Book review: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


One of the most engaging, vivid and interesting books I’ve read for a long time, Purple Hibiscus is an incredible ‘coming-of-age’ story about fifteen year old Kambili, daughter of a wealthy Nigerian businessman. I describe her in this decidedly non-feminist way because this is how she appears to see herself for much of the book. Her father is the sun around which her family revolves and having an identity of her own isn’t just something she isn’t allowed, it’s a concept that would never even have occurred to her. Until, that is, life throws Kambili and her brother into the life of their Aunty, the brilliant Ifeoma, and her spirited children.

I think my favourite aspect of the book has got to be the characters and the way they each influence Kambili in a unique way. Her tyrannical father, the quiet developments taking place under the skin of her brother Jaja, the gloriously intelligent teenage anger of her cousin Amaka, the budding philosopher in her cousin Obiora, and the quiet, heartbreaking tragedy of her mother, these are fantastically written, deeply complex people, who all have a part to play in unfolding the story, and enabling Kambili to wake up into her own person.

Another aspect that I absolutely adored were the intellectual conversations taking place around Kambili, about colonialism, nationhood, westernisation, racism and corruption, without her actually joining in or having an opinion about them. I thought this was a neat little trick of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who let’s not forget, is a very important figure in the field of modern feminism. It is a joy to read these parts because they were written by someone who really, really knows what she’s talking about. Like watching an interview with an actor who indulges the audience by slipping into their best known character for a moment, except here, Adichie is sharing her brilliant insights into deeply important topics.

At it’s heart, this is a story about people in pain, and it is a moving, thought-provoking, intelligent and compulsive read. This story tugs at everything in you, and you simply must read it.

Have you already read Purple Hibiscus? What did you think? Put a spoiler warning at the top of your comment and let’s talk about it!! 




I’m completely fed up with seeing articles about schools banning girls from wearing short skirts or makeup. The headteacher’s justification is always the problematic notion that it’s ‘distracting to the boys’ which irks me more than enough, but one that really got to me today said “School bans short skirts because they’re ‘distracting’ to male teachers”

In the article they don’t seem to offer any proof, but even still, the idea that girls will be sent home for not wearing ‘school appropriate’ skirts is outrageous, for so many reasons. For a start, telling girls that wearing makeup distracts them from work, and then sending them home AWAY from work, seems a little contradictory. I would have more time for the concept if it was five hours extra school a week in return for wearing a full face of makeup. Well, I wouldn’t, that would be monstrously draconian, but still it wouldn’t be as bad as damaging a girl’s education because she doesn’t fit into the school’s idea of the perfect female student, would it?!

Now, objectively, I’m a well educated, intelligent, successful woman. I’m 25, so measure that success how you will (I’m not exactly a CEO). I refuse to submit myself to the idea that saying that about myself is arrogant because I’m sick of society forcing me to be modest about my entire existence – fuck that – I have a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Philosophy from a great university, I’m writing a book, and I’m a Digital Marketing Executive. I’m happy with where I am and how I’m doing.

What was the point of all that? Well, I wear makeup and revealing clothing, and I have done since I was about 15. I love showing my waist off and making my eyes look bigger, I love accentuating my chest and my full lips. Why the fuck shouldn’t I? My body is a part of who I am, just as much as my arguing skills, my compassion, or my complete inability to organise anything. Is it shallow? Is it really? I could take you on in a debate about the mind body problem, I’ve almost cried whilst trying to understand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (like every other Philosophy student), and I’ve written essays on dasein whilst trying to push to the back of my mind the feeling that Heidegger is one of the most useless philosophers ever to write anything. The concept of ‘shallow’ is, ironically, pretty shallow. Mindless consumerism and an obsession with the aesthetic can be flaws, but only when they aren’t accompanied by anything else. To be purely shallow is a rare thing, and the idea that teenage girls, some of the most complex and confused creatures on the planet, fall into that bracket, is absurd, reductionist and misogynistic.

In our society women are expected to look beautiful, no matter what they do. You can be a doctor, police officer or a politician, it’s nigh on impossible to escape the ‘does she look good enough’ magnifying glass. It’s not just celebrities who look perfect – your teacher probably knows damn well how to do her makeup, the woman who serves you in the shop, and lets not forget, the women that teenage girls watch on youtube for entertainment. Girls see women wearing makeup every single day, and teenage girls are in the process of turning into women. In just the same way as boys learning the rules of masculinity during their teens, girls are learning the rules of femininity. Of course they want to conform, wear makeup, shorten their skirts and act like women. They’re about to turn into them.

Lying to girls that wearing makeup and short skirts distracts them from their education is bad enough, but telling them they distract BOYS is worse still. We NEED to stamp out this disgraceful, archaic idea. I have a higher sex drive than anyone I’ve ever met, I’m attracted to women, and I’ve never had a hard time concentrating because a beautiful woman is wearing a short dress in front of me. Not because I’m not a man, it’s because I wasn’t raised to think that women are objects for me to look at. Is it therefore contradictory for me to want to wear tight tops and lipgloss? Actually, it probably is. But that’s because some of the things society teaches us are wrong. Despite my parent’s best efforts, I was still taught by society that women need to be sexy and attractive to feel good – and because I was taught this while I was growing up I genuinely feel that way. 

Society needs to change – there’s no doubt about that. But confusing the messages girls are sent – that makeup is a bad thing and wanting to wear it means you don’t care about school, whilst simultaneously marketing products to them and making physical appearance unbelievably important, just confuses women and girls and makes what they want versus what they know is right completely different. These ideas confuse boys and men in exactly the same way – how often have you thought “What is up with men, they say they like women to look natural but then react with disgust the second they see an acne scar”? None of us understand what we want, because from the get-go we’re taught things that are wrong. We want things because marketing departments know how to make us want things – and you cannot trust a marketing department to act with your best interests at heart. I’ve been lucky to work for ethical companies but believe me, they are rare. This, combined with the fact that no one seems to realise how much of an effect the society we grow up in has on us, has made for a pretty confused group of people. Teaching girls that something as innocuous as makeup and a short skirt is wrong makes them feel bad about what they want. Teaching boys that girls should hide from them fetishises girls in their eyes – makes their bodies into objects, and means they can’t respect us.

We NEED change, and schools are a damn good place to start. Let girls wear what the hell they want, teach boys that girl’s bodies are not there for them to look at, or enjoy, without expressed, enthusiastic consent, and we’ll end up with a more balanced, happier generation than we’ve had in a long time.

How to shave your legs like a feminist

1. Acknowledge that, as a feminist, you never want to tell other women what to do with their bodies and anything you may or may not say about hair removal is merely a suggestion based on subjective experiences.

2. Grow out a different body hair area to ensure there’s always a part of you that doesn’t unintentionally cater to the male gaze. With smooth legs comes great responsibility to ensure men don’t think you’re on their side.


3. If you start dating a beard bro, be sure to grow out enough body hair in the first few months that you can be certain of any feminist ideals he might claim to have (if there isn’t a man, skip to the end of step 4).

4. Once you’re sure of the aforementioned man’s regard for you and the choices you make about your body, or you get bored of the fur covering your lower extremities, decide that it’s time for a shave.

5. Invest in some nice products. You’re doing this for you, after all. May as well get it right.

6. Choose your first product: An exfoliator. These come in several shapes, a konjac sponge, a body brush, exfoliating gloves, or my personal preference, a scrub. I LOVE & Other Stories’ beautiful Body Scrubs.

7. Choose your razor. I always used to preach that expensive razors were a joke and that we should always go withthe 10 for a £1 orange Bic multipack, but I’m told by some of my fellow feminists that women with thicker or coarser hair actually need to take a three-bladed approach to their hair removal. So pick whichever razor you like, but DON’T go for the higher priced pink option just because it claims to be specially designed for your legs. It isn’t.

8. Second product: shaving aid. You don’t need to use special shaving gel on your legs, but don’t cop out by using your shampoo, or worse, conditioner on your legs. I know so many people who do this and I don’t get it – you’re shaving the hair off for heaven’s sake! When you shave, you’re leaving the product on your legs for longer than normal so it’s imperative to use something actually designed for your body, not hair. A moisturising and gorgeously scented shower gel is what you want. Korres Bergamot Pear, or any of & Other Stories’ Shower Gels are perfect.

9. Warm your skin under the shower to soften the skin a bit, and then exfoliate. This’ll help make the exfoliation more effective.

10. Turn the shower off because otherwise you’ll waste a tonne of water. I actually have a little plastic pot in the bathroom, which I fill with water to rinse the hair off the razor as I shave.

View this post on Instagram

#sustainability on the #newyork subway

A post shared by Cia 🌵🌸✨ (@cia.marsh) on

11. Try not to cut yourself. (If you do slip, cool the area asap. Your blood vessels are open from the warm water, which is why shaving injuries bear a striking resemblance to the elevator scene in The Shining. I usually just rinse the blood with cold water and then apply a flannel soaked in cold water as I hobble back to my bedroom…)

12. Should you manage to complete your shave without abandoning due to injury, gently pat your skin dry.

13. Time for the third product. Lush’s Silky Underwear Dusting Powder contains cocoa butter, cornflower and jasmine. It smells unbelievably sexy, and it makes your body feel smoother than smooth. Sprinkling it over freshly shaved legs gives the ultimate smooth shave feeling. I don’t know if people with dark skin tones can use aggressively white dusting powder, and if I’m right, then try my other favourite body moisturiser. Korres Bergamot Pear Body Milk contains aloe vera, almond and shea butter as well as the most beautiful fragrance known to humankind. These are two of the best body products I’ve ever tried.

14. Do this:

15. Go outside and show your legs off! Only if you want to (and you slather on some SPF) of course.

A Gender Neutral Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Whether your loved one is a nonbinary honey like me, or agender, genderqueer, questioning, non-conformist, or you’re simply trying to move away from the raging cisheteronormativity of Valentine’s Day, this gift guide will provide you with inspiration and ideas on how to celebrate your wonderful human (or humans), for who they are, without making it about binary gender.

Creamy New Blog Post Business Light Academia Social Media

You don’t have to fall under the rainbow umbrella to read this – it’s for everyone, and actually it was my completely cishet (but very progressive) parents who inspired this blog post. Growing up, the Valentine’s Gift that always stuck with me was one my dad gave to my mum, that couldn’t be less gendered if it was deliberate. It was in about 2006, and he had spent ages hunting down a (seriously rare) black and white, non-edited version of Night of the Living Dead on DVD. She loved that film when it came out, but over the years it had been edited in some really dodgy ways, and she just wanted to watch the original. You wouldn’t find that on any ‘Gifts for Her’ edit.

I know that Valentine’s Day is a tricky one for a lot of reasons. It’s tacky, it’s overmarketed, it’s impersonal, wasteful and it’s grotesquely cisheteronormative. The London Eye used to put on a special Valentine’s Day event, and a friend of mine took her girlfriend one year. Should be a perfectly romantic date, right? Unfortunately, several of the activities included in this event were ‘him vs her’ games, that all the ticket-buying couples were supposed to play as a group. So my friend and her girlfriend were faced with the outrageous choice of either being excluded from half of the event, or for one of them to take on a ‘man’ role. Unnecessary, offensive, exclusionary and just plain rude.

I don’t think Valentine’s Day is going anywhere, and I always find that embracing things on my own terms makes me much happier than rejecting things outright. This gift guide is my attempt at trying to help us all find ways of celebrating our loved ones, in ways that honour them, and our relationships to them.

Of course, when you take away gender from Valentine’s Day gifting, it opens things out into a whole world of possibilities – you really have to know the person you’re buying for, instead of opting for a teddy bear with a red heart on it. And yeah, it’s 2022 folks, we should know all about their interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. I saw a really sad TikTok video the other day by a woman who worked at a Pandora jewellery shop, and she said that the only queue they ever had that was bigger than the one of men the day before Valentine’s Day, was the queue of women the day after, returning their unwanted gifts. We should know our partners better than that. We should be their biggest fan. This guide should serve as a jumping off point, an inspirational peruse to get your creativity going. It’s not supposed to be a generic shopping list, because only you can know what your loved one will love.

(Please note – affiliate links in this blog post are marked with an asterisk*)

A personalised luxe candle


If your partner works from home at a desk, this is a lovely gift to give them to add a luxurious yet personal touch to their workspace. My inspiration behind this was that in the evenings James often does work for his masters degree, so he misses out on all the candles and wax melts we have in the living room because there’s obviously no space on his desk. So an amber jar candle burning on his desk while he studies was perfect, but one that doubles as a reminder of how loved he is was even better. Earl of East offer this service on their amazing scented candle selection and I’d really recommend it. We particularly love the fragrances Atlas Cedar and Jardin de la Lune, but you seriously can’t go wrong.

An amazing cookbook*


A cookbook is always a welcome addition to a kitchen. I cannot recommend Anna Jones* highly enough, her recipes are beyond delicious and very nutritious, but in a ‘taste comes first’ kind of way. She uses ingredients and combinations that may seem unfamiliar at first, but will quickly become staples in your home because of how easy to make, and utterly delicious they are. We have all four of her books, but A Modern Way to Cook* and A Modern Way to Eat* are my favourites – the meals look so complex and refined, but they’re always really easy. I also very highly recommend recommend Bazaar* by Sabrina Ghayour*, which is a book of the most vibrantly flavourful vegetarian recipes you’ll ever find. Everything we’ve made from there has been outrageously delicious – the butternut squash pastries are our staple lunch for when we go out on adventures, and the pul biber, olive and broccoli spaghetti has been quite simply life changing.

Premium bed linen*

Palmeira Cotton Percale Duvet Cover LA REDOUTE INTERIEURS image 0

It’s often hard for people to choose nice bedding for themselves, which is why I think it makes such a thoughtful gift for your partner, especially if they’re the kind to usually forego home luxuries. It’s an understandable thing to try and save money on, as it’s difficult to believe that the quality of premium bedding could really be that different to the usual stuff – but oh my, it really is. I personally find that La Redoute* do the best bedding I’ve ever purchased – it isn’t wildly expensive but it feels lovely and keeps its shape and colour so well, and the heavily patterned styles don’t take on a waxy quality like other brands I’ve used. I think this Palmeira* style I’ve posted above is a really gorgeous choice, but please note when you’re shopping on La Redoute that the pillows are sold separately (they sell several different sizes of pillow so makes sense, but I did totally miss it the first time I shopped on there). 

Some really nice socks*

Everyone always gets down on socks like they’re a bad gift – but I’ve never ever seen anyone unhappy to receive a thoughtfully chosen, well made selection of socks. I bought my partner loads of them this year for Christmas, in colours that he likes to wear (natural colours like mossy green, browns and burgundy) and he told me that he smiles every time he puts them on in the morning. I actually think that’s pretty romantic. Thought Clothing* have an amazing variety of bamboo socks* which I would highly recommend – they have an almost endless selection of outrageously creative, brilliant patterns, as well as fantastic block coloured basics, all sustainably made and super high quality. Of course, you have to make sure to watch out for the sizing – they follow the usual men’s and women’s sizing, but they have a section where you can view all of the patterned socks* together – be sure to avoid buying too large or too small socks if you browse on there!

