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83 of 89 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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83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars from Keyne Readers, 17 May 2006
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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71 of 77 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
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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22 of 24 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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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be patient and you'll be rewarded!, 12 April 2009
It takes a while to enter into the spirit of this book. At the beginning it can result a little bit difficult or even boring, especially, I suppose, for a European reader. More than once you have to reread a few passages, simply because you don't get the meaning of them at first glance. There is a sort of fascinating dichotomy between the language of the book, which is easily accessible, and its content, which is not. As a result you understand the single meaning of the words, but not the sentences as a whole. An example? Only after a few pages I finally got that the "iron horse" was nothing else than a "bike"! Sometimes the effect is mystifying. You don't expect it reading a book in a language you know. Or here it's another one. A woman is asking another about her 10 year-old daughter. This is the answer of the mother: "She has been very well for some time now. Perhaps she has come to stay now". My first reaction was: what is she speaking about? She has come to stay... where? Then I had an intuition, confirmed by Achebe shortly after: "I think she will stay. They usually stay if they do not die before the age of six". You simply don't understand at first because the world you live in is so different from the one described in the book. But little by little everything gets easier and easier, and you'll be surprised by your degree of understanding and even of empathizing.

If you are prepared to see your point of view upside down and to live for a while in a XIX century Nigerian little village, well, then you'll be rewarded. I found this book extremely interesting anthropologically speaking, but after a while I started also sympathizing with its characters. Chinua Achebe succeeds in leading the reader to his part, to his point of view, so that in the end you will be able to see the clash of two cultures (the native one and the white one) with different eyes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars End of a civilisation, or just the beginning?, 2 May 2009
Achebe's modern classic, first published in 1958, tells the story of Okonkwo, an up and coming leader of an Igbo village in Africa. He is willing to do anything to maintain his social status, no matter the suffering that it causes himself and those around him. However, out of the blue everything that Okonkwo holds dear becomes threatened when a shooting accident has terrible consequences. Okonkwo must flee with his family from his beloved village for seven years, losing the life that he worked so hard to gain.

The book recounts how Okonkwo gets through his seven years of exile only to return home and discover that everything has changed in his absence. White missionaries have come to convert Africa to their ways, and he has to re-discover his place in a society that once revered him.

Achebe's warmth and humanity shine through, even as he tells a story of a harsh and often brutal civilization that many would argue needed to change. The author never judges but presents the case to the reader and leaves them to make up their own minds, and ultimately this is a powerful and important piece of literary fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things Fall Apart - To fight or not to fight?, 6 July 2009
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D. Hendy "JustMe" (Wales) - See all my reviews
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I orderd this book in response to a south bank show broadcast on Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; I was inspired to read Things Fall Apart. Having read Roots and Mandella's biography and autobiographies, I find the same theme running through Things Fall Apart; when to fight and when to accept the 'inevitable'? Many nations and cultures face the choice of accepting what is thrust upon them, or fighting for their rights to worship, live and be as they wish and often have always been. Some fight and usually at great personal cost (Benasir Butou and Aung San Suu Kyi) others try hard to accept the new ways that are thrust upon them. What is right? That is the complex situation we see in this book. It isn't just about nations, it is about individuals, their history, their beliefs their own individual pride, their goals for their own future and the children they will bring into the world. If this interestes you... read this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great literature by the standards of any culture, 31 May 2009
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John Williams (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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Read just the first paragraph of 'Things Fall Apart' and you will know that you are in the hands of an exceptional writer. Language does not have to be ornate and wordy in order to be worthy; simple and direct is best, as is demonstrated here. Before reading this book, I wondered whether Achebe's cultural roots would be too far from my own for there to be any common ground between us, or at least a common understanding of what makes a good story. I need not have worried. What this book achieves is to create a world that is authentically African, yet accessible to anyone. Proof if proof were needed that some things are common to all humanity (great storytelling, for example), and that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. Please read this book. (I won't spoil it for you by telling you the plot.)
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