Purple Hibiscus Book Review

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Purple Hibiscus is a novel written by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie is a Nigerian writer whose works include novels, short stories and nonfiction. She’s best known for her themes of politics, culture, race, and gender. Purple Hibiscus’ debut novel was first published by Algonquin Books in 2003. 

This multi-dimensional novel covers the heavy topics of family abuse, the turmoil of adolescence, and political instability. 

Purple Hibiscus is set in postcolonial Nigeria, a country weighed down by political instability and economic difficulties. The main character is Kambili Achike, age fifteen for most of the book, a member of a wealthy family in Enugu State, dominated by her strict Catholic father, Eugene– whom she calls Papa. The story recounts the dissolution of Kambili’s family as a result of her dad’s abuse. 

Kirby Flanagan, sophomore, said, “When I was first starting it definitely came off as very religious which was a big part of the book. It conveyed the prompt very clearly and stayed kind of poetic. There were very pretty moments in the book and it communicated what it was trying to.”

London Crotty, sophomore, said, “At first I thought it was gonna be a religious propaganda book but as I went on I realized it was so much deeper than that.”

A common critique of the book is that the author’s portrayal of Kambili’s home life provides far too incomplete a depiction of Papa. Very different from Kambili’s broken home, Auntie Ifeoma’s house is filled with laughter, discussion, opinions and freedom. This atmosphere is so different from the tightly regimented schedule Kambili and Jaja are used to that at first Kambili barely opens her mouth.

To close the book, Adichie ended with the image of rain clouds “bringing new rain”. The final image of the rainclouds relates to the hibiscus and other flowers of the novel as well, as the new rains mean new plants have the potential to grow, just as the Achikes and Nigeria are given new potential for freedom.

Crotty said, “I think the ending is really poetic with the rains being previously used for sorrow but with the ‘new rains coming soon’ I think it shows how life is cyclical and yet so different.” 

Nonetheless, with Kambili the author has created a compelling narrative—and a surprising punch at the end. This heavy novel will keep you thinking and will provide you with a different perspective on real-world events. 

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