Ru Freeman's Reviews > Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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's review
Jan 17, 2010

it was ok
Read in January, 2010

Maybe it was because I was reading Milan Kundera's IDENTITY and George Saunders' PASTORALIA at the same time as I was reading this - how much more divergent can one get, after all, than those three? - but something about PURPLE HIBISCUS rubbed me the wrong way. It's descriptions overwhelm the story and, in a country of much complexity, it seems that people are reduced to a metaphorical black and white. The daughter, Kambili, is used to highlight the "good" that the brutal, abusive father does in the community but there is no real sympathy there, only words. Life over at her aunt's house is almost comically cliched with its laughter and freedom and happily surmounted miseries; poverty is never quite as joyful as it is made to seem in this book.

I wonder if Adichie was trying to replicate the subjugation of independent thought which comes swift on the heels of religious fundamentalism by making her otherwise smart and observant heroine spout the platitudes she does - about her father - along with her praises to the Lord. But even if she was, it seems utterly incomprehensible that the young girl who rubs lipstick on her mouth and yearns to press her body into that of the priest's and, in fact, declares her love for him, would continue, in her internal monologues, to revere her violent father.

The only person who appears to have been transformed is Kambili's brother, Jaja, whose evolution is traced lightly and, therefore, is ultimately believable.
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