This wonderful book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recommended to me by my dear Goodreads friend Anne you should be following her, not only is she lovely but she writes amazing reviewsWe did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to knowPurple Hibiscus tells the story of 15 year old Kambili She lives at home with her brother and her parents From the outside Kambili s wealthy family seem to have it all but looks can be deceiving and Kambili s home life is far from comfortable She, her brother and mother all live in fear of Kambili s father Eugene To the wider community he is a charismatic man who people respect, is generous with his wealth and is a vocal supporter of just causes with his newspaper.but at home there is another side to him He is religious to the extreme and rules over his family with fear and violence He is both physically and mentally abusive to his family There is no joy in Kambili s home, there is no laughter everything is regimented and sterile Eugene even treats his own ailing father with coldness and refuses to let his children have normal contact with their grandfather as he has not chosen the catholic faith and is viewed as a heathen Eugene is a deeply complicated character a man living in a world between old gods and new gods, a man deeply ashamed of himself and his heritage, a man who is charitable to the extreme to those who follow catholic teachings but who views all others as heathens who are damned for eternity it could be very easy to have painted this character as a one dimensional hateful figure and I do utterly hate him, but Adichie wrote his story with such care and attention to detail that I as a reader could understand him, how troubled he is at times I even pitied him that is an amazing skill as an author Eugene believes that his way of life, his punishment of his family is nothing than repentance and that this is the way of GodEverything I do for you, I do for your own good, Papa said You know thatBut to me the most utterly heart breaking aspect of this story is that Kambili doesn t seem to realise that she is oppressed by her father She loves him and worships him She is proud of him She treats him with an almost reverential respectBut I knew Papa would not be proud He had often told Jaja and me that he did not spend so much money on Daughters of the Immaculate Heart and St Nicholas to have us let other children come first Nobody had spent money on his schooling, especially not his Godless father, our Papa Nnukwu, yet he had always come first I wanted to make Papa proud, to do as well as he had done I needed him to touch the back of my neck and tell me that I was fulfilling God s purpose I needed him to hug me close and say that to whom much is given, much is expected I needed him to smile at me, in that way that lit up his face, that warmed something inside me.But I had come second.I was stained by failureThere is a constant sense of tension throughout the pages of this novel, the characters are constantly repressing their feelings for fear of retribution until the point when Kambili and her brother Jaja take a trip to visit their Aunt Ifeoma Aunt Ifeoma is Eugene s sister and she is aware of her brother s religious zeal and tyrannical behaviour towards his familyEvery time Aunty Ifeoma spoke to Papa, my heart stopped, then started again in a hurry It was the flippant tone she did not seem to recognise that it was Papa, that he was different, specialIfeoma tries to encourage Kambili and Jaja, she introduces them to a different way of living, introduces them to their cousins and shows them how family life should be When Kambili and Jaja are visiting Ifeoma something happens to the writing style too and I as a reader felt the characters relaxing ever so slightly And Kambili begins to blossom in her own very shy and quiet wayIt was what Aunty Ifeoma did to my cousins, I realised then, setting higher and higher jumps for them in the way she talked to them, in what she expected of them She did it all the time believing they would scale the rod And they did It was different for Jaja and me We did not scale the rod because we believed we could, we scaled it because we were terrified that we couldn tThis is a beautiful and heart breaking coming of age story set against the backdrop of political and social unrest in a post colonial Nigeria Kambili is such a wonderful main character My lovely goodreads friend Anne called her a most ordinary heroine, she is just like you or I That is what is so captivating about her I just wanted to jump into the pages of this novel and hug her I wanted her to know that she was special, that she was worthwhile I shed so many tears reading some of the passages in this book how Kambili did not realise that she should not be punished like she was, that she wasn t deserving of such violent penance view spoiler There was an old rule in the Catholic faith that you do not eat for an hour or so before you receive the Body of Christ at Mass However there was one particularly harrowing moment in the book when Kambili got her period just before Mass Her mother gave her some Panadol for her menstrual cramps and told her to eat a small bowl of cornflakes so as not to be taking the pain medication on an empty stomach Eugene discovered this and beat everyone with his belt shoutingWhy do you walk into sin Why do you like sinhe was a deeply unhinged character who was deranged by his zealousness hide spoiler My official end of year project is reading backlist from authors I just fell in love with this year, and Adichie s stunning debut novel got me off to a fantastic start This is the story of 15 year old Kambili and her brother Jaja Their father is a Big Man in their Nigerian community He is a devout Christian, and keeping his family on the narrow path of the faithful is his primary focus in life, no matter what it takes He is verbally and physically abusive, and his family lives in fear of him When Kambili and Jaja go to spend a week with their aunt and her children, they begin to see their father for what he is, and everything changes.Adichie s writing is engaging from the very first page, and as Kambili and Jaja s story goes on, it becomes difficult to watch but impossible to look away I can t recall the last time I felt such a knot in my stomach as I read a book This is the kind of book any writer would be proud to claim at any point in their career That it was a debut is simply incredible.From Inbox Outbox December 19 Enugu, Kambili and her brother appear privileged However, their father, a religious zealot, is tyrannical Efficient, Adichie s first sentence says it all Things started to fall apart at home when my brother, Jaja, did not go to communion and Papa flung his heavy missal across the room and broke the figurines on the tag re When the siblings are sent to their aunt s near the university, they are happily exposed to a different world A searing debut, Adichie s attention to detail flowers, cooking, music distracts from the terror invoked by her father, Eugene, which widens eyes and skyrockets blood pressure Connie Panfrom Buy, Borrow, Bypass Books by Virgos 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 HomeWhen 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 You can also read the full review here She seemed so happy, so at peace, and I wondered how anybody around me could feel that way when liquid fire was raging inside me, when fear was mingling with hope and clutching itself around my ankles Purple Hibiscus is the first book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I ve read, but I can guarantee it won t be my last I loved this book so much and felt deeply connected to the characters and story It was such an insightful and thought provoking read, I couldn t put it down and was utterly absorbed in these characters lives.The novel is narrated by 15 year old Kambili who lives in Nigeria with her parents and older brother, Jaja Her father is an extremely wealthy man in the area and so they live in a beautiful house, the children go to one of the best private schools and it seems the family has it all The reader quickly realises, however, that looks can be deceiving Kambili, Jaja and their mother live in constant fear of Kambili s father, Eugene, who is a religious zealot and rules over his family with the utmost authority, often resorting to mental and physical abuse Eugene is very generous towards the wider community, as long as they are Christians, but rigidly determines his family s every action by, for example, writing detailed daily schedules for his kids There is no joy, laughter or freedom of speech in Kambili s household, to the extent that Kambili and Jaja don t even dare to talk openly with each other We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know But then, one day, Kambili s aunt and her cousins come to visit and they end up convincing Eugene to let Jaja and Kambili spend a week at their house Gradually, Kambili s and Jaja s eyes are opened to a different life and the privileges that other children their age experience.This book was amazing The writing was very different from what I expected of a novel categorized as literary fiction It was accessible and easy to fall into, straightforward but not in a negative way Adichie doesn t overly decorate her words and the prose is concise yet she still manages to infuse her words with the emotion and sorrowfulness befitting the story.The characters are extremely fleshed out and complex Eugene is a character you hate, and yet you can understand him and his moral dilemma He is deeply ashamed of his country and heritage, almost shockingly charitable to those who have conformed to Catholicism, but treats those who have not such as his own father as heathens and does not even deign to speak to them He is obsessed with the idea of sin, which results in him dictating his family, and comes across as an unhinged character who is being consumed by his own religious fanaticism It would have been so easy for Adichie to make him the villain, to have him be irredeemable But instead she made him so human that, even though I hated him, I also felt pity.I loved Kambili as a narrator She was written masterfully Kambili isn t special or even particularly strong She doesn t fully comprehend what is going on in her life, doesn t understand that the way her father treats her is unacceptable, doesn t rebel against his authority Instead, she tries to please and appease him in every way she knows how She loves him, worships him, believes him to be the great man everyone around her tells her he is This made her so incredibly relatable to me I was worried I would start finding her frustrating after a while but fortunately that didn t happen Her actions reflected the abuse she has gone through and I wanted to jump into the book and give her a hug so badly It was what Aunty Ifeoma did to my cousins, I realized then, setting higher and higher jumps for them in the way she talked to them, in what she expected of them She did it all the time believing they would scale the rod And they did It was different for Jaja and me We did not scale the rod because we believed we could, we scaled it because we were terrified that we couldn t I also appreciated the insight into Nigerian culture as well as