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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from Keyne Readers
There was unanimous agreement in our Book Group that we had all enjoyed this book. We mostly came to it not knowing what to expect, and enjoyed the perspective it gave us into a completely different society and way of life.

The way in which the first part of the book was written helped us to see how the tribal system worked and what the old beliefs were, it...
Published on 17 May 2006 by Keyne Reader

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first authentic African voice is a loud whisper
Chinua Achebe's acclaimed novel starts out as a thoughtful invocation of the culture and values of the Igbo people in pre-colonial Nigeria at a time when advice is sought from oracles and medicine-men, justice despatched through blood feuds and human sacrifice, and where the manly virtues of the warrior remain the defining quality sought by all self-respecting men...
Published on 15 July 2008 by Trevor Coote


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81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from Keyne Readers, 17 May 2006
This review is from: Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
There was unanimous agreement in our Book Group that we had all enjoyed this book. We mostly came to it not knowing what to expect, and enjoyed the perspective it gave us into a completely different society and way of life.

The way in which the first part of the book was written helped us to see how the tribal system worked and what the old beliefs were, it made us a part of the village and you saw life through their eyes and their values. It enabled you to accept, for instance, the polygamy, the treatment of women, and the killing of twin children without condemnation. It was this description of the tribal life that helped us to see, in the second part, what a devastating effect the arrival of the missionaries had on the tribe and how it gradually divided them and changed their way of life for ever.

Okonkwo makes an unusual 'hero' or main character. We sympathise with his continual fight against his childhood circumstances, but this makes him ignore advice, arrogant, and unnecessarily brutal. He sees himself as cerebral, regarding passion as a weakness, so it is when he does demonstrate love and passion it stands out more starkly.

Chielo the priestess is interesting, both a well-known and loved village member, but also the oracle at the cave. Both with her, and with the egwugwu spirits of the ancestors, the villagers show an amazing ability to suspend disbelief.

We thought that the building of the missionaries' church on the ground of the evil spirits was a clever device which allowed the 'white man' to demonstrate the weakness of the traditional religion. Nevertheless the end took us all by surprise, nothing had prepared you for it, as by this time you had identified with the life of the villagers. It was made even more poignant when you realised that the story would only merit a paragraph in the Commissioner's book.
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69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful account of the downfall of a civilisation, 15 Oct 2003
By A Customer
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Ironically, I got turned on to this book by a piece of music. For years I'd marvelled at The Roots' album whose name, I recently found out, was taken from the title of this book. Having a degree in English Literature dominated by DWEM (dead white european males), Achebe's name had never even surfaced on my radar. What a travesty. Things fall apart is the perfect account of a dead civilisation, following a man, Okinkwo, as he battles with his culture, only to see it destroyed from both within and without by European colonialism. In contradiction to other accounts of Africa (such as Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness'), Achebe's account is beautiful for its lack of Orientalist language and allusions, treating the complexities of indiginous Africa as both beautiful and, above all, natural. Neither the Africans, nor the collonialists, are treated as unusual oddities, instead the author manages to impartially portray people, events and traditions with astounding pragmatism, the simple, often abrupt language only reinforcing the novel's lack of sentimentality. A miraculous novel, Things Fall Apart not only paints a picture of Africa during its golden-age, but also demonstrates the ignorance and orientalism which led to its destruction. A true masterpiece.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Achebe, 25 Jan 2007
This review is from: Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
A most memorable book, Okonkwo looms large, but as a tragic figure is very human; small in the temporal context. His world is rapidly changing, christians have taken hold, and the gods seem to have gone silent. Indeed the 'pacification' of his village was thorough in this sense as it somehow strikes at the essence of their existence seemingly usurping it. The ghost of Okonkwo from this encounter still haunts the african continent; the tensions between the lure of modernisation and tradition. Achebe deals brilliantly with african space, connecting the past with the present, ensuring that precolonial space is documented for reference.

