Top positive review
A captivating family drama.
Reviewed in India on 21 August 2016
“From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award winning Nigerian author, has penned an immensely absorbing family drama in her literary fiction novel, Purple Hibiscus where the author weaves the tale of a young Nigerian girl who belongs from a very rich and affluent family where the father of the family is a religious fanatic and used to torture his wife, his daughter and his son in the name of Christ if they commit a slight mistake, but when the young girl goes to live with her aunt during the military coup invasion, she learns ugly secrets about her not so perfectly religious family.
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.
Kambili, a fifteen year old girl, lives under constant fear of her religiously fanatic father who is an ardent Catholic man and owner of some factories as well as contributes for a newspaper where he freely expresses his opinion about politics and the country. Kambili and her elder brother, Jaja and her mother live in a palatial mansion but their lives and happiness are dominated by the man who is a strong believer of rules laced with religion. So if Kambili or Jaja or her mother makes even a slight mistake, they are punished physically to repent and to learn a lesson about making mistakes. But pretty soon, Nigeria falls under the rule of a military coup where political scandals, corruption, poverty and public execution became a common affair, and Kambili's father, who is an influential and affluent man in the society, sends away his kids to his sister's house, who lives inside an university campus, in a different town. In her aunt's house, where her children laugh out heartily and the household is always happy even though they are very poor, Kambili realizes the real definition of freedom and also tastes it along with her brother. But is it easy to escape from her father's wrath who pushes her down as well as denies from any freedom of childhood happiness to his own children?
This is the very first time that I grabbed my hands on an Adichie novel and that too her debut book which bagged quite a lot of literary awards. Although unfortunately, the story is not that remarkable as most reviews say so. Why? Well mainly because of the fact that the author has failed to depict an intimidating man through the narrative of his 15-year old daughter, and also the author's own hometown which is a fractured projection into its deep cores, thereby I failed to visually or mentally form an image of a country dominated by a military coup or its people facing grave troubles because of the coup.
The author's writing style is incredible, eloquent and extremely redolent that readers will grab the readers with its flair right from the very start. The narrative is extremely sorrowful as the author strikingly captures the pain and the longing for a free childhood through a fifteen year old girl's voice, that the readers will find it easy to comprehend with even though the narrative has so many layers within. The pacing is moderate, as the author unravels the story through dimension and underlying stories of a country falling apart besides the story of a young girl and her family.
As already mentioned before, the author's portrayal of Nigeria is really vivid, yet it is projected through fractures thereby stopping the readers to recreate the complete portrait of Nigeria. Apart from that, the author strongly depicts the then corruption, riots, denial from basic amenities like water to the common people, public execution, scandals when Nigeria came under the rule of a military coup that set a fear into the hearts of its countrymen. The dusty roads, the mass, the churches, the garden in Kambili's mansion, the rare purple hibiscus, the people, the language, the food and the culture, all these aspects are vividly captured that will let the readers to take a peek into the heart of Nigeria.
The characters from this book are well developed, especially the central character and the protagonist of the book, Kambili, who is drawn with enough realism to make the readers connect with her simple yet fearful demeanor. Although there is not much evolution into her demeanor, but somehow she learns to enjoy the basic happiness that a teenager must experience while she goes away from her home, and later that makes her a mature woman. Her sadness will deeply move the readers as she narrates her cry for freedom from her dominating and torturing father. The rest of the supporting characters are also well etched out but fails to leave a mark into the minds of the readers. And also the author failed to make the readers grasp the mentality of a strong and rich Catholic family man and his ideals.
In a nutshell, this enduring story is not only poignant but thoroughly enlightening that will make the readers lose themselves into the world of a fifteen year old Nigerian girl whose only wish is freedom for herself, for her brother and mother as well as for her own country.