When one reads Purple Hibiscus for the first time, one might easily conclude that the father is cruel. But on closer examination, one (especially female readers) becomes infuriated that the woman never said anything. She bore all the maltreatment meted to her and her kids in ‘dignified silence’! Well, this is just a reflection of what happens in some African families. The man is the ‘lion’ of the family and no one dares question his judgment, not even his wife! So many women are victims of this and what complicates the situation is their silence. So what is the solution since the victims are afraid to speak?
Well, below is a review of Purple Hibiscus done by a fellow blogger, Adura Ojo. Please read and let us know what you think! What would you do if your father/spouse poured boiling water on you and says love is the reason for his actions? Do you think the decision by Kambili’s mother to poison her husband was justified? We would like to hear from you!
I had no idea of what to expect from Chimamanda Adichie’sPurple Hibiscus. However, there was one thing I was clear about after reading her two later works: Half of a Yellow Sun and The Thing Around Your Neck – I was in for an experience of storytelling heaven. The first thing that one notices about Adichie is her style, her language. It is like she is talking to me. It is accessible, lyrical and sophisticated. It is sophisticated because it is what it says on the surface, yet it runs deep. A simple phrase gets one thinking: “I wondered when Papa would draw a schedule for the baby…Papa liked order” (P.23)
The structure is well executed. We start from the point of rebellion and then work our way backwards and forward again. This works because Adichie wastes no time in quickly confronting us with the issues albeit in that understated style of hers. She tells us enough to keep us in the flow while dropping little bombs along the way. The point of view is appropriate in style and tone. The story is told in the fifteen year old voice of Kambili. Readers are introduced to her brother Jaja, ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’. It is clear from the outset that all is not well in the Achike household. Kambili tells us in the first few opening lines:
“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. We had just returned from church”. (P.3)
Kambili continues later in matter of fact fashion to let us know that the heavy missal was meant for Jaja but it missed him completely. The reader is immediately invited into a world – Kambili’s world and that of her family – where violence and religious fervour collide and make good bedfellows. The love affair between these two subjects is made the more potent because ‘Papa’ is a big man. He is a factory owner and newspaper publisher who bank rolls the local church with generous donations and is always the first to receive communion along with his family. Papa’s ritual of a ‘love sip’ where he invites both Kambili and Jaja to sip boiling hot tea is unsettling because it is a taste of things to come. Like Kambili said: “I knew that when the tea burned my tongue, it burned Papa’s love into me” (p.8). Then there is the jaw-dropping minute by minute control that Papa exerts over the Achike household 24/7. Adichie excels at easing out each of those bombs on us in a matter of fact way. Kambili casually mentions Papa’s time allocation to the task of school uniform washing:
“We always soaked tiny sections of fabric in the foamy water first to check if the colours would run, although we knew they would not. We wanted to spend every minute of the half hour Papa allocated to uniform washing” (P.19)