Sunday, April 21, 2013

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The African Trilogy #1
Published by Anchor Canada; April 21, 2009
Paperback, 209 pages

Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first of these stories traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world in which he lives, and in its classical purity of line and economical beauty it provides us with a powerful fable about the immemorial conflict between the individual and society.

The second story, which is as modern as the first is ancient, and which elevates the book to a tragic plane, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world through the arrival of aggressive, proselytizing European missionaries. These twin dramas are perfectly harmonized, and they are modulated by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.

Things Fall Apart is the most illuminating and permanent monument we have to the modern African experience as seen from within.

- Description from

Remember when I reviewed Brave New World a few months ago? If you remember THAT, maybe you'll recall me saying that Brave New World was a book I read for school. After finishing that a while back, my class started reading Things Fall Apart (ex. Part 2 of our novel study). It took me a long time to finish this, let me tell you. Here's why:

This book tells the story of Okonkwo, who is a very respected man in the village, Umuofia in Nigeria. He's very strong and has anger issues so when the White Christian missionaries come and contaminate the people of his village, he gets angry. And he does certain things that leads to his falling apart, which is essentially the theme of this book. Long story short, it's a book about someone's falling apart.

There's really no way to review this book since it's really a timeline of what goes on in Okonkwo's life. There's nothing particularly spectacular about this book and so if you're a reader that likes FAST, or action-paced, you probably won't like this book much. The plot isn't very solid, and the story tends to fast forward through moments which may lead to confusion. That being said, I don't think the book is written to be fast or action-paced. It's not really a book for your enjoyment, it's one more for your knowledge and understanding, told through the eyes of very well-respected man of the village.

The biggest problem I had with this book is that I did not feel, being raised in a Western society, that I had the means to understand it. That has nothing to do with the differences in the cultures, it's just simply that I have no background or knowledge about Nigerians and this book didn't do much to help that fact. There are still so many things that confuse me. The Nigerian words were quite confusing to. I respect the author's decision to include them (and thank God for the glossary!) but as a reader, it was a hassle. With some of the more religious and cultural terms, the definitions did not help me to understand the book much.

Now that I have gotten that out, I'll tell you what I did like. I loved the detail and description in this book and I think Part 1 was amazing for that. It was direct and straightforward, and it provided a great foundation of understanding for the rest of the novel (which was lacklustre). I think, had it not been for Part 1, I honestly don't think I would have continued. It's only a shame that I didn't find the rest as enjoyable as Part 1.


  1. Hmm, seems like Achebe didn't succeed in allowing his readers to relate to his characters' different cultural backgrounds. That's no good to hear. Yet I still want to give this a try, because it's Chinua Achebe, and somehow I missed reading this in school. Wonder if it'd be different if I read it voluntarily!

  2. Yes, I think you should totally give it a shot! Things Fall Apart still is a classic and tons of people have read it and loved it! I just think that because this book is so different than many others, it's hard to set that all aside and simply focus on the book.

  3. Christina FrankeSunday, April 28, 2013

    I had to read this one for school as well, and it was quite a trial for me too. Pretty much all I remember is that they went on and on about the "iron horse" and that they talked endlessly about YAMS. Haha, I obviously got a lot out of that educational experience, no?

    I definitely didn't bond with the characters or feel like the writing made me feel steeped in the culture enough to transport me out of my Western background. It was just a weird experience for me.

  4. Funny, I don't recall an iron horse but yams, oh yes! I guess I remember even less than you do! I totally agree you on everything you said. I felt the book was more directed to Nigerians and they were really the only people who could get the full experience. There were just too little explanation for me to understand the lives and culture of the Ibo people.