Was it intentional, I wonder, effectively to name-check Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in the opening sentence? What surprised me is that it wasn’t Achebe I was first reminded of with Purple Hibiscus but James Baldwin’s Go Tell it On The Mountain. Adichie weaves a truly cloying sense of claustrophobia in those opening chapters that, together with the religious mania and teenage rebellion took me instantly to Baldwin’s back yard.
Once removed from the affluence of the city the obvious comparisons with Achebe shone through. Above all things I think this is due to the backdrop Adichie gives us; the pervading colourwash of colonialism. It lingers, not so much informs as taints each character’s perspective. It’s a story not just of an adolescent girl’s awakening (and also her residual blindness), but of a country’s too. Sometimes it’s a deeply uncomfortable read, but all the better for it.
It also feels not so much the passing on, but the taking up of a baton. I’m sure Achebe would be proud.