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Jan 23, 2012

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  5:36 AM

Series:     N
Genre:      Literary/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Anchor (September 14, 2004)


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 home.

When 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. 

  • Kambili is a fifteen year old girl growing up in Nigeria. She is also the narrator who takes us through her life with her family.
  • Jaja is her older brother. He is becomes a significant figure in the story as he shows early rebellion towards his father very early in the story.
  • Papa (his name is Eugene), a tyrant and religious bigot who looks down on his people in favour of the white man in Nigeria.
  • Mama suffers her husband’s extreme cruelty in silence as she tries to hold her family together.

  • Had I not read The Pursuit of Happiness by Douglas Kennedy at the beginning of last year, I would say this is the most emotionally charged and disturbing book I have ever read in my life. But as I have, I can’t help but feel that this book is the African version of the Pursuit of Happiness. What is therefore HOT for me is that I could I could compare this debut novel by Adichie with the likes of writing veterans such as Kennedy.
  • I love Chimamanda’s writing style. Her language use is simple and yet is constantly weaving rich and colourful emotional tapestries. This brings to mind the overwhelming sadness I experienced as I came to realised the severely abusive conditions under which the mother and children are subjected to by the father, to the extend that he was responsible for two miscarriages and cruel and unusual forms of child discipline. It being an exceedingly patriarchal society, you also come to wonder if this is the norm in most traditional Nigerian households.
  • I was extremely entertained by some of Kambilli and her grandfathers opinions and prejudices of the missionaries that came to Nigeria with their God. Here are some lovely ones:
In this quote Kambilli describes a moment in a church service given by her white priest (Father Benedict) whom, after seven years, the congregation still refers to as “our new priest”:
 “Perhaps they would not if he had not been white. He still looked new. The colours of his face, the colours of condensed milk and a cut-open soursop, had not tanned at all in the fierce heat of seven Nigerian harmattans. And his British nose was still as pinched and as narrow as it always was, the same nose that had had me worried that he did not get enough air when he first came to Enugu. 
Her grandfather is a traditionalist and does not understand the concept of the Western God and here says:
One day I said to them (them are the missionaries): Where is this God you worship? They said that he was like Chukwu, that he was in the sky. I asked then, Who is the person that was killed, the one that hangs on the wood outside the mission? They said he was the son but that the son and father are equal. It was then that I knew that the white man was mad. The father and the son are equal? Tufia! Do you not see? That is why Eugene can disregard me, because he thinks we are equal.
  • Whenever I read a book written by a Nigerian author I realise how closely linked to reality the story is. So much so that I never know where the fiction begins or ends. In Purple Hibuscus, Chimamanda does not deliberately seek to portray the bits of Nigeria and Nigerians which paint the best light but rather shows the darkness as well using a diversity of characters to portray the hypocrisy and corruption that permeates all spheres.
  • Towards the end I you see a shift in the personalities of the children towards their parents and I would have liked to see things come to a more obvious head instead of having the surprise of the father being poisoned to death by the mother so quickly and quietly.
  • There is generous use of Nigerian terms which I wish were also featured in a glassary section. I feel that these could hamper the readers experience because for me to get the meaning and understand the context I had to ask my husband most times for translation (he is west African and the language is his). 
Purple Hibuscus is one hectic book. It is by turns heart warming,, heartwrenching, dark and uplifting. Its real, honest, and I guarantee more than one sniffle.  As disturbing a book as it is, it is also quite unforgettable.I loved it.


  • You can also get your Kindle or Paperback copy at my online book store: Fabulosity Galore
  • Book source: I bought this book in Nigeria and enjoyed it so much I decided to share it with you.
  • If you're interested reading more of my reviews then click HERE.
  • If you would like to request a book review or you would like to guest post here feel free to email me:

About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


  1. Sounds like a wonderful read, something I would put on my TBB list. I like the honesty in books which attempt to describe aa country's internal turmoils as of the people.

  2. Nice review. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    (Twitter: @a_iki)

  3. Now this sounds like one I would really enjoy! It's going on my TBR list. Very nice review.

  4. HI Wendy, almost ohice this novel for the recommend read. On my list it goes. will purchase from your site.

  5. Saludos, Wendy Ewurum!

    How are you? Thank you for visiting my blog at A Golden Life! I so appreciated your presence and lovely words and am encouraged this early Tuesday morning to post my first entry of the New Year after or before I bow to my editing. Indeed, it's true in my soul: writing is the marriage of imagination and rewriting.

    I enjoyed reading your review of Adichie's "Purple Hibiscus." Now there is one young writer who has been an intriguing, literary hibiscus for me since she first graced the publishing horizon. Thank you!

    After reading the above review, I traisped over to your Review page and enjoyed your take on Kennedy's "The Pursuit of Happiness." Another revealing review...

    Peace and blessings,



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