism, the order that flies in the face of the country's chaos, and, yes, the love that can't believe that things will only get worse.
This could be a grim tale, but the complexity of the characters, the candor of the narrator and the beautifully precise sense of place raise it above its painful subject matter. The family also serves as a microcosm of the country: in spite of the power games of an inept government, the paranoia, contradictions, and lingering taint of colonialism, the broken promises across the board--be it the diversion of fuel or non-payment of state salaries--in this book Nigeria's citizens, like the family members, only run when they have no choice. And in both cases, they do so with a sense of betrayal, a wounded love.
A simply written, complicated book.
Susan O'Neill, author, Don't Mean Nothing: Short Stories of Viet Nam
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from the Algonquin stable,
Purple Hibiscus is an amazing debut novel about Kambili, a 15yo Nigerian girl who is the keeper of ugly secrets from within her privileged family, a family dominated and abused by her religious fanatic father. She is offered escape when she visits her Aunty Ifeoma, a university lecturer who is supporting her children on her small salary. A tragic conclusion slowly builds as old secrets and new tensions rise to the surface. As Kambili blossoms toward maturity, she questions values she once held as inscribed in stone. Her own turmoil is mirrored in that of her country. A startlingly good coming-of-age novel, disconcerting and thought-provoking.
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming of age amid riches and abuse,
Narrator Kambili, 15, and her older brother, Jaja, live a life of privilege in Enugu, Nigeria. Their father, Eugene, is not only a wealthy industrialist, and devout Catholic, but also publisher of an outspoken newspaper, critical of the repressive regime.
But the glittering exterior hides a rotten core. Eugene, a religious fanatic and Anglophile who despises the old ways to the extent of repudiating his traditionalist father, indulges a sadistic abusiveness when his family fails to live up to his impossible standards. He is always sorry, afterwards, for what they made him do.
Then her aunt and cousins visit. "Every time Aunty Ifeoma spoke to Papa, my heart stopped, then started again in a hurry. It was the flippant tone; she did not seem to recognize that he was different, special. I wanted to reach out and press her lips shut and get some of that shiny bronze lipstick on my fingers."
And when Eugene is persuaded (against his better judgment) to let the children visit his sister, a new world opens to them. This is no surprise, but Adichie's portrayal of the awakening - amidst a time of political turmoil and fear - is halting and fraught with danger.
Replete with beauty and horror, Adichie's novel of self-hatred, fear, and family, with its political/allegorical overtones, is a moving, sometimes breathtaking, debut.
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Purple Hibiscus: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Paperback - Sep 14 2004)
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