This was one of those books that has been on my to-read list for a while. Published over half a century ago in 1958, this classic book has truly made a name for itself. It is a book that has been selected to be part of the curriculum for children in schools across Africa and the US.
In short, the story follows a man, Okonkwo, and chronicles his life in the pre-colonial years of the late 19th century in South-east Nigeria, up until the arrival of the Europeans and Christianity. Through his eyes, we are exposed to a culture untainted by the influences of the Western world.
It is a short read. At first, I found the book difficult to get into but I eventually got into a rhythm. What struck a chord with me; a certain familiarity was the sentence structure and use of proverbs. Having grown up watch Nigerian films of Igbo origin, and even by own culture as an Ashanti, Ghanaian, the use of proverbs is all too common. Reading them in the book as part of the everyday thinking pattern and speech of the characters was a pleasant and warming feeling.
Perhaps due to the accolades and my expectations, I was slightly disappointed by the book. I’ve attributed it to being all too accustomed to the perfect happy ending! This story takes you for a ride. Unexpected things do happen, things fall apart, and the truth is that not everything that is broken can be fixed.
What his book did for me, as British born, of Ghanaian origin, is that it allowed me to see first-hand what an Africa, wholly Africa independent of outside traditions, looked like. It showed me a family structure that is not what I have accepted to be the norm today. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate the way society was run, the way people worked together and did business. The way children related to their parents and other adults in the community. It highlighted the role of a wife and mother, the role of a husband and father.
Things Fall Apart is often referred to as one of the African Trilogy of works by Achebe called where it is book number one. The second is No Longer at Ease (1960) and the third, Arrow of God (1964). A respected storyteller, he is spoken of by the late Nelson Mandela as, “The author in whose company the prison walls fell down.” As is printed on my copy of the book (see featured image above).
I recommend this book, particularly for anyone whose background is a nation who were subject to colonial rule in the last century.
My rating of this book is 3 out of 5 stars.