what colonialism means for a native population The story is set against the backdrop of a recent military coup and we get small glimpses into what is going on in the country through the worsening circumstances of Kambili s family, but the book isn t about that It is and remains a book about family and their dynamics, as well as Kambili s inner turmoil and growth Purple Hibiscus is a beautifully told coming of age story full of tension and perfectly paced It was both enlightening and harrowing, but also gave me a strange sense of nostalgia I recommend it to everyone and cannot wait to read my next book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Really good debut novel that is at heart a family drama, but also a look at race, politics, social unrest and religious fanaticism I love Adichie s writing and the characters she creates here are memorable and believable Highly recommend. A father husband who is physically abusive, extremely authoritarian, rigidly Catholic, yet extremely generous toward his community drives the action of the novel When his children, Kambili the narrator and Jaja, go to live with their aunt they witness and begin to experience autonomy Nigerian political strife is merely a backdrop in this novel Eugene, Kambili s father, runs a paper and finds himself having to take his printing underground to escape the authorities Ifeoma, Kambili s aunt Eugene s sister, loses her University job because she was suspected of supporting student riots But the book is not about the political scene, it is about the family, the changes the family goes through as they learn about each other, and the changes that Kambili struggles with as she realizes she can hold her own opinions and make her own decisions.Adichie does a masterful job of presenting multi dimensional characters in a realistic world Though I do not have any first hand experience of life in Nigeria, Adichie never leaves me feeling like I do not understand some aspect of life there, but the tone is never didactic She has found the perfect balance of being sufficiently descriptive while never allowing the descriptions to become tedious An extremely well executed first novel Aunty Ifeoma writes to her niece in Nigeria from America There are people, she once wrote, who think that we cannot rule ourselves because the few times we tried, we failed, as if all the others who rule themselves today got it right the first time It is like telling a crawling baby who tries to walk, and then falls back on his buttocks, to stay there As if the adults walking past him did not all crawl, once. It is particularly appropriate to be reading this around the time of the presidential election in Nigeria, in which, for the first time in its history, the incumbent president conceded victory to his opponent in a peaceable transfer of power Adichie has written, here, a magnificently controlled, perfectly modulated parable of rule by tyranny and repression, by a complex perpetrator who succeeds in appearing benevolent and munificent to the outside world although he is a cold and calculating control freak at home Don t believe anyone who tries to dismiss this as a YA novel of a young girl s awakening, this is not teenage angoisse at pimples and popularity stakes This is for grown up people. Toward the end of Purple Hibiscus, it occurred to me that the character of Papa could be a metaphor for Nigeria and Kambili, the sheltered, na ve young daughter of a wealthy businessman, the Nigerian people Papa, gifted with an intelligence that holds so much potential, instead wields his power with the cruel, unsparing hand of a megalomaniacal dictator He crushes, but does not defeat, the spirit of his hopeful, innocent daughter Adichie is such a master of character ambiguity It is easy to hate Papa for his fanatic religiosity and his sociopathic control of his family, but here is a Big Man whose wealth supports his community he provides fuel and food to families one step shy of poverty he pays school fees so children can rise above and become leaders Just like Nigeria, that breaks the heart over and over with corruption and civil war, Papa is a force that cannot be stemmed without consequence You wonder if the heart itself is corrupt, and what could have been done to channel that energy for good instead of ruin Purple Hibiscus is fragile, just like the flower of its title, just like its narrator, Kambili It is told with gentle beauty, in striking contrast to the pervading dread and tension that underlies the narrative There is domestic tension for fifteen year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja, who fear coming in second at school, for second simply will not do at home Their days are regimented, following a strict schedule of study and worship established by their father Mama is all too often in the middle, taking the brunt of Papa s cruelty, literally with her body, figuratively with her spirit There is the political tension, as coups ripple through Nigeria, shaking an already crumbling foundation Power and fortunes can change hands overnight, and you sense that Papa s brutal hand at home is a reflection of the political reality, as well as a way to maintain control in one area of his life because it could so easily be taken away everywhere else Kambili s salvation is found in the home of her paternal aunt, the irrepressible Auntie Ifeoma, and her cousins Beyond the antiseptic confines of her father s estate, Kambili discovers a world of affection and chatter, independence, noise a ripe and vibrant Nigeria a place where she belongs that is free of fear and violence, a hopeful could be, just beyond her terrible what is I