Ah, another author whose name I can’t pronounce, Chimanada Ngozi Adichie. The Nigerian author is more famous for ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, but that was 448 pages and ‘Purple Hibiscus’ was 336 pages so…It’s my thing to look up great books, and then see what else that author has written that is shorter!
This is the story of Kambili, a 15 year-old girl living in Nigeria who fears and reveres her father (I think the two can weirdly co-exist quite well). He’s a leader of the community, extremely wealthy and well respected for his acts of generosity, his piety, and his determination to speak out against corruption in the country. He is also a violent patriarch at home, regimenting his children’s lives and enacting extreme punishments for any indiscretion.
I watched Aunty Ifoema and the woman walk slowly to the door, as though weighed down by both what they had said and what they had not said.
He was converted by British missionaries to Catholicism and describes his father, who still worships in the old ways, as a heathen. It was striking just how religious everyone in the book was. Kambili’s father, Eugene being the most fanatical but her relaxed Aunt Ifoema, who fills her house with laughter, also practices Catholicism. It’s interesting given that it was the British missionaries who spread the word of God, and how non-religious Britain has become.
After a military coup, Kambili and her brother Jaja experience their own liberation by visiting their Aunt. Aunt Ifoema struggles to put food on the table, and experiences regular water and fuel shortages. But the children learn to smile and laugh in the company of their cousins.
I found the end of the book a little off. Until that point it had all been a slow burn but then she seems to rush the last dramatic twist. Apart from that I really liked this book. It made me quite angry as Eugene’s abuse escalated. I know his generosity and political work is supposed to humanise him, but I just thought he was hateful. I also don’t know anything about Nigeria. Adichie grew up there, before moving to America when she was 19. So I assume that this is an authentic depiction of life in Nigeria.