Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is best known for her seminal novel Americanah, her speeches and writing on feminism and race as well as for being immortalised in Beyonce’s track Flawless. It was in her debut novel Purple Hibiscus, published in 2004, that Adichie first combined all of the themes that she has become famous for, in the form of a deeply accomplished book.
The novel tells the story of 15-year-old Kambili Achike, part of a wealthy Nigerian family headed by a cruel and abusive patriarch. Eugene is a religious fanatic, obsessed with retaining power in a Nigeria that is wracked by political and economic instability and insistent that his family follow the tents of a harsh and unyielding Catholicism. The brunt of his fanaticism is borne by his daughter, his son Jaja and his wife Beatrice.
Things start to change for Kambili when she makes a long visit to her father’s sister Ifeoma, a university professor who practises a much more loving and lenient form of Catholicism. Exposed to a new form of life, she and her family struggle to change their circumstances within the tumultuous political landscape of the country.
Purple Hibiscus is a tender coming-of-age story at the same time as a scathing commentary on the gendered structures of power and abuse. The Telegraph reviewed it as “a beautifully judged account of the private intimate stirrings of a young girl faced with the familiar public obscenities of tyrannical power.”
Published in 2004.