Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I know this is sort of a classic; the blurb on the back lifted the text to that of epic status, but I didn't like it too much. It is set in Africa, following the life of one African man in particular, his family (including three wives) and his village. I'm not a xenophobe, I enjoyed learning about the culture presented here in general, but I did not like the main character, who was often cruel to his wives and children, and arrogant. I could not relate, connect or empathize with him at all. I connected more with virtually all the other characters in the book, in fact. Also, many of the character's names, besides being African, thus unfamiliar, started with "O," which made it difficult to keep them straight.

Again, here is another book that does not follow a traditional plot scheme but instead tells a series of stories of an individual life. The read was pretty much acts of violence or venom one after the other, along with misfortunes and several African rituals. The book really got interesting more towards the end when British missionaries were introduced into the story. Insight into the invasive actions and self-righteous attitudes of the missionaries was informative and enlightening as read through the perspective of the native people, especially knowing that this story, while fictional, is representative of truth.

In addition to the cultural and socioreligious aspects, there were a few parts that I enjoyed immensely, two for their humor, one for its philosophy:

1) A sort of tribal council meets over the issue of a man, Uzowulu, who has beat his wife. Here's what the wife's family had to say: "If...Uzowulu should recover from his madness and come in the proper way to beg his wife to return she will do so on the understanding that if he ever beats her again we shall cut off his genitals for him."

2) A few of the Christian missionaries' converts from the village return to their village, declaring all their former gods "dead and impotent," to which one of the village's religious leaders of the native faith responds, "'Go and burn your mothers' genitals.'"

Finally, 3) "'There is no story that is not true...'" - 4 stars


Amanda said...

I've heard this is good. You say you didn't like it, but give it 4 stars? Is that an esoteric 4 stars, based on status of the book more than personal enjoyment?

Amber said...

I gave it 4 stars due to the intrigue/intellectual aspects of the culture exploration and the thing with the missionaries, also those three things I list at the end.

But, other than that, I must say my rating system is admittedly arbitrary.

Amber said...

oh yes, and I operate on a 5-star system.

Trixie said...

This is on my list to read when I find it. I have to check my library.
I'd read Anthills of the Savannah by Achebe in college, but I don't remember it very well. I still have it, so I may have to pull it out to refresh my memory too.
Thanks for your review, Amber.

hamilcar barca said...

The book really got interesting more towards the end when British missionaries were introduced into the story.

i've read books that have done this same thing. boring, plodding stuff for 3/4 of the book, then at the end it gets really good. so i wonder - does this mean the author had a great idea, but alas, it was only, say, 50 pages long? too short for a book, so the publshing company says, "add another 200 pages to it, and we'll buy it." well, it doesn't work well to add the filler after the good stuff, so the writer adds the blather at the beginning.

just the musings of a non-writing reader...

Amber said... that's a thinker.

I don't usually (ever) consider the affect that the publisher has on the product.

I oughta start thinking more about that.

I have this nieve notion that the writer is in total control of the content, even though I have heard otherwise.

I think I'm just stubborn.

But good point.

Also, thanks for the thanks, Trixie!