58. PURPLE HIBISCUS, BY CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE
Recommended by Lúcia Ramos on Goodreads. I bought Americanah, but for some reason never got to read it (it’s somewhere in the middle of my to-read pile). I couldn’t find it, no matter how hard I looked, and, since I got the recommendation, I thought this would be a good introduction to the author.
Synopsis: Kambili is the daughter of a very wealthy man in Nigeria. She lives a life of economical privilege, surrounded by high walls that protect her from the outside world and never having to wonder about poverty. Her father, however, a fervent Catholic who is very politically active and generous to his community, is also violently repressive at home. While the political climate of Nigeria boils into upheaval, Kambili ends up in the house of her aunt, and learns that a very different world exists.
Overall enjoyment: Loved it. It feels sincere and heartfelt, almost simplistic at times, but goes very deep. It’s a quick but not light read, very well-written.
Plot: It’s incredibly economical. In essence, it’s a coming-of-age story, which tends to make for slow and contemplative plots, but the frenzied atmosphere of the coup stops the book from becoming a sadistic account of Kambili’s suffering at the hands of her father.
Characters: Very well written and characterized. None of them feel artificial. Kambili is the narrator, but the moving force behind the story is her father, who looms oppressively over every page and every action, and is thoroughly dislikeable but deeply loved by his daughter.
World/setting: It is truly impressive how well Adichie manages to portray the place with a few words and images. The vibrant culture, the economical and political problems, the duality, even the sounds and smells.
Writing style: Beautiful and poetic but very concise. Easy and very pleasurable to read.
Representation: Most of the characters are black.
Political correctness: There is so much going on, it’s difficult to separate and pinpoint things. There is a lot of discussion of race, mostly when her aunt decides to go to America, but Kambili’s father has the typical Third World Country inferiority complex, believing that everything and everyone white and American/European is better than them. The oppressive and abusive relationship at home is starkly portrayed and, even recognizing the difficulties it generates, you can’t help but exult at the ending. Her aunt is very much aware of the fact that her choices are staying in Nigeria and maybe not having money to buy food or going to America and becoming a second-class person; there is a lot of attention to the power dynamics between countries and in immigration. Everybody seems to know what’s going on in their house, but nobody does anything about it, not even the priests who were supposed to be merciful and kind; her aunt is the only one who tries to help. It’s very good storytelling that rings very real and true.
Up next: Sons, by Pearl S. Buck