Wednesday, April 23, 2008
From a castle in the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in the Austro-Hungary Empire, my next destination was Nigeria in the middle of political unrest and the threats of military coup. After seeing the world through the eyes of a 70 year old general, I now got to see it through the eyes of a 15 year old girl.. Refreshing change.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents the world through the eyes of an adolescent girl in Nigeria and the world has never looked more unfair. Kambili is 15 years old and to the external eye, is one of the privileged ones. Her father is very affluent and shes seems to lead a model life - expensive education, good food everyday, no shortage of clothes, etc. but in spite of having all the material aspects, Kambili lacks the "Joie de Vivre" that her poorer cousins seem to have.
Until the age of 15, she has led a very sheltered life.. or maybe you could just call it imprisonment without bars.. Her father, though affluent and generous, has a dark side. He is fanatically religious and demands perfection from his children. He rule their lives- giving them a strict schedule for every hour of their lives, punishing them brutally for trivial things like coming 2nd in a class exam, etc etc.. The atmosphere is so oppressed that Kambili has never heard the sound of her laughter..
When Kambili is 15, a series of events change Kambili's life forever. For the first time in her life, Kambili's father allows her and her brother Jaja to visit and stay with their aunt and cousins. Kambili's aunt is poor and the first things that Kambili notice on visiting them are the sad and dilapidated condition of their house, the lack of money, the lack of proper food, the lack of water to flush, the earthworms in the bath.. and then she sees something else.. the happiness, the way that laughter is constantly echoing off the walls, the freedom that her cousins have to say what they want, the freedom they have to do what they want.. they envy her for the money she has and think that her silence points to her arrogance. But soon they too realize that her silence is not attributable to arrogance, it is the only thing she feels comfortable with. At her aunt's place, Kambili finally starts living the free life of a 15 year old..she even has her very own first adolescent crush..:)
The political unrest in Nigeria is weaved in beautifully throughout the story. We see glimpses of it through the events that happen that the newspaper that Kambili's dad owns and then we learn more from what her aunt goes through..
The book is divided into three sections - First, Breaking gods - this is a description of a palm sunday where things start to go wrong in Kambili's house.
The second section, Speaking with our spirits, take us back in time to describe the happenings that eventually led to the events on Palm Sunday. The final part, The pieces of God describe an unexpected turn of events that follow the palm sunday..
The Purple Hibiscus is a very eloquent book. The simple language and the simple writing are endearing.. Through the observant eyes of Kambili, we get to know more about the food they eat, the languages they speak, the cultures of society, etc in Nigeria..
It is a great book to read and I loved reading it..