When words flow before you like a peaceful, innocent river, you know the author has accomplished the task at her hand. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche is one such book. It was just unputdownable.
The story is set in post colonial Nigeria beset in a turmoil of political instability and economic crisis. Kambili, a fifteen year old, is the protagonist of the story who is born into a wealthy family and who lived her childhood under the dominance of her tyrant father, Eugene. Eugene is a devout Catholic, rather a religious fanatic. Kambili and her brother's childhood was spent doing things that would make their father proud and happy. Kambili never had her own thoughts or opinions. She did everything as per the schedule set by her father. Though from an affluent family, the kids never tasted freedom until they go to stay with their father's sister and kids in another town. A sister who is liberal unlike their father. Their cousins had opinions unlike them. They had the capability to argue unlike them. Kambili always wondered how her father would take such behaviour and shuddered. Even smallest of their mistakes, which were considered sins, were liable for punishments by their father. They were burnt, their fingers brutally broken, they were beaten until they collapsed. But despite all this Kambili loved her father because that is how she was brought up. These punishments were not considered punishments by the child. For her, it was a normal thing as her father had always made them believe that it was because of their sins they were punished. He hit them brutally then at the second moment would hug them and cry, not because he punished but because they sinned. The father character is portrayed with lot of complexities in the book. He is a religious fanatic, a tyrant, somebody who has disowned his own father for not converting to the faith he believed. He even stops his kids from seeing their grandfather as he followed pagan rituals and so was considered a heathen. However, he selflessly did charity; he fought for truth.
Like Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, this book too shows how the West deceitfully played with the innocence of the people just to rule them. They rebuked the pagan culture and converted the people of Africa, calling their Gods heathen, their rituals and beliefs superstitious, their colour and race deceitful. Few people like Eugene, Kambili's father, were so anglicized that they only believed in everything White and English. Their Igbo language was detested. They were rebuffed from having their kind of names while confirmation in the church.
All in all, it's a lovely book written in an effective and simple language with a ruthlessly hard-hitting storyline. I lived through it with the protagonist. 😊