Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Purple Hibiscus

Published by Whole Story Audio Books in 2005.
Audiobook, 12h 15m, read by Lisette Lecat.

I picked this book basically because I've heard good things about the author, although I had never read her before, and because I was interested in reading a book from Nigeria. I had actually looked at the book before too, but had never had an opening, so to speak. :-) But then one day I needed a new audiobook and this was on the shelf.

Very luckily, in fact, as it was a wonderful read. A low-key but absorbing story with fascinating characters, beautifully narrated. I enjoyed the book tremendously and will definitely be returning to this author.

Brief plot summary: The main character, Kambili, is a teenage girl who lives with her father, mother and brother in a prosperous home. Her father is a successful businessman, but he is also domineering, overbearing, obsessed with his religious ideals and determined that his whole family be picture perfect. He sets impossible standards for his two children, who almost erase their own identities striving to live up to his demands. They've lived with this man their whole lives, and so don't see the way he is metaphorically suffocating them ... terrible things happen in their comfortable home, but they don't impinge properly on Kambili and her brother Jaja. Not until they spend some time with their father's sister Ifeoma and her family. Aunt Ifeoma opens their eyes to just how messed up their own family is. But what are they to do? Both of them are so beaten down by their father's possessiveness and his crushing ideals. Kambili almost despairs at the thought of going back to her locked-up life, but feels there's nothing she can do. Jaja, on the other hand, refuses to let things go back to how they were. And as their mother too is touched by the need for change, an opportunity opens for Jaja to really make a difference ...

A beautiful story, actually, despite its tragedy. The setting is fascinating and the characters very believable and well-rounded. Very well written. The narrator reads the book wonderfully, I thought her voice was completely convincing as the timid and oppressed Kambili. A fascinating plot, and a story that shows very well how religion can destroy the human mind. A book I definitely recommend.

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