Monday, 5 September 2016

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Originally published in 1958 by William Heinemann.
Recorded Books audiobook edition, narrated by Peter Francis James, published in 1997.

This is my 1950s read for the 2016-17 Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge and I am publishing its review today to coincide with my WorldReads blog series on Stephanie Jane which is highlighting books from Nigeria.

How I got this book:
Audiobook downloaded from AudioSYNC

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Okonkwo is the greatest warrior alive and one of the most powerful men of his clan. Determined not to be like his father, he refuses to show weakness to anyone - even if the only way he can master his feelings is with his fists. When outsiders threaten the traditions of his clan, Okonkwo takes violent action. Will the great man's dangerous pride eventually destroy him?'

I approached Achebe's great African trilogy in the wrong order having listened to No Longer At Ease before Things Fall Apart. I think this gave a slightly different perspective on the book as I already knew the story of Okonkwo's grandson and it was interesting to fill in how this family had become estranged. I was surprised that our lead character, Okonkwo, is such an essentially unlikeable man. I wonder if he would have seemed such an anachronism in the 1950s though when attitudes all over the world concerning male supremacy and women's rights were very different.

Achebe writes simply, but cleverly so I began to view customs and superstitions within the village as normal, even ideas such as infant death being caused by evil spirits. This meant that I could then easily understand the anger and offence caused by the incoming missionaries with their radical ideas. There is significant repetition of phrases which made listening to the audio version almost like listening to epic poetry or song. For example, Ezinma is rarely named without also being described as the daughter of Ekwefi so relationships and identities are reinforced in the mind of the reader. Things Fall Apart is a great novel of this time and place and, while I don't think I quite enjoyed it as much as No Longer At Ease, I can certainly see why it has endured as a classic.

Etsy Find!
by Paper Comets in
Texas, USA

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