Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Things Fall Apart

Title: Things Fall Apart

Author: Chinua Achebe

Number of pages: 152

Started: 21 September 2009

Finished: 23 September 2009

Opening words:

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His fame rested on solid personal achievements. As a young man of eighteen he had brought honor to his village by throwing Amalinze the Cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the Cat because his back would never touch the earth. It was this man that Okonkwo threw in a fight which the old men agreed was one of the fiercest since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.

The drums beat and the flutes sang and the spectators held their breath. Amalinze was a wily craftsman, but Okonkwo was as slippery as a fish in water. Every nerve and every muscle stood out on their arms, on their backs and their thighs, and one almost heard them stretching to breaking point. In the end Okonkwo threw the Cat.

Read an extract here.

Plot summary:

Okonowo is the greatest warrior alive. His fame has spread like a bushfire in West Africa and he is one of the most powerful men of his clan. But he also has a fiery temper. Determined not to be like his father, he refuses to show weakness to anyone - even if the only way he can master his feelings is with his fists. When outsiders threaten the traditions of his clan, Okonowo takes violent action. Will the great man's dangerous pride eventually destroy him?

What I thought:

I sort of liked this book. I liked some of the folklore stories that it told in it and there were parts of it which I almost thought were quite like a Biblical parable, which I thought was quite interesting. Ultimately I guess the book was about a clash of cultures – the West Africans trying to maintain their ‘barbaric’ culture and ultimately the white missionaries trying to civilise them. I did enjoy it (although it was quite bloodthirsty in places), but I think I found it hard to decide what I thought of the book because whilst the practices of the tribe were not ‘civilised’, I wasn’t that comfortable with what the missionaries were trying to do either. But perhaps that was the point.

It was an interesting read and I warmed to it more as the book continued.


Sarah said...

I love this book, and I am almost disappointed that you didn't like it more. Which is illogical, because if we all thought exactly the same, then what would be the point of blogs?!

I didn't notice the biblical parallels: an interesting thought for next time I read it. Thank you!

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I am sorry to disappoint. Perhaps I should give it another go some time. I found I enjoyed it more when I took more time to read it, rather than just racing through it like I do with most books.

I think I saw your review of it and knew that you were quite a fan. I will have to think about reading it again.

Sarah said...

Almost disappointed! Did I sound critical? I didn't mean to. Half joking, half musing on why we always hope our friends will like the same books. It's not altogether rational, is it?

I have a list somewhere of books I hate which I know I should like. I find that the message of a good book is impossible to access if the subject matter is personally disagreeable.

Far be it from me to tell anyone what they should read or enjoy!

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I sometimes have that same feeling about books. It is why I am always nervous about recommending Paul Auster as an author - I really like his books and don't want to find that other people are not so enamoured.

I do sometimes entirely miss the point of books though, which is often because I read them too fast.

silverseason said...

I liked and respected this book while I was reading it, but what really impresses me is how long an echo it had in my mind after I had finished the book and gone on to other things. It is the story of a man who is in tune with his time and place, but then his time and place change, maybe for the better, but definitely for the worse for him.

I then found another book by Achebe, A Man of the People, which is more overtly political. See

Random Reflections said...

silverseason - thank you for your comment. I feel as though I missed the finer points of this book - others who have read it, such as yourself, seem to have found it far more meaningful than I did. I feel as though I missed out and perhaps should re-read it!

Perhaps I should try the other one you suggested first though. Thanks.