Book: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Published October 2010 (but originally published in 1958) by Anchor|224 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library
Series: The African Trilogy #1
Genre: Adult Fiction
Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo’s world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
Things Fall Apart was a book I was required to read back in high school, and I randomly decided to pick it up and read it again. Even though I didn’t love it, I liked it more than I thought I would- and I definitely liked it a lot more as an adult than I did as a high school student.
I really liked seeing Okonkwo’s fall from grace, and how it was so tied to the change of the world that he knew. What your family did was really important (especially to Okonkwo), and he worked really hard for the success he had. He didn’t want to be like his father, and he didn’t want his father’s life for his children, which I think is something we can all relate to in some way.
The writing was really simple, but in a good way. It was very straightforward, and I really liked that, because I felt like Achebe got right to the point. You really see how much European missionaries changed things, and I couldn’t help but wonder how much we’ve lost because of colonization.
Part of why I didn’t love it was because it was depressing. Which makes sense, given everything Okonkwo experienced and went through, and all of the change that happened. Okonkwo does have a code that he lives by, and even though I understand why he acts the way he does…it doesn’t mean it’s okay, but I do get it. At the same time, though, he really must have felt like he was out of options. And when you think about it in the context of colonization, and how people must have felt, knowing they probably had to assimilate, or else…I really felt for them, because things were fine, until they weren’t.
I did like that you saw how some of the British who came took into account their traditions and customs, and how some didn’t. You also saw that some of the people from Okonkwo’s village welcomed the missionaries, and how others didn’t. It was very much shades of grey in this book, and I liked that it was fairly neutral.
3 stars. I’m not sure what else to say about Things Fall Apart. I definitely recommend it, because I think it’s an important story. And I definitely appreciate it a lot more as an adult than I ever did in high school.