Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (2003)

Purple Hibiscus is the debut novel of the highly regarded Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  This is a great novel, a triumph of the art of the story teller.  It is narrated by a fourteen year old Nigerian girl from a very affluent Catholic family with Ibo roots. The family, the girl, her brother and their mother is rigidly controlled by the father.  He came from a family that believed in traditional tribal religious, his great same is that his own father is what he calls "a pagan".  The father is ashamed of his roots, his racial identity, seeing the ways of white petiole as superior to the traditional culture in which he was raised.  Adichie lets us feel the deep selfloathing of the father and we see how it is causative in his abusive treatment of his children and his wife.  The father is the editor of a newspaper that speaks out on government abuse and also owns a number of factories. He is basically a decent man in many ways, generous with his employees and extended family.  His children attend an elite Catholic school and have been raised in complete isolation from the terrible poverty of Nigeria.  The father very much loves his children and his wife but the harm done to his psyche by the legacy of colinialism is very powerful.  He schedules every minute of their day.  

The novel gives us a deep feel for the day to day life of the family.  In Nigerian culture reverence for parents is very important.  The father, however, cannot accept that his own father never converted to Catholicism.  He also has a sister, a professor at a university.  He reluctantly agrees to allow  his children to spend a few days at her house so they can get to know their cousins.  He tells them they can visit their Grandfather but only under his very strict rules. 

There are terribly things that happen in this novel, reflecting the violence and chaos of Nigerian society. The characters are perfectly done, finely realized.  The girl does not fully understand all that goes on around her but we see her understanding grow through her experiences.  

Purple Hibiscus is very much a family story, a story about the impact of colonialism, about the transition from a tribal Ibo society to a western society.  There is senseless cruelty, violence and corruption but also great goodness in this wonderful novel.  The narrative is very exciting and it is a foodies primer on Ibo gastronomy.  There are lush images of fruit and purple hibiscuses I greatly enjoyed having placed in my consciousness.  

I am so glad I read this wonderful novel.  I hope I can one day read her two other novels.  

Mel u

Bio Data

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.  From the author's webpage 

1 comment:

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is one of those books that I have wanted to read again. I read it many years ago and would like to read it again.