A Massage Gun*


If your loved one is stressed, busy and tense, you might already have thought of buying them a voucher to get a massage. I have thought of doing this many times before, because I want to help my hardworking partner care for himself. But the thing is – a massage appointment takes more than just the time you’re getting the massage. Plus, with covid, it’s even more complicated. And then there’s the fact that you can’t just have one massage to experience the full benefits, and when you start booking multiple appointments, it gets expensive really fast. It would be lovely to have regular massages but it’s just not something many of us have the time or budget for. A massage gun* is LITERALLY the perfect alternative. Your partner can use it whenever they’re feeling tense, after exercise or a bad night’s sleep, and there are a variety of attachments to target specific muscle groups. HoMedics sell a great one here*, and they also sell it in white here*.

Fun, ethical dungarees

James and I both LOVE our Lucy & Yak dungarees. They fit so comfortably, and are made of such high quality, organic and sustainably sourced material. I think these would make an absolutely brilliant gift for any loved one. They’re available in so many different styles, like amazingly bold prints, natural earthy tones, funky pastels and classic black and denims, so you can definitely find something perfectly suited to their unique personality. Size-wise, they go from a UK 32 to a 4, and have short, regular and long versions. They also offer a really comprehensive size chart so if your partner usually wears clothes from the men’s section, you can take a pair of their trousers and a top, measure them, and work out from there what size to get for them (when James got his obviously he just measured his actual body, this method is just for if you’re trying to surprise them).

A mushroom growing kit*


I thought up a load nonsense mushroom puns for this suggestion, but let’s keep it simple instead – if your loved one likes mushrooms, this is the perfect gift. It’s so much fun to watch, and so satisfying to harvest, cook and eat homegrown mushrooms. I can’t actually eat mushrooms but I have to be honest, this Grow Your Own Mushroom Kit* is so cool that even I wouldn’t mind having one just to watch it grow!

Personalised map wall art

Screenshot 2022-01-22 at 02.06.59

This personalised map poster is a seriously adorable and really clever idea from Desenio. You type in two different locations, which will then appear as this style of map on each side of the heart – then you can toggle the maps within the heart to get to the perfect spot. If you want a more detailed map, just enter a more general area (the above ones were fairly specific). Then you add your chosen text. The two locations in this example are the place we met and the place we got married. How sweet is that?! Here’s the page to shop this amazing gift, and it’s available in two other colourways as well.

A Himalayan salt lamp*


To be honest, I don’t really buy into any of the supposed health benefits of salt lamps. I do however, believe that they’re the best source of relaxing lighting ever created. We have two in our living room and they bathe the space in this wonderfully natural glow, it’s like candlelight but brighter. If your loved one doesn’t have one already, get them one, I seriously cannot recommend them enough. Ours were gifts from family but I had a browse and found this listing for Himalayan Salt Lamps on Etsy* which has amazing reviews, great prices and wide selection of sizes!

A board game for two

A cosy evening together, playing a board game, perhaps with some snacks on the go and a few candles lit. To me, that sounds like a heavenly way to spend a little bit of time with my partner. This game Patchwork is fun and relaxing, but requires just enough concentration to keep it interesting, and Fungi is an adorable strategy game of mushroom foraging. Simple and sweet, a perfect evening together.

Home fragrance products


Perfect for snuggling up on the sofa, scented candles and wax melts are an excellent way to create a cosy atmosphere in your home together. Almost everyone has a scent profile that they enjoy. If you aren’t sure what kind of home fragrance your loved one might like, think about if you’ve ever noticed them saying how much they like the smell of a perfume, or a specific flower, or perhaps a specific situation – for example a forest in the rain, or the smell of the seaside. Use these snippets of info (if you have them) to search for associated fragrance notes, and then have a look for some fragrance products that contain those notes. I have a blog post with some of my favourite home fragrance brands in it, so you might be able to find some good scents in there!

