Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Review - Purple Hibiscus

The title, Purple Hibiscus, very much befits the crux of the tale and is indicative of the crossover of the meek children of a stickler perfectionist and a religiously fanatic father. The crossover is more from the point where they are children who are brought up to say only the most obvious and nothing extempore, and not being able to speak a sentence without stuttering, to children who become mature enough to be able to gather courage to shoulder a huge responsibility at the time of dire straits—especially the narrator Kambili's elder brother Jaja. The purple hibiscus is the shrub that grows at Kambili's aunt's house. Kambili's brother, Jaja, is in particular very interested in the color of the shrub and even brings a shoot from their aunt’s house so that he can grow it in their house. The purple hibiscus is really about Kambili’s brother Jaja.

What is surprising is the reverence and yearning that the children show, especially Kambili, towards their father in spite of his acts of flagellation. They love him in spite of his torturous dealings. 

One interesting aspect is about the presentation of the parts of the book. The Psalm Sunday chapter which is the turning point the novel is placed at the beginning and this makes us look forward to what really happened that made Jaja behave the way he did, and that made his papa behave so violently towards him.

The flow is seamless and the language is simple; it certainly is refreshing to see the simple yet striking analogies at regular intervals, throughout the novel. The Nigerian political situation and the unexpected small twists which are disguised as daily happenings in Kambili's life give the reader enough grip, seriousness, and suspense to hold on to.

As the story progresses, the contrasting elements unfurl and that too without being apparent—like the richness versus the thriftiness in the food that is cooked at Kambili's and the aunt's house; the post-colonial influences on the means of praying at the catholic churches versus the superstitious ways of the praying at the Africa's traditional temples; the abundance versus the dearth and resourcefulness in every aspect at aunt's house versus at Kambili's house; the claustrophobic and curtailed means of living for Kambili and Jaja versus the prevailing freedom of speech and the confidence with which the aunt's children are brought up; Kambili’s mother’s submission to Kambili’s dad’s harshness and her subservient and dependent attitude versus the widowed aunt’s forthcoming and independent attitude towards marriage, and much more.

Purple Hibiscus is altogether, a great debut, a good read, and a no-nonsense book! Kudos to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie! Waiting to read the book Half of a Yellow Sun...


Nina Gray said...

Will have to get hold of this book

reNUka said...

Hullo... It was an interesting read. Recently got 'Half of a Yellow Sun' as well. Let's see how that one fares. Btw, the first chapter is available online, officially.‎--

Balaji Srinivasan said...

Now that's a review that makes me wanna grab the book. :)

reNUka said...

hi there! long time... :-) thanks for that comment!