“There is no story that is not true.”
Synopsis: 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.”
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?