The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer.
When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.
This extraordinary debut novel from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, is about the blurred lines between the old gods and the new, childhood and adulthood, love and hatred – the grey spaces in which truths are revealed and real life is lived.
‘Immensely powerful.’ The Times
'An intoxicating story that is at once distinctly feminine, African and universal.' Observer
‘There’s a quiet confidence about the writing which is very attractive – it isn’t showy, it isn’t brash, but on the contrary both captivating and mature.’ Margaret Forster
‘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
‘A beautifully judged account of the private intimate stirrings of a young girl…Adichie is a fresh new voice out of Africa.’ Telegraph
‘Political brutality and domestic violence, religion and witchcraft all merge with subtle force in this memorable novel. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses childhood innocence to write Nigerian history with the eye of a family insider.’ Hugo Hamilton
‘One of the finest debut novels of recent years…as punchy and characterful as Monica Ali’s “Brick Lane”.’ Evening Standard
‘Assured and evocative…a tale for our times.’ Daily Mail
‘Grips the reader from start to finish. I could not put it down.’ Irish Times
About the author
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 short story collection, ‘The Thing Around Your Neck’, was published to critical acclaim in 2009. 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. Her third novel, ‘Americanah’, was published to widespread critical acclaim in 2013. She lives in Nigeria.
By turns luminous and horrific, this debut ensnares the reader from the first page and lingers in the memory long after its tragic end. First-person narrator Kambili Achike is a 15-year-old Nigerian girl growing up in sheltered privilege in a country ravaged by political strife and personal struggle. She and her brother, Jaja, and their quiet mother, who speaks "the way a bird eats, in small amounts," live this life of luxury because Kambili's father is a wealthy man who owns factories, publishes a politically outspoken newspaper and outwardly leads the moral, humble life of a faithful Catholic. The many grateful citizens who have received his blessings and material assistance call him omelora, "The One Who Does for the Community." Yet Kambili, Jaja and their mother see a side to their provider no one else does: he is also a religious fanatic who regularly and viciously beats his family for the mildest infractions of his interpretation of an exemplary Christian life. The children know better than to discuss their home life with anyone else; "there was so much that we never told." But when they are unexpectedly allowed to visit their liberated and loving Aunty Ifeoma, a widowed university professor raising three children, family secrets and tensions bubble dangerously to the surface, setting in motion a chain of events that allow Kambili to slowly blossom as she begins to question the authority of the precepts and adults she once held sacred. In a 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. Lush, cadenced and often disconcerting, this is an accomplished first effort. Author tour.