It is a most enjoyable read, one that must be revisited over and over again.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and unique perspective on colonialism, 17 April 2003
This book superbly counterbalances the western perspectives on colonial Africa in the nineteenth century ('Heart of Darkness' springs to mind). In Conrad's book, West Africa is uncivilised, a hell on earth, and the people there (both locals and Europeans) behave savagely, as their surroundings dictate. Achebe rubbishes this view.
The book is the story of Okonkwo, a great but deeply flawed man, proud and violent yet deeply concerned with right and wrong and the rule of law. His village is strongly traditional, and Achebe repeatedly emphasises the use of laws and village beliefs to settle disputes. These are far from Conrad's savages, but rather they present a life every bit as orderly and civil as the Europeans soon to be invading them. When Okonkwo commits a crime (accidentally) he accepts his punishment unquestioningly, as do his close friends who must punish him, because to not do so is alien to them. Their society is not presented as idyllic, and has many unpleasant aspects (the beating of women, the killing of all twins, the sacrifice of Okonkwo's adopted son), but it is, above all, subject to the rule of law. This is an Africa that many western writers have enjoyed pretending didn't exist.
The finale of the book is beautiful and disturbing. Europeans arrive and, unable or unwilling to see the order in the Ibo society arround them, begin to install christian morals and ethics. This undermines the society, and the Ibo's violent backlash only serves to confirm what the Europeans have suspected all along. This is where the myth of uncivilised africa begins, and Achebe, himself an Ibo, but writing much later than the events descibed in the book, is in a unique position to expose this.
The joy of this book is in Achebe's understanding of the Ibo and his ability to explain the workings of a successful peaceful society. The darkness that Conrad saw comes from Okonkwo and men like him, but who exist all over the world, and also from the Europeans who went about 'pacifying' a peaceful people. No writer that I've read has ever shown this so brilliantly.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read, 17 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Although I had to read this book for my school exams, I found it in no way a chore. The book is beautifully written, with Achebe drawing us in,slowly,to the Ibo culture. We learn of its traditions and beliefs, religion and society. The word used are simple,yet evocative. The principal character becomes a vivid creation in the reader's mind. Though he is a beast,a brutal and merciless man,we cannot help but feel for him. Such is the genius of Achebe's writing. The third part of the novel deals with the arrival of the white settlers,with their new religion and customs. We see the affect they have on the Ibo people,and on Okonkwo. The result is disasterous. The book is a thrilling read, it's pace perfectly structured. The importance of what the book has to say about the colonisation of Africa in the 19th Century simply adds to the reasons it is a must-read. If you cannot buy this book now, find some way to get your hands on it. You will not be sorry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African literature, 11 May 2009
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This review is from: Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Set at the end of the 19th century beginning of the 20th it tells how African village life was at the time, rather brutal and riddled with superstition in fact but missionaries, in trying to change African society made a lot of mistakes. I have read several books on a similar subject but this one is set earlier before Europeans had stepped in and changed African society forever...for better or for worse, a mixture of both I think.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.", 20 Aug 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Things Fall Apart (Paperback)
Chinua Achebe derives the title to his magnum opus from a verse from W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," The Collected Poems of W.B.Yeats (Wordsworth Poetry) (Wordsworth Poetry Library). An apt title indeed, for a novel whose central theme is what happened in Africa, from the African's perspective, when the white man (and yes, the gender is specific) showed up. The book was first published in the late `50's, shortly after Nigeria, where this novel is set, became independent. It concerns the Ibo (Igbo) region of southeastern Nigeria. This region sought its own independence as Biafra, in 1967, and Achebe became a spokesperson for their cause. There are now more than 8 million copies in print, and Achebe is often referred to as the father of modern African literature. With the novel's widespread acceptance, it has become a "school assignment" book, (it even has its own "Cliffs Notes"!) and hence, the posting of numerous 1-star reviews. Some of the1-star reviews are thoughtful however, challenging the author for using the work of a white Irishman for his title, and did the slaughter of World War I really compare with the interactions of white Europeans with Africans? That leads to the true fool's errand of toting up the dead bodies. As for my own reading, I've read several books from the (American) Indian perspective on the coming of the white man, and I have read numerous books on Africa, almost exclusively by whites such as Alan Paton, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, Albert Camus, Jules Roy, Alistair Horne, and even Joseph Conrad, who Achebe has fiercely criticized. Certainly a read from an African perspective, perhaps the most famous one, has been LONG overdue.

I liked Achebe's prose style. Straightforward, and unsentimental. He certainly does not depict a glorious Eden before the arrival of the white man. And almost three-fourths of the novel is set in the period before his arrival. The protagonist is Okonkwo, the son of an indolent father, Unoka. The son's upward social mobility commences with his wrestling victory over Amalinze the Cat. Okonkwo has the internal motivation to rise above his father's "station in life." There is the "sociological aspect" to the novel. I kept thinking of a 600 page treatise, with leaden prose, and tables, describing the rituals of birth, marriage and death, along with the systems for religious observation, the administration of justice, and the economics of village life. What are the family customs and beliefs that are held important? Achebe covers all of this, deftly, in novelistic vignettes. In addition, Achebe's characters display the universal qualities of the human condition: desire for advancement, greed, envy, sexual relations, pride, disappointment in one's children, and the response to natural disasters, such as too much rain, or too many locust. "Chi" is apparently the Ibo word for "fate," and it is a dominant factor in the characters' lives.

