I must say that the Challenge made me read some books that I would probably have taken very long to pick up otherwise. It has been a great experience in the sense that I feel it has broadened my horizons further. I am now much more open to books of different kinds than I already was. It renewed my passion for books. The Challenge also brought me in touch with a number of avid readers, and it has been wonderful seeing their great love for books and their choice of books.
Over the weekend, I finished reading one more book for OT – Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. There are now 3 more books left to complete the Challenge.
Note: Plot partly revealed
The book has been written from the viewpoint of a 15-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili. What struck me as I began reading the book is its sheer simplicity. It gives a wonderful insight into the life of the people of Nigeria during the military coup.
Kambili, the narrator of the story, lives with her father Eugene, mother Beatrice, brother Jaja and a host of servants in a palatial house. She is ‘affluent’, so much so that her friends and cousins, who are not so well off, are jealous of her.
Eugene is fanatically religious and an extremely strict disciplinarian. He is well respected in his community. It is Eugene who takes all the decisions for the family. He prepares strict schedules for Kambili and Jaja, which they are to follow at any cost. They are not allowed to watch TV or wear modern clothes or cosmetics. He goes to extreme levels to punish his wife and children if they miss prayers or do something which, in his eyes, is against their religion. For instance, he cuts off his son’s little finger when he does not come first in class. Beatrice, Kambili and Jaja live in constant fear and awe of Eugene and have no personality of their own. That is, till they visit Nsukka, their aunt Iffeoma’s place.
Kambili is happy with her surroundings, but it is only when she visits her aunt’s place along with her brother that they realise how much they have been missing in life. She realises that they have actually been living in constant imprisonment so far. Kambili is amazed when her aunt and cousins pray to God to always give them ‘laughter’, because it is something they have not even considered back at her home. It is the period of the military coup and her aunt’s family is going through extremely difficult times. There is no water to flush the toilet, there are earthworms in the bathtub, and the little food that they have is divided into small pieces so that everyone can have a bit. In spite of this, Kambili realises that they are happy and there is a strange sort of peace and freedom, that she has never felt at her place. It is during this visit that the ugly side of her father’s nature comes to the fore. In the course of this visit, she comes into contact with Father Amadi and develops a crush on him. It is for the first time that she has had romantic feelings for anyone, and a whole new world opens up to her.
Things are, of course, not the same when Kambili and Jaja return back to their house, and Eugene is aghast at the changes that have taken place in his children. The situation goes on worsening after that, but there is a little ray of light at the end of the story.
The story ends on a slightly positive note, but tragic nonetheless. It left me with a kind of heavy heart and a somber mood. Though it was fiction, I couldn’t help feeling sad at such a great loss of childhood, innocence and laughter. Kambili comes across as a highly sensitive and extremely mature girl for her age. There are few traces in her of the 15-year-old that she actually is.
At some places, I did find the plot a bit extreme, deviating from what is possible in real life, but in spite of that, I liked reading the book. Overall, reading the book was a pleasurable experience for the beautiful and simple narration of the story.
Song for the occasion: