Book Title: Purple Hibiscus.
Author: Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi.
Published: 2003 (1st edition)
My Rating: 4.95/5.0. A heartbreakingly original novel on Family, Marriage, Trauma, The Nigerian Military Regimes, Religion and many more(I RECOMMEND!)
I first read Purple Hibiscus about 9-10 years ago….. I reread it recently and I will probably reread it in the nearby future.
I’ve found that Purple Hibiscus is a novel that just keeps giving and for me, it never gets boring.
With Purple Hibiscus I somehow feel like it’s a movie playing in the back of my mind…. Somehow I can see Kambili and jaja and all the other characters…. That’s how good the descriptions are!.
Back when I first read it I thought Eugene was just a tyrannical sadist, now I realize his monstrosity was mostly created (though NOT justified) by a history of abuse and by a fanatical approach to Catholicism.
Back then, I thought the book was just about their family dynamics but I realized it was about a broken country and how a broken country can create broken family ties…. with aspects like colonialism and political instability/corruption.
Domestic and Child violence/abuse are very sensitive, important & controversial topics in Nigeria and Adichie Chimamanda weaves this topics very coherently into this book.
Through the eyes of Kambili the main character, we get to see something of the inner lives of families who on the outside look “good”—even lucky—but on the inside are terribly afflicted by the disease that is Domestic/Child Violence.
The author draws the line between “disciplining” a child and plain abuse!. We see how Jaja and Kambili can barely think, feel or act on their own.
How their abusive father under the guise of “love” controls every aspect, every minute of their lives and when he is unable to do so, punishes them for it.
He sets so many rules that they can’t break under the guise of “religion” and was judgmental of others’ religions. (I am not a Catholic and have nothing against Catholics but this book did not exactly make me very fond of the religion).
He forced his religion upon them but in reality, as Kambili describes, they were not really interested in God, there were just interested in pleasing him, or not displeasing him, In essence he was their idol.
In his eyes, only his ways were right and he treated white religious people with such reverence, while looking down on fellow Nigerians which just showed his own inferiority complex. His true religion was perfection. He felt he was perfect, wanted nothing short of perfection from his family and punished them for being human.
To outsiders, Eugene looked like a “perfect” man. Rich, industrious, intelligent, generous, hardworking, godly. But those within his inner circle knew better.
In fact, we see this story through the eyes of Kambili the main character, but it was Eugene, her father who was the central figure. It was his story after all that birthed her story.
A regular young Igbo boy who during the British Colonialism of Nigeria, was taken abroad, schooled, constrained and badly abused by his guardian there (a Catholic priest) and as such grew up into a man who denied and hated his own father, hated his country, his culture and hated himself……
Is it any wonder that such a man would turn around and abuse his family?. (AGAIN, this does not justify his actions!)
It was when Jaja and Kambili were allowed for the first time to visit their aunt and her children, that they realized the family dynamic they had known ALL their lives was terribly damaged, not to talk of the effects it had on their personalities till then.
Where their house was bound with silence, control and abuse, Aunty Ifeoma’s household was bound with laughter, respect and love. And through this experience , things started to fall apart and come together….
And let’s not forget Eugene’s wife: Beatrice. Jaja and Kambili’s mother; An abuse victim AND enabler. A very silent, almost invisible, yet important character. She wouldn’t leave Eugene despite his endless abuse towards herself and even their children…. And she did nothing proactive to stop the abuse she was very aware he was inflicting on Jaja and Kambili.
Repeatedly during the story, she says how “lucky” she felt to be married to Eugene, due to his wealth, social status and the fact that he refused to take a second wife when he was pressured to. This was nothing but a depiction of her own inferiority complex and ignorance.
We also got to see how her father was actually very much like Eugene himself in the way he was influenced by the British and Catholic. And of course, Eugene liked and respected her father over his own father.
It took one final and very dangerous act by Eugene to finally make her take action…. In a way no one saw coming!. What she did gave a whole new light to story and brought the book to a crashing end…..
In all, this is a beautiful story with so many lessons, even far more than what I have mentioned above, a book you should definitely read!.
Did you enjoy this review?. Have you read this book?. Please let me know your thoughts about it in the comment section below!.
You can also check out my review of: “We Should All Be Feminists” another book, by this same author!💐
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