Sunday, 12 June 2016

No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe

No Longer At Ease by Chinua Achebe 
Originally published in 1960.
Whole Story audiobook published in July 2010, now available as Recorded Books audiobook published in February 2015.

One of my WorldReads - Nigeria book choices and featured in Cover Characteristics: Hands

How I got this book:
Purchased from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally listened to No Longer At Ease in February 2013 and return to it again last month. The download is narrated by Peter Jay Fernandez who does a pretty good job although his British and Irish accents are mangled at times. I don't know Nigerian accents well enough to tell if those are accurate or not.

No Longer At Ease is the story of Obi Okonkwo, a talented young man whose village, Umuofia, clubbed together to pay for him to be the first from there to study in England - a fantastic honour. The village did want Obi to study law in order to further their interests legally and Obi switched courses to study English literature, but a university degree is still something to be very proud of and Umuofia welcomes back their son with celebrations. Swept along by expectations Obi lands himself a prized government job at the ministry dealing with scholarships, an apartment in a formerly whites-only enclave, a new Morris car and the fantastic salary of seventy pounds a month. It's all obtained fairly, above board and Obi feels he represents the new face of Nigeria.

I loved how Achebe chips away at Obi's naive beliefs and expectations for his life. We know from the very beginning of the story that he will be shamed by bribe-taking, but his downfall is so cleverly portrayed that I felt sorry for him and completely understood his predicament. Torn in many directions, Obi finds himself not only standing against matter-of-course corruption, but also small town views opposing Lagos city experiences, and ancient beliefs still strong under the veneer of his Christian upbringing. The scholarship was actually a loan that must be repaid and keeping up appearances in the city is pricey; his younger brother's school fees compete with those of his mother's hospital; his white boss repeatedly undermines Obi and his country; his girlfriend is of a forbidden caste; and then bills that he never imagined existed begin to pile up. From wonderful initial hope, No Longer At Ease is a portrayal of culture clashes between races, generations and belief systems and provides a valuable insight into how strong people need to be to live between all of those stools.

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Books by Chinua Achebe / Audiobooks / Books from Nigeria

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