It’s been standing room only for the initial meetings of the English Department Reading Group this term. Coordinator Simon Jones was delighted to run out of refreshments on both occasions! The first book chosen was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s coming of age novel Purple Hibiscus. Set in Nigeria the book is a portrait of a family in crisis, narrated in the first person by a young girl. Thus, difficult topics such as abuse, religion, colonialism and political unrest are presented to the reader obliquely,

The book was well received by our group, with comments that it presents difficult dilemmas in an effective way and gives the reader a glimpse into a very unusual world. There was some debate about whether or not the father in the novel has any redeeming features at all or is simply an abusive ‘monster’: this in the light of the narrator’s consistent love for him. The group tended to the latter view. Several members commented on the rather cold, unemotional language used by the narrator to describe all events, from the most mundane to the horrific; it was felt that this made it difficult to relate to the character. There was also an interesting discussion about the presentation of religion in the novel, with some feeling that it seemed to lack balance,

Generally speaking the book was received positively and got the year off to a good start.

Our next selection is German writer Patrick Suskind’s intriguing cross genre bestseller Perfume.