A handmade card


When I was a kid, if I wanted to give my parents anything for mother or father’s day, it had to be a handmade card. They felt that these holidays were emotionally exploitative consumerist rubbish, so I wasn’t allowed to spend any money on them. But if I wanted to, I was allowed to make them a card. This was no skin off my nose, I relished any opportunity to dive into my stack of coloured paper and glitter glue. I think my magnum opus was probably a mother’s day card when I was about 6 or 7. I made a long thin cone out of paper and stuck it upside down to the front of the card, on which I’d written something like ‘Love you mummy’. I went out into the garden, picked some small flowers and tucked them into the cone so it looked like a mini vase. She was pretty impressed with me that year. Anyway, if you’re a creative type, this is such a lovely way to show your loved one how much they mean to you – but if you aren’t, there are some amazing options for handcrafted cards on Etsy*, like this adorable folding fox card*.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and perhaps been inspired on how best to indulge your special someone this February 14th!

Attention people who menstruate: Buddha Nose Girl Balm

I’m really adverse to using everyday painkillers because I don’t believe that drug companies necessarily want the best for us, and I’d rather know what’s happening in my body so I can be aware of changes. That’s just me though, I know everyone is different. And of course that doesn’t mean I don’t get horrendous period cramps every month. Just today I almost blacked out while talking to someone (they didn’t notice). A while ago I went on the hunt for something natural that I could carry around with me as if it were a sleeve of paracetamol, to help me get through the cramps.


And hey, guess what, I found something! Buddha Nose’s Girl Balm is a thick organic balm made with a glorious mixture of warming ingredients with bright scents that help to sooth away pain and cut through sluggish pain-induced nausea.


Now obviously, it goes without saying that this doesn’t eliminate pain like popping a pill. What this does is all together more holistic, and healthier. I’m not saying that people with low pain thresholds or extreme cramps will be able to get along with just this, because I’m not one of those people, but I do think that it will restore a sense of wellbeing, help you to calm down and definitely ease that sicky feeling.


It has a really gorgeous scent –  refreshing ginger and bright, sweet rose geranium. I can smell lemon in the scent too, although there’s none in the balm. There’s no musk or wood in the fragrance at all, which is important because as I said, much of the effectiveness is aromatherapeutic, and those types of scent really don’t help with feeling groggy.

You rub it on your lower belly and back, and if you’re unlucky enough to have pain spreading down your thighs too, pop a bit on them as well. It absorbs very quickly for me. I think that’s because the base oil is jojoba, which is the most easily absorbed oil since it’s closest to human sebum. This also means that the ingredients can be absorbed better, because they’re being held in jojoba. Along with the ginger, black pepper provides the heat, and it’s amazing what an effect these two run of the mill kitchen ingredients have! Obviously, the action of massaging the area has an effect on the pain too, but with this balm you get the added effects of the ingredients, which I do believe are considerable. I also like to pat a bit behind my ears so I can enjoy the scent for longer. Since owning this, I haven’t used a single other form of pain-relief, (apart from warm baths because they’re just nice).


I think (though I have no actual experience) that this would be a good product for pregnant mums too? The gingery rose scent must be good for hormone induced nausea, and rubbing it on a painful back would be effective no matter what’s going on in your uterus.

I really find that I forget about the pain for a long time after I use this. I can’t say whether that’s because the pain is gone but it definitely doesn’t bother me. I’m so happy I found it, and I really recommend it. I know I sound a bit diplomatic about it, but I would never want to assume someone else experiences pain the same way I do, so although Buddha Nose Girl Balm is perfect for me, I don’t want to try too hard to convince you that it would do the same for you. Hopefully by reading about my experience you’ll be inclined to try it, and will love it as much as I do! The only stockist in the UK that I know of is, where you can get it for £20. It’s actually great value I think, given that I’ve had it for half a year and only used that much!

Do you have any natural pain relief tips or tricks?