Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{December 2, 2013}   {Review} Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

37781From Goodreads: 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.


I really didn’t like this novel when I was in high school.  But as an adult, I have found that my understanding of the “classics” and my enjoyment of many of them has indeed changed drastically.  Books I hated as a teen are now interesting and hold meaning for me, because I finally get them.  But, this is not the case with Things Fall Apart.  I disliked it as a teen, and I still dislike it now, mainly because it’s written in a way that just doesn’t appeal to me.

While I understand the purpose of this novel—why it’s important and why it’s taught in high school—the execution of the story itself grates my nerves. It’s extremely choppy and to the point, telling the reader in clipped sentences instead of showing the reader through imagery and interesting details.   And though it’s a fairly short novel, the narrative style of the text makes it seem extremely long, and it just didn’t hold my attention.

As events unfold, readers are told what’s happening as if we’re a bird looking in–we aren’t a part of the story, and events jump from one to another so quickly that little import is given to each scene.  And, there is little description to pull me into the story or to make me connect with the characters; instead we’re just told how Okonkwo feels, what he does, and the retaliating actions of the tribe. It is unfortunate, but I have no sympathy for Okonkwo because he is an awful man, beating everyone and refusing, even under the guidance of his tribe, to let things go.  While trying to be the epitome of what he deems a “man” is supposed to be, Okonkwo misses the mark tenfold through his lack of compassion, and even his people see him as wanting in this aspect because he cannot, and will not, change.  It leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, and though I understand the message, I personally don’t like this book in the least. One star.


I borrowed this book from the school library.


et cetera
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