Saturday, September 10, 2016

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Publication Date: 1958
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 152
Series: The African Trilogy #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive , and his fame spreads throughout West Africa life a bush-fire in the harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With the world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy.

Review: For once, I am at a loss for words.  I'm not quite sure what to say about this book.  I never would have chosen this for myself, which, in fact, I didn't.  I read this for a school project, in which I typically end up disliking the novel.  But this one?  I'm not exactly sure.

There is no story that is not true.

The first thing I noticed was the writing: subtle and smooth.  I wasn't stumbling through this book bored out of my mind, cringing at the words.  But what Things Fall Apart does best is folding you into the culture.  I've never read a book centered in Africa before, and this particular time period of colonialism really makes it interesting.  First you are brought into this culture, then shown how it is being destroyed.  

Unfortunately, the plot is lost in the exploration of tradition.  The first two-thirds remain largely at a stand still, introducing the characters and the villages.  Even the supposedly climactic scenes aren't delivered with much impact.  The substantial story line is shoved into the last third of the book, rushing through it so much that it fails to make much of an impression.  Things happen, but they don't have structure or purpose.

The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.

Did I like the main character, Okonkwo?  The answer is no, of course not. He's misogynistic and violent without a hint of compassion.  His personality derives in part from the nature of his culture, but posing him as the "hero" of the story doesn't make sense.  You sympathize with him when his way of life is torn apart by British colonialists, but you never actually care about him as a person.  The rest of the characters have little to no substance.  The book is so focused on Okonkwo that the others simply fade into the background.  

Things Fall Apart is a painless book to read, but for the subject matter it should have more depth and significance.  


  1. Ah, sorry you didn't enjoy it much! I've heard that it's a classic - but maybe that's because it explores the tradition really well? I wouldn't know though, since I haven't read the book! >.<

    1. It definitely explores the traditions and culture extremely well. That's the strongest aspect, but the rest was pretty eh. Thanks for commenting, Geraldine!

  2. I know I read this in school which was a long time ago so I can't remember how I felt about it. Sorry it wasn't better for you. Great review!

    1. Yeah, it's definitely one of those cliched classics you read in school. I enjoyed it well enough, but the plot just wasn't really there. Thanks for commenting, Grace!