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Purple Hibiscus

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche tells the evocative story of 15-year old Kambili's life growing up in Nigeria during a military coup. This set text for AQA GCSE is an ideal reader for any Key Stage 4 classroom. 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 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 is involved mysteriously in the political crisis, while Kambili and her brother are sent away to live with their aunt. In this house, full of energy and laughter, Kambili 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 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the prize-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

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Fifteen-year-old Kambili's world is circumscribed by the high walls of her family compound and the frangipani trees she can see from her bedroom window. Her wealthy Catholic father, although generous and well-respected, is repressive and fanatically religious. Her life is lived under his shadow and regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, and more prayer. When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili's father, involved in mysterious ways with the unfolding political crisis, sends Kambili and her brother away to their aunt's. The house is noisy and full of laughter. Here she discovers love and a life beyond the confines of her father's authority.


Purple Hibiscus, Nigerian-born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut, begins like many novels set in regions considered exotic by the western reader: the politics, climate, social customs, and, above all, food of Nigeria (balls of fufu rolled between the fingers, okpa bought from roadside vendors) unfold like the purple hibiscus of the title, rare and fascinating. But within a few pages, these details, however vividly rendered, melt into the background of a larger, more compelling story of a joyless family. Fifteen-year-old Kambili is the dutiful and self-effacing daughter of a rich man, a religious fanatic and domestic tyrant whose public image is of a politically courageous newspaper publisher and philanthropist. No one in Papa's ancestral village, where he is titled "Omelora" (One Who Does For the Community), knows why Kambili¹s brother cannot move one of his fingers, nor why her mother keeps losing her pregnancies. When a widowed aunt takes an interest in Kambili, her family begins to unravel and re-form itself in unpredictable ways. --Regina Marler

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