by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus is the story of a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili, and describes her life under the constraints of her father's strict regime. When life in the city becomes dangerous during a military coup, she is sent away to stay with her aunt where she eventually finds love and happiness.
Written from Kambili's point of view, it is a powerful story that is remarkable for the subtlety of the telling. Papa, a newspaper owner committed to reporting the truth about state corruption, revered by the community for his generosity, is in many ways a monstrous figure. At home he is authoritarian and bullying, narrow-minded and intolerant, yet he is motivated by profound religious beliefs. And, although his love for them is beyond doubt, his cruelty to his family in order to keep them on the path of righteousness is chilling.
The delicacy of the relationship between father and daughter is especially painful: locked to Kambili's fear of her father is an unquestioning love and belief. She describes how she would "snuggle into Papa's arms when harmattan thunderstorms raged outside, flinging mangoes against the window netting and making the electric wire hit each other and spark bright orange flames. Papa would lodge me between his knees or wrap me in the cream blanket that smelled of safety." And even after she finally breaks away from the security of his violence and begins to become independent, she remains devoted to him.
Like most Nigerian novels, Purple Hibiscus necessarily deals with the tension between Catholicism and traditional religion, but Ngozi Adichie also tackles the more recent problems associated with an African state emerging, as Kambili does, from the destructive legacy of a paternalist power.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize First Best Book award for Purple Hibiscus. Welcome to another wonderful Nigerian writer.
Read our interview with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie