Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Purple Hibiscus

Rate this book
A previously published edition of ISBN 9781616202415 can be found here.

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in a beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home—a home that is silent and suffocating.

As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father’s authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins’ laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together.

Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.

336 pages, Paperback

First published October 30, 2003

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

116 books40.1k followers
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria.

Her work has been translated into over thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Top Ten Best Books of 2013. Ms. Adichie is also the author of the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck.

Ms. Adichie has been invited to speak around the world. Her 2009 TED Talk, The Danger of A Single Story, is now one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time. Her 2012 talk We Should All Be Feminists has a started a worldwide conversation about feminism, and was published as a book in 2014.

Her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Ms. Adichie divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
44,578 (39%)
4 stars
48,718 (43%)
3 stars
16,067 (14%)
2 stars
2,695 (2%)
1 star
851 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,463 reviews
Profile Image for Ebony.
Author 7 books160 followers
February 19, 2012
I was biased towards Adichie as an excellent writer because that’s what people said. It wasn’t the book I originally was going to read by her but it was her first so naturally, I thought I would start at the beginning. I felt so oppressed reading the book but then I realized that was her genius. She never said the word oppression. For the first two-thirds of the book, she never described pain, but all the details made me feel like something was terribly wrong not just at home but also in the country. The oppressive regime. The oppressive father. The oppressive religion. The oppressive heat. It sounds like a depressing story, but it’s not. A teenager finds her voice. She learns to laugh. She learns to run and play in a place where purple hibiscus grows. The balance is so joyous despite all of the terrible events that aren’t articulated but are still felt by the reader as if one were reading every word. I dug this book even though I didn’t understand most of what was going on. I’ve never been to Nigeria. I couldn’t pronounce any of the Igbo. I know little to nothing of the country’s history, language, and culture and I loved that she didn’t introduce me. It wasn’t a welcome to my world story; it was a slice of life that left it up to me to fit into her character’s lives. I enjoyed doing the work.

There are no literary flaws. The plot turns on a sentence. Tight. Concise. Complex characters. I loved the auntie because I wanted to be like her. I was curious about Jaja. I hated the Mom, but I sympathized with her. I hated the father more, but he was speaking truth for the country against the leadership and he fed so many people and he loved his family the best way he knew how, kind of. He was breaking them because he was broken. I understood why Kambili wanted to make him proud. He was cruel like the white men who had trained him were cruel. So much powerful stuff though such parsimonious words. So much feels so inaccessible for the main characters and for me and yet their narrative is so beautiful because of its simplicity. Not the thin volume kind of simplicity, but the carefully crafted simplicity that great writing is made of.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,195 reviews1,818 followers
February 22, 2023


Eccomi qua, sono tornato, sono stato via per qualche giorno.

Sono andato in Nigeria: ero lì quando c’è stato un colpo di stato e le cose si sono messe davvero male, la gente spariva e non se ne sapeva più nulla.
Oppure, veniva uccisa, ma i responsabili restavano impuniti e apparentemente ignoti, anche se tutti sapevano che erano proprio gli stessi che avevano fatto il colpo di stato.
Il paese sembrava in un progressivo stato di decadimento, come se fosse avviato a un’ineluttabile scomparsa.


Ma è stato bello, un bellissimo viaggio e un’esperienza unica.

Ho conosciuto Kambili e suo fratello Jaja, due adolescenti vittime di un padre a suo modo grandioso, e anch’egli vittima: vittima di una religione nera, ottusa, chiusa, cieca, violenta, asfissiante – è difficile conoscere una persona che intreccia bene e male in modo così stretto, entrambi frutto della religione, di quella cattolica, ovviamente.

Manifestazione a favore della Repubblica del Biafra.

Poi, per fortuna ho conosciuto anche la sorella del padre, la zia Ifeoma, un altro personaggio molto affascinante, con la sua nidiata di cuccioli d’uomo (Amaka, Obiora e il piccolo Chima, così teneri, così saggi, così vicini allo spirito delle cose, all’anima della terra e della vita).

Zia Ifeoma mi ha presentato un suo amico davvero speciale, Padre Amadi, un sacerdote che non dimentica di essere prima di tutto un uomo e riesce a trasformare quella brutta religione nera, ottusa, chiusa, cieca, violenta, asfissiante in qualcosa di luminoso e allegro.


Kambili mi ha insegnato che quella gran voglia di fare e dire cose che mi porto dentro da quando sono nato, sempre bloccata da una forza a cui non sapevo dare un nome, una forza perennemente vincitrice, si chiama semplicemente timidezza.
Kambili è il paradigma della timidezza, la sua fragilità mette una gran voglia di proteggerlo, di fargli conoscere una magia che non sa praticare, il sorriso, la risata.

Ho visto crescere i due fratelli adolescenti, ho visto Kambili e Jaja passare da cespugli informi a giunchi snelli, ma resistenti, e infine diventare alberi eterni.


Chimanda Ngozi Adichie mi ha mostrato il mistero dietro ai gesti e alle cose di ogni giorno, un filo d’erba, il volo di un insetto, un piatto sbreccato, la distanza fra due corpi, un sorriso.
Chimanda Ngozi Adichie firma un altro libro prestigioso, antecedente a La metà di un sole giallo, ma che io ho letto conseguentemente.

Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,863 followers
March 22, 2015
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, naïve 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?
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.7k followers
April 9, 2021
Have you ever been reading a book and you're just sort of coasting along, mostly enjoying it but not really getting much out of it, thinking "huh, I wonder when the plot will start," and then suddenly the book is over?


Well that was me reading this book.

And it's not like it was character-driven. I love me a character-driven book. Nothing makes me feel smarter and more entertained. It's like going to coffee with a friend you haven't seen in a long time so you have ALL the fun stuff to catch up on.

Anyway. While I was reading this, I simultaneously somehow didn't feel like I knew or cared about any of the characters, so that'd be a bust.

This was just pretty meh for me, unfortunately.

Bottom line: What's to like!


the rare occasion in which i, the world's leading advocate of short books, will say that this should have been at least 100 pages longer.

review to come / 2 stars

tbr review

my brain is in shambles at this red book with purple in the title
Profile Image for Adam.
Author 27 books90 followers
July 26, 2012
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 home…” Even 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 more 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 explains: “… Papa-Nnukwu is a pagan.” Ifeoma refutes this by saying that he is not a pagan but a “…traditionalist.” 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 has: “… a 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 more informal, even though materially more difficult, life in Nsukka provides Kambili with an increasingly more attractive contrast to the rigid, but more affluent, life that she and her brother lead in Enugu. As the political situation impinges more 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).
Profile Image for Chantal .
343 reviews832 followers
December 8, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Lisa .
153 reviews
August 10, 2011
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 more 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!
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews159k followers
September 6, 2017
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- http://bookriot.com/2014/12/19/inboxo...


In 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 étagère.” 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 Pan

from Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Books by Virgos: https://bookriot.com/2017/08/28/books...
Profile Image for Dianne.
567 reviews936 followers
September 12, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Beatriz.
834 reviews721 followers
July 21, 2020
Que Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie escribe bien, nadie lo puede poner en duda. La lectura traspasa los sentimientos, emociones y el despertar de la adolescencia de la joven Kambili, la hija menor de una familia privilegiada y adinerada en una Nigeria convulsa políticamente. Pero esta familia no es todo lo envidiable que pudiera parecer desde afuera. Tanto la madre como sus dos hijos viven oprimidos por el miedo constante de no cumplir las expectativas del padre, quien practica la religión católica -y sus preceptos más recalcitrantes- al más puro estilo medieval. Eugene, el padre, es un personaje complejo: hay partes en que realmente lo he odiado, pero otras me ha causado una profunda pena.

La vida ordenada y sometida de Kambili sufre un vuelco al tener que pasar una temporada con su tía Ifeoma (hermana de su padre) y sus primos, en un entorno completamente opuesto al que está acostumbrada. Allí y junto a la influencia del padre Amadi, un misionero de lo menos convencional, Kambili descubrirá el amor en todas sus facetas, el respeto a sí misma y hacia los demás y el verdadero sentido de la familia.

El libro me ha gustado pero no ha logrado engancharme a su lectura, puede ser por su cotidianeidad y por el sentido de inevitabilidad que rezuma sus páginas, que se extiende hasta el final, salvo por un pequeño giro que, la verdad, no me lo esperaba.

En todo caso es un libro recomendable, sobre todo para conocer a esta aclamada autora nigeriana y su novela debut.

Reto #45 PopSugar 2019: Un libro cuyo protagonista pertenece al mismo grupo marginalizado que el autor / en inglés "own-voice books"
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews768 followers
October 20, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,625 followers
May 28, 2016
Yet another beautiful and honest story from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that hits you in the heart and stays with you for a long time to come. This one is about a Nigerian family who has its secret. To begin with, a lot of things are veiled as you only get to see things from the protagonist's, Kambili's, perspective. However, as the story continues we realize that there is more behind the story than you think, and the horrible truth is heart-breaking and thought-provoking.
I really like Adichie's books because I find them educating and beautifully written. The only thing that bothered me with this one was the ending, which in my opinion was questionable. Nevertheless, I simply adored this book, and I appreciate it for its simplicity and the impact it has made on me.
Profile Image for Monika.
174 reviews272 followers
May 12, 2022
How self assured we sound when we disapprove of a person who does not stand behind the morality lines we have drawn! In Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie challenges this moral authority of ours.

Against the backdrop of a failing military regime — I wonder if there is a military regime which is not crumbling — Purple Hibiscus is narrated by an adolescent Kambili, who is concealed by the high walls of her father's making. Kambili, her brother, Jaja and her mother, Beatrice, are dictated by the thoughts of their father, Eugene, a pious and charitable Christian. Eugene, just like every other character in the novel, is extremely complex. Adichie does not employ a black or white lens while drawing her characters.

Invoking Chinua Achebe's debut novel, Things Fall Apart, from the beginning of her work, she delicately sews the tale of a modern Nigeria - a Nigeria that has grown from Achebe's pre-colonial land to Adichie's post-colonial dishevelment. I, by no means, am trying to glorify the pre-colonial era but the contrived swarm of post-independent Nigeria is close to my reality. The potholes in the roads, the lumps in powdered milk, the size of meat "the width of two fingers pressed close together and the length of half a finger", the silence of Ade Coker's daughter – all of it are contiguous with my home.

The novel, while being terribly distressing, also soothed my soul knowing that there is an end to pain and discomfort - either your life changes tracks or your life ceases to exist - either way, pain abates. I wish Chimamanda read the reviews that are written of her works. That way, I would have been able to tell her how deeply she is revered. I would have been able to tell her that just like when she received a mail from Achebe's son who told her how much their family loved her work, I would have been able to express my gratitude to her for telling me a historical and familial saga of a Nigeria which was falling apart. I wish, just like her dense closure, to ream our dark future - a future which seems too predictable at the moment.
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,345 followers
August 25, 2016
“From the beginning men used God to justify the unjustifiable.”

----Salman Rushdie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award winning Nigerian author, has penned an immensely absorbing family drama in her literary fiction novel, Purple Hibiscus where the author weaves the tale of a young Nigerian girl who belongs from a very rich and affluent family where the father of the family is a religious fanatic and used to torture his wife, his daughter and his son in the name of Christ if they commit a slight mistake, but when the young girl goes to live with her aunt during the military coup invasion, she learns ugly secrets about her not so perfectly religious family.


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, a fifteen year old girl, lives under constant fear of her religiously fanatic father who is an ardent Catholic man and owner of some factories as well as contributes for a newspaper where he freely expresses his opinion about politics and the country. Kambili and her elder brother, Jaja and her mother live in a palatial mansion but their lives and happiness are dominated by the man who is a strong believer of rules laced with religion. So if Kambili or Jaja or her mother makes even a slight mistake, they are punished physically to repent and to learn a lesson about making mistakes. But pretty soon, Nigeria falls under the rule of a military coup where political scandals, corruption, poverty and public execution became a common affair, and Kambili's father, who is an influential and affluent man in the society, sends away his kids to his sister's house, who lives inside an university campus, in a different town. In her aunt's house, where her children laugh out heartily and the household is always happy even though they are very poor, Kambili realizes the real definition of freedom and also tastes it along with her brother. But is it easy to escape from her father's wrath who pushes her down as well as denies from any freedom of childhood happiness to his own children?

This is the very first time that I grabbed my hands on an Adichie novel and that too her debut book which bagged quite a lot of literary awards. Although unfortunately, the story is not that remarkable as most reviews say so. Why? Well mainly because of the fact that the author has failed to depict an intimidating man through the narrative of his 15-year old daughter, and also the author's own hometown which is a fractured projection into its deep cores, thereby I failed to visually or mentally form an image of a country dominated by a military coup or its people facing grave troubles because of the coup.

The author's writing style is incredible, eloquent and extremely redolent that readers will grab the readers with its flair right from the very start. The narrative is extremely sorrowful as the author strikingly captures the pain and the longing for a free childhood through a fifteen year old girl's voice, that the readers will find it easy to comprehend with even though the narrative has so many layers within. The pacing is moderate, as the author unravels the story through dimension and underlying stories of a country falling apart besides the story of a young girl and her family.

As already mentioned before, the author's portrayal of Nigeria is really vivid, yet it is projected through fractures thereby stopping the readers to recreate the complete portrait of Nigeria. Apart from that, the author strongly depicts the then corruption, riots, denial from basic amenities like water to the common people, public execution, scandals when Nigeria came under the rule of a military coup that set a fear into the hearts of its countrymen. The dusty roads, the mass, the churches, the garden in Kambili's mansion, the rare purple hibiscus, the people, the language, the food and the culture, all these aspects are vividly captured that will let the readers to take a peek into the heart of Nigeria.

The characters from this book are well developed, especially the central character and the protagonist of the book, Kambili, who is drawn with enough realism to make the readers connect with her simple yet fearful demeanor. Although there is not much evolution into her demeanor, but somehow she learns to enjoy the basic happiness that a teenager must experience while she goes away from her home, and later that makes her a mature woman. Her sadness will deeply move the readers as she narrates her cry for freedom from her dominating and torturing father. The rest of the supporting characters are also well etched out but fails to leave a mark into the minds of the readers. And also the author failed to make the readers grasp the mentality of a strong and rich Catholic family man and his ideals.

In a nutshell, this enduring story is not only poignant but thoroughly enlightening that will make the readers lose themselves into the world of a fifteen year old Nigerian girl whose only wish is freedom for herself, for her brother and mother as well as for her own country.

Verdict: A captivating family drama.
Profile Image for James.
430 reviews
February 9, 2017
Whilst not quite in the same league as ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ (‘Purple Hibiscus’ is neither as accomplished nor as ambitious in scope) – ‘Purple Hibiscus’ is nevertheless a very strong and affecting novel.

Set again in Nigeria and although told against a backdrop of civil unrest and corruption, this is very much focussed on the family and on the characters immediate domestic situation. Told by, and seen through the eyes of the main protagonist – the desperately shy fifteen-year-old Kambili, this is to some extent a coming of age story about growing up in a privileged family, experiencing violence at home along with all the complicated and complex emotions associated with that. There is perhaps another contrast here with ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ – where the violence (whilst affecting all) was experienced and committed largely on and driven by the bigger political stage.

As with ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, there are good, strongly written and believable characters here who you want to know more about. Again there is a feeling of authenticity and believability to this novel.

Other important and broader themes central to the story of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ and covered well, focus on religious oppression and its associated divisions, the clash between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, sin and retribution, the divisions within family and in society, privilege and disadvantage – maybe the main theme is just that – division and the struggle for reconciliation?

This is a thought provoking and engaging novel covering universal themes – recommended.

Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
672 reviews4,302 followers
October 27, 2020
“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew.”

Purple Hibiscus is a story weighed down with oppression. The oppression of religion. An oppressive father. Oppressive heat. A country under an oppressive regime. But there is also the slightest hint of freedom.

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. But all is not as perfect as it seems in their household. As Nigeria begins to crumble under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to stay with their aunt and cousins, where laughter freely rings throughout the house.

This is my second Adichie novel and although I didn’t love it as much as Americanah, I was still enthralled and moved by this relatively straight forward story. It’s a beautifully touching coming-of-age story told from the perspective of Kambili.

Kambili’s father is a man with two very different sides to his personality. He does so much for his community, is looked upon with respect and admiration, but behind closed doors his family is subject to abuse. It was interesting to read about Kambili’s relationship with her father, the way in which she strived for his approval and the love that she had for him, regardless of how he treats her family. Such relationships can be complicated and Adichie explores it with the finesse that I would expect her to.

My hatred for Kambili’s father was only matched by my love for Aunty Ifeoma. She’s so vibrant and full of life. A truly charismatic presence in the novel. I just LOVED her. I also loved reading about Kambili’s growing infatuation with Father Amadi. Their interactions just felt so charged.

Adichie is quickly becoming a favourite author for me. She’s certainly on my auto-buy list. I’d recommend picking up Purple Hibiscus if you like books that have beautiful writing and explore family dynamics. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for disco.
599 reviews220 followers
March 7, 2018
Purple Hibiscus is a brilliant read, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes with understated passion. I love the story and how the family interacts with each other is so interesting.

Why I have to give it a 4 star: Lisette Lecat narrated the audio. Although she is a south African native... she is white... and she has a British accent. I find this pretty inappropriate and distracting since this entire book is based on a young girl of color and her family. Because of this, I felt I was unable to connect to the story as well. Not to mention all of the intense swallowing and gulping that was happening. Come on, you can't edit that out?? It sounded like she was having to take long breaks throughout where she would just gulp down a huge swig of water. I was pretty surprised and disappointed by this.
Profile Image for Irene.
481 reviews94 followers
January 20, 2019
Esta historia es un viaje de un crecimiento personal. Una novela maravillosa, capaz de erizar la piel.
De cómo poco a poco el mundo y la vida se va abriendo camino, como los pétalos nacen del capullo de una flor, revelando libertades, ideas, derechos, sueños y anhelos......
Una protagonista luchadora, una heroína del siglo XXI.

Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
905 reviews1,818 followers
August 19, 2020
“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.”

What a beautiful and heartbreaking tale!
Profile Image for Sarah (Presto agitato).
123 reviews161 followers
March 4, 2016
Chimamanda Adichie is one of those rare writers who has a gift for seeing as much as for writing. Her prose is evocative yet precise, and the story is carefully structured and well-paced. The most striking aspect of this novel, though, is the nuance of the characterizations. The main characters are all multi-layered, with aspects of their personalities revealed a little at a time, quietly, resulting in a picture that is rich and real. Even minor characters who make only brief appearances, like the woman who braids hair at the market sitting next to her basket of snails, leave an impression. Adichie has a way of making you look twice at small details with a subtle yet revelatory emphasis.

This isn't a story of absolutes. Here, as in life, good people do bad things, bad people do good things, religious sincerity can result in both great kindness and terrible cruelty, and a country can be both a beloved home and a place of repression. The choice of responses on both the family level and on a larger scale is the same--resist? submit? escape?--but there are no easy answers.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,117 followers
November 22, 2017
I was pleased to open this book as one of the picks during a year + with the "Postal Book Swap F" group. This is our second year send books around and the picks are entirely secret until everyone has seen everything.

I had previously read and enjoyed Americanah and always thought I might go back and read Adichie's previous works. I also have Half of a Yellow Sun on my shelf, unread.

I loved this story, and it resonated deeply because of my own experiences with my own father. And I think she does a good job of showing that no matter how much privilege you have, if you aren't safe at home, you do not have a good life. I really felt for Kambili and Jaja.

(Thanks Connie!)
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,005 followers
February 27, 2016
Adichie has an incredible talent for making the reader lose themselves in the story she has created. I could feel the gritty winds of the harmattan, and the bumpy, potholed roads between Enugu and Nsukka; see the blooming purple hibiscus and the dancing Mmuo spirits. I loved Adichie's inclusion of Igbo words, contextualised or explained so that I was never uncertain of their meaning. I actually had more trouble with the vocabulary of Catholicism, not being religious myself, and had to look up many of the terms. Yet it was these small additional details that enhanced the sense of time and place in the novel. It made it all the more real to read the brief, yet violent moments of physical abuse. The family home was full of the tension and silence that is born of fear. What a comparison it made to the home of Aunty Ifeoma, where anything could be said and laughter filled the space.

In dealing with themes such a familial assault, political uncertainty, wealth, colonialism, religion, and morality, Adichie has created a book that is both specific and universal. Her skilful writing and personal experience place the setting firmly within the book's Nigerian setting, but the examples and lessons she draws from human character have a far wider relevance.

While reading other reviews, I noticed that many seem to suggest that this is the worst of her books. If so, I say, brilliant...I already have both Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah to read next.
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,718 followers
August 17, 2015
“I laughed because Nsukka’s untarred roads coat cars with dust in the harmattan and with sticky mud in the rainy season. Because the tarred roads spring potholes like surprise presents and the air smells of hills and history and the sunlight scatters the sand and turns it into gold dust. Because Nsukka could free something deep inside your belly that would rise up to your throat and come out as a freedom song. As laughter.”

This debut novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is full of expressive prose just as brilliant as this one uttered by Kambili upon her return visit to the one place that gave her a voice and a chance to understand what life could really be outside the judgmental and abusive authority of her religiously fanatic father, Eugene. Fifteen-year old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a prosperous but sheltered life with this authoritarian father and their submissive mother. Domestic abuse and violence are sadly a recurrent theme in their household, and many incidents left me feeling quite angered and sorry for the children and their mother. Kambili narrates, “Fear. I was familiar with fear, yet each time I felt it, it was never the same as the other times, as though it came in different flavors and colors.” Despite the fear, however, Kambili respects her father and works very hard to earn his approval and love. “I knew that when the tea burned my tongue, it burned Papa’s love into me.” Jaja, on the other hand, while a victim of this abuse as well, is introduced as having a bit more of a self-assertive personality, beginning with a refusal to take communion at church one Sunday. This rebellious nature grows quite rapidly throughout the book. “Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with the undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do.”

There is a great contrast in this novel between the Igbo culture of the children’s grandfather, Papa Nnukwu, and the Catholic fervor of Eugene, who is Papa Nnukwu’s son. Eugene goes so far as to call his own father “heathen” and “pagan” due to his unwillingness to convert to Catholicism and will not allow Papa Nnukwu within the walls of his own home. His children are not allowed to see their grandfather save for the very rare several minute visits that are permitted to them. Kambili is confused by this and struggles with the conflict between her conviction in her father’s views and with her own private thoughts about her grandfather. “I had examined him that day, too, looking away when his eyes met mine, for signs of difference, of Godlessness. I didn’t see any, but I was sure they were there somewhere. They had to be.” When Kambili and Jaja leave their parents to stay for several days in Nsukka with Aunty Ifeoma, Eugene’s forward-thinking sister and university professor, they finally get a taste for what it is like to be out from under the strain of their father’s watchful eye. Aunty Ifeoma is a strong presence and her three children live a completely different life from that of their cousins Kambili and Jaja. At the dinner table, Kambili thinks “I had felt as if I were not there, that I was just observing a table where you could say anything at any time to anyone, where the air was free for you to breathe as you wished.” Her cousins are allowed to speak their mind without the fear of unreasonable punishment. Catholic followers as well, this family does not exhibit any of the fanaticism we see in Eugene. While staying in Nsukka, the children are also introduced to Father Amadi who shows them a gentle and caring side to Catholicism. He takes Kambili under his wing and gives her a reason to finally use her voice. She learns about love and happiness as she develops a very strong emotional attachment to Father Amadi. “I had smiled, run, laughed. My chest was filled with something like bath foam. Light. The lightness was so sweet I tasted it on my tongue, the sweetness of an overripe bright cashew fruit.” This relationship was the most poignant part of the novel, in my opinion.

Now for some minor faults I noted in this book. I had a bit of difficulty settling into this initially. It took some time for me to become engaged with the characters. While the writing was superb, I felt that the characters were a bit too slowly developed. Although this was told from Kambili’s perspective, I had a hard time attaching myself to her during the first part of the novel. While I certainly felt very sympathetic towards Kambili and her mother and brother, I didn’t feel a real connection but had a sense of distance from them. This eventually changed further along in the book, at least with Kambili, but was a negative point for me at first. I also felt the plot was a bit loose at times. Sometimes events felt drawn out while others were rushed. Perhaps these little flaws are a result of this being Adichie’s first novel. The Nigerian setting is absorbing and the language is just so lovely; I am very hopeful that any further work written by Adichie can only have improved. She did have an interesting twist to the story which I enjoyed as well, but won’t divulge any more here. These positive points all point me in the direction of reading her next piece of writing. 3.5 stars go to Purple Hibiscus.
Profile Image for Santy.
78 reviews80 followers
August 13, 2020
"—A veces mostrarse desafiante es bueno —explicó tía Ifeoma—. Es como la marihuana, no es mala si se le da buen uso."

¡Segunda lectura de Adichie! Sigo sosteniendo mi agrado por su forma de narrar, sabe hacerlo con habilidad y, por lo tanto, mi experiencia con ella definitivamente no termina acá. 

¿Qué me pasó con esta novela? En primer lugar, quizá haya jugado en contra haber leído Medio Sol Amarillo en vez de su debut, porque no siento que estuvo a la altura. Se me hizo más pesada y más larga (a pesar de ser mucho mas corta). El final no me disgustó, aunque comparto en que se volvió todo más acelerado y abrupto hacia esta parte.

El argumento y la trama fueron realmente interesantes, son la salsa de la autora: política, desestabilidad social, colonialismo y, en este caso, suman el fanatismo religioso y la violencia familiar. Hay escenas bastantes tristes y desesperantes que conmueven por su verosimilitud con la realidad. Adichie siempre se luce en cuanto a la ambientación, el narrar cada detalle necesario para reflejar esa realidad y situación que la población vivía día a día con precisión. La incorporación de costumbres y algunos dialectos en igbo enriquecen la lectura.
Con respecto a los personajes nace un inconveniente: no conecté con Kambili siendo que es la protagonista y narradora de la historia. Al comienzo, la neutralidad que sostenía o su falta de personalidad, hacían parecer a la narración en tercera persona, no aportaba mucho como narradora protagonista. Además, al estar tan adoctrinada muchas de sus actitudes o pensamientos me fastidiaban y, si bien con el desarrollo va a mostrar cierta rebeldía, nunca me terminó de cerrar. Por otra parte, la tía Ifeoma me encantó, su personalidad tan libre y no sometida fueron una gran ayuda para continuar. Muchos otros personajes no pude entenderlos en cuanto a sus actitudes (como Jaja) pero al no vivir ninguna de esas cosas, no juzgo.

"Era algo que practicábamos a menudo, nos hacíamos mutuamente preguntas de las cuales ya conocíamos la respuesta. Tal vez fuera para evitar hacernos las otras preguntas, aquellas de las que no queríamos saber la respuesta."

Otro hecho que destaco de la novela es un mensaje que dio. El cómo Kambili y Jaja eran de clase alta y tenían todos los privilegios mientras que su Tía y sus primos no; sin embargo, al ir de vacaciones a la casa de estos últimos notaron que, a pesar de la precariedad, había algo que ellos no tenían: la risa. Una felicidad desligada de lo material. Además de un hogar lleno de valores como la libertad y la rebelión. 

¿Que si recomiendo el libro? No estoy seguro, creo que, en todo caso, no lo des-recomiendo :). No es un mal libro, está correcto y muchas de sus escenas van a causar algo en el lector.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,463 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.