Book Review: Purple Hibiscus

This month, I’m reading some modern classics with focuses on non-American, non-British cultures. This book popped up when I went on a search for African fiction. The author is Nigerian and American (or at least has places to live in both countries), so I’m excited to see what this book has in store.

The Book

PurpleHibiscusPurple Hibiscus
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2003
Amazon Link

Like the other books this month, this one isn’t in my usual speculative genres. However, what interests me about this book especially is the memory of a book I read a long time ago set in a similar time period in Nigerian history. The backdrop of the unstable postcolonial Nigeria is intriguing, and I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

As a note, the book is supposed to be YA, but it is of considerable enough length.

Non-Spoiler Review

Wow.

This book was beautifully written. It was quiet, and the story didn’t really have a plot so much as this slowly revealed situation and character, but it was done in such a manner that I read this in 2 sittings (rare for me). Though this was definitely YA and touched on common YA themes like abuse (yeah, don’t read if parental abuse bothers you) and coming of age, Adichie does it in such a truthful, detailed manner that the feeling of the characters just pervades your senses.

The characters are brilliant. The main character – Kambili – is richly created, and her silence speaks volumes. Papa, who was a terrible father and abusive, was built from a very deep background and was so complex that you had to feel sorry for him, too. Aunty Ifeoma’s strength and Father Amadi’s encouragement are beautifully incorporated.

I don’t even know if I can describe the setting adequately, but the cultural mishmash of Western, Nigerian, and even Eastern (there was a vase with women wearing Kimonos on it – I was so astounded at this detail!) cultures blended in the most impressive way. The book wasn’t racist, either, but you could feel this oozing racial bias. The black characters even had this awful, infernal feeling of inferiority due to some of the lingering colonial oppression and ideas which were so effectively yet quietly stated in the book.

100% recommend to anyone looking to expand their international pallete.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

In this book, Kambili and her brother Jaja suffer through some horrible things at the hands of their father, but they believe God wants their suffering in order that they might improve. The material wealth of the family is also presented as a reason God has blessed them, that they are moving on the right path. It’s a dastardly method of gaslighting that I thought Adichie portrayed in a breathtakingly real fashion.

This contrasts with the relative freedom of Aunty Ifeoma’s house, where there is no finger breaking or standing in bathtubs while boiling water is poured on your feet. Kambili and her brother grow to enjoy this freedom, and their desire for it leads to bravery which their large, overbearing father punishes them too far for.

AND THEN THE MOM POISONS HIM OMG.

The whole time, the mom was like “oh, he pays for us, he’s great,” but then she finally grows a spine when Papa nearly kills Kambili for owning a painting of her “heathen” grandfather. It was a magnificent twist and a great way to end an otherwise rather reserved book.

Next week:

Are there a lot of months with a 5th Monday this year? I feel like there are.

Unlike back in June, I can guarantee I won’t be reviewing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie. So don’t expect it.

Reading List – August 2020

International writers have tended to flow swiftly past my radar. With books by British and American writers so prevalent, it’s easy to get lost in the cultures I already know the most about.

But with new translations, internationally flavored American writers, and global authors who (through colonization, I guess) have mastered English literature, that needs to change. Welcome to an international month of reading!

The Kite Rider – Khaled Hosseini

518-tcto9clThis is one of those books which do fit the modern ideas of popular. About a culture which isn’t commonly written about in Anglospheres, The Kite Rider is on my radar purely as extremely dependent on the Afghan culture and political situations. Written not too long after 9/11, I can’t imagine how tense this is going to be. I also hope it helps me learn more about the country which my own nation invaded. The history of Afghanistan is rich and far deeper than “Osama launched an attack on America.” The people – especially women – there have suffered much at the hands of the Taliban. I hope this book weaves history into it well.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

51l2b3fbhymlPart of why I haven’t read this before was the fact that it was, in original Swedish, called Men Who Hate Women. To me, a modern millennial who thinks the current incarnation of the feminist movement has a lot of good in it, that seems dangerously… against my sensibilities. I’ve openly said before that I don’t like books with senseless levels of sex or violence, and I get the distinct feeling that’s what this book is full of. I don’t actually promise to finish this book, but since I do enjoy a nice mystery every once in a while, I’m going to give this a whirl.

Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

PurpleHibiscusThere’s a new trend of African literature – especially in English – that promises to kick off exciting stories and bring fresh perspectives. I’ve heard of this book before and am interested to read something part of this new movement, even if I know relatively little about the set-up.

This book also reminds me of a book I read a long time ago – middle school, I believe. I don’t remember the title, but it was about political strife in Nigeria and I enjoyed the exciting story. There’s plenty of historical material from Africa to work with.

The Leftovers: Something from YOU?

Do you have a published book and a method of purchasing it that isn’t sketch as hell?  I need indie books to read, and this year’s slots are nearly filled!  Let me know if you have something you’d like me to peruse!

See my old reviews here