Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Before I’d ever read this book, before I even knew the basic outline of the story, I knew that Things Fall Apart was “supposed” to be a book about the advent of colonialism in Nigeria and the resulting destruction of the indigenous culture. But well over half the book is about Onkonkwo, a successful farmer and leader who is respected (but not particularly loved) in his village. Frankly, Onkonkwo is as rigid and unyielding as any intolerant, colonizing Englishman and/or Christian  missionary. I mean, there has to be a reason that Achebe made his central character so very unsympathetic. Personally, I think that any forceful challenge to Onkonkwo’s belief system would have knocked him for a loop. His entire life was blind faith in tradition, regardless of how such tradition made him feel or how it affected his loved ones and I am not sure just how much this book was intended to be an indictment of European colonialism as I had been led to believe. I realize that Achebe wrote further books that are loosely considered to be part of a series, so perhaps those books address this topic more specifically.

I was not super keen on the storytelling style of this book. It just is not my taste; very simplistic and bare-bones, which totally suits the story, but it isn’t something I particularly enjoy. And the title, a reference to a poem by Yeats (which I only know because I think Picard quoted on Star Trek Next Generation once), belies that simplicity. What I did like were the little authorial hints about other villages with other traditions, and the glimpse into a tradition and culture which is now most certainly non-existent in the form presented in the novel, although bits and pieces surely remain today in modern Nigeria. Even though I didn’t really love the writing style, I think that this is a book that can be understood and appreciated on a variety of levels. It is deceptively simple and subtle.

I read this book for the category “Classic by a Non-White Author” in the 2016 Back to the Classic Challenge hosted by Karen on the blog Books and Chocolate. I am glad I finally got to it since it has been on my list for many years and particularly I wanted to read it before I tackled Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen since my Father told me that one could see a definite link between the two books.