Book #48: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Three weeks into the semester and things are up and running. I’m at a point where I’m reading at least one book a week, trudging my way through The Divine Comedy, and filling all the other time with “scholarly” reading and drafting new sections of my thesis.

Suffice it to say that I have no shortage of assignments to occupy my time.

This weekend’s reading was Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart. I first read this novel as a high school sophomore seven years ago (yeesh!) in an AP World History class, so I was glad to have the chance to reread it from a literary perspective. I remember feeling like Things Fall Apart was one of the first pieces of “real literature” I’d ever read because it exposed me to the type of tragic ending that’s exemplary of so many classic literary works.

This time around I was less enthusiastic about the book. Achebe’s writing is perhaps deceptively easy to understand, but I felt bored by the narrative structure. There’s hardly any style to his writing, so it feels like someone sharing a fairly straightforward account of some stuff that happened in a tribe in Niger around the turn of the 20th century. The novel is also incredibly sexist and I don’t (yet) know enough about Achebe to know if that’s reflective of his personal opinions, but it made it difficult for me to have much sympathy for Okonkwo as a protagonist.

To me, the strongest part of the novel is Part III, when white colonists begin to invade the lives of the indigenous peoples and attempt to spread Christianity. What begins as a respectable cause turns quickly as both sides become violent. This section feels like the only time we see actions of major consequence, and I wish it encompassed a larger part of the book’s action.

So, though I have mixed feelings about this novel, I don’t have to spend much more time thinking about it. Now I’m on to the next one.

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