Title of the novel – Purple Hibiscus
Author’s name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
‘Things started to fall apart at home’. That is what Chimamanda writes in the opening line of the novel and of course, by the time I was done with the book, I had noticed abundant similarities with Chinua Achebe.
That’s not all she achieved. Adichie managed to build a complex picture of a man struggling with his own demons, taking out his struggles on those he loves: his wife, Beatrice, son, Jaja, and Kambili herself. It should be hard to sympathize with a man who beats his pregnant wife and who, after deploring the soldiers’ torture of his editor with lighted cigarettes, pours boiling water over the bare feet of his adored daughter as a punishment for coming second in class. And yet Eugene, self-made and ultimately self-hating, is the book’s loneliest character; his misunderstanding of Christianity has led him to reject the animist beliefs of his own ageing father and to repudiate the old man himself, perversely hating the sinner more than the sin. Kambili writes of her father at one point: “It was… as if something weighed him down, something he could not throw off”.
Chimamanda Adichie’s main strength is dialogue: as her characters speak, one hears the voices of modern Nigeria. Her power of narration is powerful – not only creating suspense but heightening it.
Overall, Purple Hibiscus, a compelling tale told well by a confident voice did not only revive my dwindling love for Nigerian literature, it has made me stir up my latent writing talents.
Real name – ‘Ifreke Inyang, Lagos.