Monthly Archives: May 2021

A classic novel from Africa

Thing Fall Apart book cover

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a remarkable novel about life in an African tribe and how it changes after white Christian people begin to arrive. With vivid descriptions and rich characters, it depicts this harrowing time with an artful clarity.

I’d just finished a contemporary book about Nigerian life that had gotten great reviews but completely underwhelmed me. As it referenced Things Fall Apart, I decided to pick this book up and am really happy I did. Aside from telling a great story, Chinua Achebe achieves some really difficult things here as a writer. He manages not to glorify tribal life before the arrival of the white people, nor to demonize all those who come believing they’re bringing a more civilized culture. He also creates a main character–an unsettled warrior driven by anger–that you empathize with despite the fact that he does some terrible things.

I’ve read great novels about colonial Africa written by white people, but this is a powerful book written from the other point of view. It’s also a wonderful work of literature that touches on universal human themes. It doesn’t feel at all dated even though it was published in 1958.