Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Snapshot: Purple Hibiscus

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

An extraordinary coming-of-age story. Kambili, her brother and their mother have all the luxuries their successful and influential father can provide. In the community he is seen as pious, generous and a voice of the people, but at home he is an explosive, dominant figure who demands complete submission and obedience. Kambili's fear and trauma is palpable. Throughout the text I held my breath and felt her choking. I desperately wished something would give Kambili the courage to stop trying to justify the abuse. The repression and lack of self-worth is disturbing. The dysfunction of the family is so real; it is frightening. This doesn't feel like fiction, it feels like something many of us have known. Stylistically, the writing is stellar. Adichie does get everything right: tone, pacing, characterization and language.

The novel received the Commonwealth Writers Prize. The “Washington Post Book World” called it, “a breathtaking debut.... .[Adichie] is very much the 21st-century daughter of that other great Igbo novelist, Chinua Achebe.” The “Boston Globe” said, “Adichie’s understanding of a young girl’s heart is so acute that her story ultimately rises above its setting and makes her little part of Nigeria seem as close and vivid as Eudora Welty’s Mississippi.”

What have you read lately?

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