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Things Fall Apart

4.4 out of 5 stars 265 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0040GBDFQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: 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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