The white man first arrives on an "iron horse," which turns out to be a bicycle. He pays with his life for his temerity, a "casus belli," which quickly leads to an unequal exchange of life. But it is religion, and not armies, that provide the essential wedge for "things falling apart." I thought Achebe did a brilliant job in describing how it so often happens. In his novel, the white missionary is rather inoffensive and bumbling. But oh so effective in appealing to the individuals at the lower rungs of Ibo society... basically giving them a "second chance" in life. The Christian religion gathers adherents, and effectively defeats the "gods" of the native religion. Achebe also realistically depicts the (in)famous "divide and rule" tactics of the colonial British. When two quite different social structures compete, all too often, at least for a period, it is the side with the larger warships that seems to win.

Achebe's work is a classic, and despite Mark Twain's quip, one that should be read, by anyone seeking to truly understand why things are the way they are, particularly in Africa. Could it be made into a temporary home? 5-stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Things Fall Apart, 14 July 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Okonkwo is a famous fighter and warrior, who strives to be respected, especially as he was ashamed of his father who was known for being lazy and in debt. The beginning of this short, but powerful, novel introduces Okonkwo's tribal customs to the reader. When a girl from Okonkwo's tribe is killed, a young man and a girl are sent to pay the debt and the young boy, Ikemefuna, is raised alongside his own family. His household peace is tested when the debt is finally paid and, from that point, things do not seem to go well for Okonkwo - a man who dominates his household, but who is forced into exile after an accidential death. Sadly, the ending of the first part of this book is almost an anti climax, as the tension created by the characters is excellent until this point. You really feel a great deal of empathy with Okonkwo's fear of being seen as having any weakness, despite his obvious love for his daughter Ezinma, and his desire to improve both his and his families lives.

During Okonkwo's time in exile the missionaries appear and everything changes. The arrival of a new government alongside a new religion causes deep rifts in the community. Okonkwo's response is to fight, but not everyone sees the changes as a bad thing. This is an interesting novel, which explores some really interesting themes and would be ideal for book groups. The novel is first in a trilogy, which are also contained in one volume The African Trilogy: Things Fall Apart No Longer at Ease Arrow of God (Everyman Library).
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Actually deserves the description 'must-read', 10 Mar 2003
By 
Mr. Paul J. Bradshaw (Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A landmark novel which tells the story of Okonkwo and his family, and through that, the tale of his tribe and the fate of many others like it as colonial rule and the missionaries made their presence felt.
What marks this book out is its refusal to resort to a black-and-white picture of events. Okonkwo is no hero; the whites are not inherently evil; the tribal way is not always 'honourable', but nor are the tribes 'civilised' by the colonial process. There are victims of both ways of doing things, and this is a tragic story to say the least - but it is an incredibly important one, beautifully written with an almost mythic quality. A book you'll always remember.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The first authentic African voice is a loud whisper, 15 July 2008
By 
Trevor Coote "Trevor Coote" (Tahiti, French Polynesia) - See all my reviews
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Chinua Achebe's acclaimed novel starts out as a thoughtful invocation of the culture and values of the Igbo people in pre-colonial Nigeria at a time when advice is sought from oracles and medicine-men, justice despatched through blood feuds and human sacrifice, and where the manly virtues of the warrior remain the defining quality sought by all self-respecting men. Embarrassed by his weak father Okonkwo sets out to be become a clan leader through steely determination, hard work and plain bullying. A lot of good it does him, though. A fatal accident - not in any way his fault - results in flight from his clan and a humiliating seven year exile. On his return, the missionaries had arrived in his village and we all know what happened next: the end of civilisation as they knew it.
This is an important book inasmuch as it was one of the first authentic African voices to portray the effects of colonialism on a traditional African society, and it came at a time when the British Empire had run its course and was on the verge of disintegration. However, it is an immature work written in a style so concise as to appear almost light, and is not the masterwork that it is claimed to be despite its undoubted virtues of accuracy and honesty. The author - as I'm sure he would admit - was to compose better works.
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Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics)
Things Fall Apart (Penguin Classics) by Chinua Achebe (Paperback - 26 Jan 2006)
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