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Things Fall ApartThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 1001 BYMRBYD (no. 468), 50 Books A Year (no. 38)

“The writer in whose company the prison walls fell down” – Nelson Mandela

This year I’m really lucky to have the chance to read a whole bunch of famous authors for the first time. Chinua Achebe just happens to be one of those, and his book ‘Things Fall Apart’ is a find that puts a smile on a readaholics face. Yes, it’s a wonderful find, and I say ‘find’ because for me at least, the reading quest is a personal one of discovery. With ‘Things Fall Apart’ I have found a valuable, intimate account of the ways of old tribal life in what was then the region of Umuofia, but what is now a part of Nigeria.

The story is of the great warrior Okonkwo, whose bravery and hard-earned glory is legendary among the various tribes. He is revered by his countrymen as the epitome of manhood and respected as a leading authority figure. However, as the story unfolds we witness the personal demons that haunt him, as we learn of his fathers lazy ways and the shame Okonkwo felt about this as he grew up. The day-to-day life of the villagers are told in a simple but powerful way. At one point I began to feel like one of the tribe, because I genuinely cared for what happened to the villagers of Umuofia. Okonkwo’s wives and his children, even the local medicine woman and the problems with the heavy rains and droughts that ruined a whole year of harvest shows a people who were brave and noble.

With Achebe you get to see the natives and their nobility of thought as well as the superstitious beliefs that caused a lot of grief for the various tribal members.

This book was so engrossing that I almost stayed up all night reading it. I couldn’t tear myself away, especially when the white man begins to threaten the existence of the settlements. I’ve never read anything as detailed as this about African tribes. Okonkwo is a very powerful character, and the tribe members all have their own distinct voices. Overall the sense of community is very strong in Achebe’s story and I found this to be for Africa what ‘The Grapes of Wrath‘ was for America. It tells of the way time-honoured traditions are cruelly massacred by white strangers with their white god. It shows how a community that has known each other for generations can fall apart at the intrusion of another faith. The tribes are not ready for the confusion that the travellers from the North bring them, and it marks the beginning of the end for these people.

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