Book Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

“There is no story that is not true.”

IMG_4731Synopsis: Things Fall Apart tells of the rise and fall of Okonkwo, an Igbo man, and deals with the influence of British colonialism and the Christian missionaries on the Igbo people.

Review: What. A. Book. This is an important novel, one that resonates long after finishing.

Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, tells of Okonkwo, an Igbo man dealing with daddy issues and trying to rise in society in pre-Colonial Nigeria. Okonkwo is an interesting character, you can’t say that he is quite likeable, as he makes some very questionable decisions, but you can understand why he makes some of his decisions. He is a character full of rage and anger, and it’s tough to watch how he deals with that.

Besides dealing with Okonkwo’s story, there are sections that deal with Igbo customs and beliefs, and also sections that deal with the British coming in and taking over through the government and through religion.

The sections that talk about and give a glimpse of the Igbo way of life prior to the missionaries is fascinating. I love reading about other cultures and ideas, and this book gives just enough detail to set the scene and pique my interest into further research.

The aspects that touch on the missionaries coming in and changing the way of life are also interesting, but there is sadness to them as well, as not all of the missionaries are honorable and true, and you can see the breakdown of culture happening.

The way Chinua Achebe writes is stunning and beautiful. It is descriptive, but also sparse at the same time. My copy of the book was just 209 pages long, but this is a story where every word is important and necessary. Here’s an example of how he sets a scene – you can just picture this, you feel this in your soul as you read:

“At last the rain came. It was sudden and tremendous. For two or three moons the sun had been gathering strength till it seemed to breathe a breath of fire on the earth. All the grass had long been scorched brown, and the sands felt like live coals to the feet. Evergreen trees wore a dusty coat of brown. The birds were silenced in the forests, and the world lay panting under the live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind arose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure.”

My one complaint with the book is that I wish there was a little section added before the last chapter. If you’ve read the book, you can probably guess what I’m talking about. I wish there was a short chapter between the last two chapters of the book. I can’t be too specific due to spoilers, but I really would’ve loved just a bit more insight into a character’s mind. I see why it was written the way it was written, but I wanted just a tiny bit more. I think that’s the mark of a good book. To leave the reader wanting just that little bit more, to keep them coming back and thinking about the book.

Things Fall Apart is an important book that talks about the way of life and customs and beliefs of the Igbo people that was lost once colonialism and missionaries moved in. It is a powerful tale, beautifully written.

Bottom Line: Powerful and moving. Important and would be a good discussion book.

Favorite Quotes (besides the one listed at the top of the review):

  • “A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you.”

  • “He felt a relief within as the hymn poured into his parched soul. The words of the hymn were like the drops of frozen rain melting on the dry palate of the panting earth.”

  • “But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice.”

Here are links to Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart on Goodreads and Amazon.

You Might Like to Read:

  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton: This book is definitely a must read. Set in pre-apartheid South Africa, this tells the story of Kumalo and his quest to save his son, who is accused of murder. This is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read, and Kumalo is a great contrast to Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. Both deal with the breakdown of clans and the old way of life, and both deal with it differently.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: A tale of missionaries in Africa, this was a very interesting book. I don’t remember too much about it, just that I liked it when I read it, and it would make for interesting conversation.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A modern tale of a Nigerian woman who comes to America, it is also a love story and is a fascinating story dealing with race. You can read my review here.

Have you read Things Fall Apart? Did you love it? Did it stir your soul or were you bored by it?



16 thoughts on “Book Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

  1. I read this FOREVER ago and totally remembering liking it, but after reading your review nothing about the story rings a bell in my little brain! It did make me think of “What is the What” for whatever reason. Did you ever read that? Another powerful book that takes place in an African country!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! No I haven’t heard of What is the What, but I just looked it up on Amazon and it sounds good! I’ve added it to my TBR.
      Things Fall Apart was a tough book to sum up. This review took me awhile to write as there is just so much to this book, even though it is barely over 200 pgs long.


    1. Oh yes… I kinda forgot there were more books to the story. I was going to look that up but I forgot about it until you just mentioned it!
      I’ll read the other two at some point, I just looked them up on Amazon and I see that the second book follows Okonkwo’s grandson, and I actually own the third book, Arrow of God, already.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought I read that there are different versions of the first book, too. Perhaps one that fills in the part you’re describing that is lacking? I read this book ages ago — back in 2009 — and I’ve forgotten much of it other than the fact that I didn’t appreciate it in the least. I couldn’t relate to the character, I didn’t fully understand the effects of colonization, and the the ending felt all wrong to me. If I read it today, I would most likely love this book. In fact, I do NOT gravitate toward books that “relate to me” because I don’t want to see myself reflected in everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting that there would be different versions of this book. I hadn’t heard that!
      I just wanted a bit more to that ending – just some internal monologue would’ve been nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had read a story by Mr. Achebe in school. That was also based in Africa and had a nice message. I can’t recall the name of the story and the only detail I remember is the drooping shoulders/shrug of one of the characters.
    Thanks for a pretty well-done review and for the recommendations. Would have to add them all to the TBR list it seems.
    Have a great day. God bless. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 🙂 Hope you enjoy the books. They are intense but wonderful!
      Hmm. I don’t recall any drooping shoulders in this one, but Chinua Achebe wrote a bunch of books and short stories, essays, etc. I need to read more of his works as his writing was really beautiful. Things Fall Apart is the only book of his that I’ve read so far.

      Liked by 1 person

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