Friday, December 10, 2010

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe

Okonkwo is a great man. Not that his father had anything to do with this. He is self made, a warrior and is set to one day be the most powerful man in the entire tribe. His biggest regret is his girly son Nwoye. Being so one minded can have it's disadvantages though. Okonkwo's constant effort to appear the  most manly and capable has him participating in the death of a young boy, and eventually setting banishing himself from the tribe. While more an insight look into the Ibo people and the effects that the British empire had on it, Things Fall Apart is still a tale of family, and what one does to keep their good name.

This is the last book we read for my Family in Literature class. I wasn't really excited to pick it up, but had heard mostly good things about. Overall I was surprised. I like Achebe's style. The entire book feels like a long folk tale, occasional dialogue punctuates a story that one could easily imagine being verbally passed around a campfire. It was a very quick read, and easy to follow, which I must admit was something I worried about in the beginning since I had never read any African literature before.

My only issue with Things Fall Apart is with Okonkwo himself. As a character he just rubbed me the wrong way. At first I thought it was a cultural difference, but the more families Achebe showed, the more I realized that Okonkwo was an extreme. No one else was as fanatic about planting yams, about wrestling, about raising his sons and being a tough guy. While it's easy to follow his logic after a few pages with him, that doesn't make his decisions any more reasonable. His second wife Ekwefi and his most beloved daughter Ezinma were far more interesting, to me, and I was always happy to see a sub plot featuring them.

I'm really glad a class finally required me to read Achebe. Things Fall Apart had been on my shelf for four years and I'd never thought once about reading it for pleasure. Silly me! I probably would have enjoyed the story even more without the confines of an incompetent professor to 'guild' my thinking!

One last thing, I've been really into covers lately, and while this isn't the edition I have (which also keeps setting off those detector things in stores) I really love the this cover.

Have you read Things Fall Apart, or anything similar? What did you think about the story? I'd love to hear your opinions!


Avid Reader said...

I read this last year and had a similar reaction. I was kinda dreading it, but found myself really enjoying. I'd agree that I never quite connected with Okonkwo though. Great review.

BookQuoter said...

Oh, I have seen and heard of this book. Don't you ever wonder what other gems are sitting on your bookshelf, something as surprising as this? I also like the cover.