wasn t quite certain what to make of Father Amadi s character His affection for the impressionable Kambili made me extremely uncomfortable I felt he took sickening advantage of a vulnerable young girl, yet Adichie paints him, and their interactions, in a glowing, soft focus light that is generous beyond a school girl crush Again, her skill at creating ambiguous relationships and multi faceted character shines through, but I squirmed at Kambili s obvious need for the priest s approval and the blurred line he crosses in offering his support In her singular gorgeous, confident voice, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivers a sincere coming of age story of a young girl living in under constant threat of domestic and political violence It is at once deeply personal and universal It is wholly unforgettable And you will be left wondering, what is forgivable Wonderful book Among the top 20 that I ve signed as editor I have really enjoyed reading Purple Hibiscus by Nigerian born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche An admirer of her compatriot, the writer Chinua Achebe, who wrote, amongst other things, Things fall apart, she begins her novel with the words Things started to fall apart at homeEven if the use of these words is purely coincidental, they provide a very apt summary of what is going to happen during the following 300 pages.The story is narrated by 15 year old Kambili She and her brother Ja Ja are the children of Eugene, a wealthy industrialist living in the town of Enugu Their father, who can best be described as a religious fanatic nutcase, loves them dearly but needs them to conform to his every ambition for them Thus, coming second in class rather than, is worse than failing completely.The tale begins soon after there has been a coup in Nigeria Eugene, who edits a newspaper that refuses to kowtow to anyone, employs an editor, whose critical writing attracts the fatal attention of the new regime s hit men His death does nothing to ease the stress he always imposes on himself, and this in turn causes him to punish his children excessively to the point of causing them serious injury At times he behaves like a Crusader, defending the faith of his own children by resorting to cruelties, which seem totally incompatible with the parental affection, which he always professes after inflicting a terrible punishment.Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene s widowed sister, lives and teaches at a university in Nsukka She has three children, is also Christian, but has a far easy going approach to religion than her brother For example, her children are allowed to watch television when the erratic power supply allows, and are also permitted to see, to spend time with, her and Eugene s father, Papa Nnukwu, who lives in Abba.Eugene and Ifeoma s father is not Christian, and has no desire become one When, early in the book, Aunty Ifeoma takes Eugene s children to see their grandfather, Kambili and Ja Ja are reluctant to get out of the car to greet him because, as Kambili explainsPapa Nnukwu is a pagan. Ifeoma refutes this by saying that he is not a pagan but atraditionalist. Eugene, who will have nothing to do with his father apart from sending him money, is not pleased that his children have had contact with a pagan, even this special one.Against his better judgement, Eugene allows his sister to take his children to spend a few days in her home in Nsukka On this first visit, Kambili and Jaja are like fish out of water in Ifeoma s home Ifeoma, who is a no nonsense, larger than life, open hearted person, lives in a crowded book filled flat a complete contrast to the orderly home in which Eugene and his family live Kambili s cousins regard her and her brother as oddities, and the reverse is true Ja Ja begins to adapt to the new environment, but Kambili, fearing her father s disapproval, fights against adapting.Enter Father Amadi He is a new member of the chaplaincy of the University of Nsukka, young and attractive He dresses casually and is a frequent visitor at Aunty Ifeoma s house When he first meets Eugene s children, and says Nsukka has its charms , Kambili thinks that he hasa singer s voice, a voice that had the same effect on my ears that Mama working Pears baby oil into my hair had on my scalp. And thus begins her infatuation with a man who has taken the vow of celibacy.Kambili s first visit to Nsukka is brief, but is the first of many for a variety of reasons, which I will not disclose to spoil the book for those intending to read it The informal, even though materially difficult, life in Nsukka provides Kambili with an increasingly attractive contrast to the rigid, but affluent, life that she and her brother lead in Enugu As the political situation impinges on Eugene s life, the environment and atmosphere in his sister s home in Nsukka becomes increasingly appealing to Kambili, as does the prospect of seeing Father Amadi Gently and beautifully, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche describes the downfall of the family both in Enugu and in Nsukka, drawing us gradually towards an extraordinarily tragic ending In unfolding her story, she introduces the reader to the customs, foods, and many other aspects of Nigerian life without, as so many writers tend to do, making her narrative seem like a series of chapters of a book, which might be titled something like Introduction to Nigeria Read The Purple Hibiscus You won t regret it PS Throughout the book the author refers to the Igbo language I have only just found out that Igbo is another spelling of Ibo or Ebo and they all refer to an important Nigerian ethnic group.