Every waking moment of Kambili's day is timetabled by her father: a successful businessman who takes his religion seriously and uses his wealth to help others in their community. In public Kambili's father is generous, at home he is controlling and violent. When a military coup means that it is no longer safe for Kambili and her brother, Jaja, to remain at home, their father reluctantly allows them to stay with their aunt and cousins, and there they begin to experience freedom for the first time.
So Purple Hibiscus was just a bit different from the last book I reviewed...
Honestly this isn't the sort of book that I usually pick up. I tend to stay away from books that involve child abuse, not because I don't think they're important, but because personally I just like to have fun when I'm reading a book and, obviously, that sort of storyline doesn't tend to be much fun. But I'm really glad I made an exception for Purple Hibiscus. It's kind of difficult to talk about Purple Hibiscus because there is just so much to talk about and I'm certain I'm not going to do it justice. I know I'm pretty late on the bandwagon here but this book is amazing and if you haven't read it yet you seriously should.
I'll start with the writing, which is beautiful and so immersive. Every single time I opened the book I lost track of time. Hours would pass without me noticing and I would suddenly look up to find that I had read 100 pages and my toes were like prunes because I'd been sat in the bath for so long. I felt the fear that Kambili felt whenever something disappointed her father and I felt the liveliness around the table during mealtimes at Aunty Ifeoma's house. (The scenes involving food at Aunty Ifeoma's house were my favourite in the whole book... food seems to be a recurring theme in these reviews, doesn't it?) I can't remember the last book I read that made me feel as much as this one did.
It seems odd to say that I enjoyed Purple Hibiscus as there were a lot of upsetting moments, but I enjoyed the experience of reading it so much. I loved the scenes at Aunty Ifeoma's house, the freedom that her children had and how frightening and exciting that was for Kambili. I even enjoyed the moments when I was so wrapped up in the story that my stomach would tighten in fear of Kambili's father. I've never read a novel set in Nigeria before either so I really enjoyed reading about a culture and country that I don't know a whole lot about. That's definitely something I need to look into more.
Although it deals with serious and real subjects, something about the writing made Purple Hibiscus feel almost magical and alive. I can't recommend it highly enough and I'm definitely eyeing up Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun now.