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Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus

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Purple Hibiscus is the story of a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili, and describes her life under the constraints of her father's strict regime. When life in the city becomes dangerous during a military coup, she is sent away to stay with her aunt where she eventually finds love and happiness.

Written from Kambili's point of view, it is a powerful story that is remarkable for the subtlety of the telling. Papa, a newspaper owner committed to reporting the truth about state corruption, revered by the community for his generosity, is in many ways a monstrous figure. At home he is authoritarian and bullying, narrow-minded and intolerant, yet he is motivated by profound religious beliefs. And, although his love for them is beyond doubt, his cruelty to his family in order to keep them on the path of righteousness is chilling.

The delicacy of the relationship between father and daughter is especially painful: locked to Kambili's fear of her father is an unquestioning love and belief. She describes how she would "snuggle into Papa's arms when harmattan thunderstorms raged outside, flinging mangoes against the window netting and making the electric wire hit each other and spark bright orange flames. Papa would lodge me between his knees or wrap me in the cream blanket that smelled of safety." And even after she finally breaks away from the security of his violence and begins to become independent, she remains devoted to him.

Like most Nigerian novels, Purple Hibiscus necessarily deals with the tension between Catholicism and traditional religion, but Ngozi Adichie also tackles the more recent problems associated with an African state emerging, as Kambili does, from the destructive legacy of a paternalist power.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has won the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize First Best Book award for Purple Hibiscus. Welcome to another wonderful Nigerian writer.

The Lovereading view...

A powerful and compelling coming of age novel of a family, a faith and a country, all in an awful turmoil. It has been highly rated by reviewers

If you like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie you might also like to read books by Ian Holding, Gil Courtemanche and Manil Suri.


Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili's world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her repressive and fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, and more prayer.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart during a military coup, Kambili's father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends Kambili and her brother away to live with their aunt. In this house, full of energy and laughter, she discovers life and love - and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.

Centring on the promise of freedom and the pain and exhilaration of adolescence, Purple Hibiscus is the extraordinary debut of a remarkable new talent.


‘A sensitive and touching story of a child exposed too early to religious intolerance and the uglier side of the Nigerian state.’ J. M. Coetzee

‘Political brutality and domestic violence, religion and witchcraft all merge with subtle force in this memorable novel. Chimammanda Ngozi Adichie uses childhood innocence to write Nigerian history with the eye of a family insider.’ Hugo Hamilton

‘Purple Hibiscus is the best debut I've read since Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things.’ Jason Cowley, Times journalist, literary editor of the New Statesman

‘This debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory…in soft, searing voice, Adichie examines the complexities of family, faith and country through the haunted but hopeful eyes of a young girl on the cusp of womanhood.’ Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria in 1977. Her first novel 'Purple Hibiscus' was published in 2003 and was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Her second novel 'Half of a Yellow Sun' won the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her work has been selected by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and the BBC Short Story Awards, has appeared in various literary publications, including Zoetrope and The Iowa Review. She won a MacArthur 'genius' grant in 2009, and in 2010 appeared on the New Yorker's list of the best 20 writers under 40.

photograph by Marco Del Grande


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novelHalf of a Yellow Sun is a stunning book throughout, set in 1960’s Nigeria as it erupts into the bloody Biafran War of secession. There is so much I loved about this book, the crisp narration that never balks from taking the reader into the darkest corners of man’s nature, the relationship between the twin sisters Olanna and Kainene, the clashing of their different natures and the divergent paths they follow.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th February 2005


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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336 pages


Literary Fiction
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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