Sunday Book Club: Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Guys, good news, my really awful/unqualified book reviews are back because so I am and this one will be no less terrible because I really am not sure what a good book review entails. (But just on the subject now that I’m thinking about it, I remember we had to write a book review in sophomore year of high school and then I remembered Ms. Papamichael who was my sophomore English teacher and then I remembered I saw her at the mall once and I wanted to say hi but it’s been years and I hope I look a little more grown up/how weird is that to see your teacher and they ask you what you’re doing at the mall and you’re like “ha this is my life now I am going nowhere” so I awkwardly walked passed her with a bag of pretzel bites in my hand.)

I’ve read this puppy a few times now (three) and it’s weird because I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but I really did. I first read it in one of my college lit classes at my community college and the professor was just really on point with his teaching style (shout out to Prof. Goodell wherever you are) that he could’ve made me read anything and I would’ve applauded it (EXCEPT Heart of Darkness, which he did make me read and I will just never be ok with that Conrad guy). Ok, but that last statement definitely does not mean that I don’t love this book because I already said that I do please get off my back, you guys. As much as I liked the book as a whole, I didn’t really love Okonkwo. I loved Okonkwo’s interactions with the other members of his village and I loved the situations that Achebe placed Okonkwo in, but I don’t know if I necessarily loved Okonkwo himself. (The only situation I didn’t love was when they were taking Ikemefuna out to be killed and Okonkwo helped, I was so mad how could you do that, Okonkwo? How could you do that to Ikemefuna and me?) I thought the other characters were strong in the purpose they served and I think Okonkwo was strong in the purpose he served. Ikemefuna’s juxtaposition with Nwoye. (Pause, I think I wrote this sentence just to tell you about this one time a customer came into the store and ordered something online and the name on his credit card was Ikemefuna and I nearly lost it.) Okonkwo’s love for his daughter Enzima. The slight differences between character and atmosphere between the two villages. I think it’s all very great and very strong.

I actually read it again during my Modernism Seminar my last year of undergrad. Exploring this idea of humanization–dehumanization and how someone can reverse the cycle. And what a great book to use with his stark contrast to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. (Yes, I purposely read Heart of Darkness for the third time that year, what’s wrong with me, I know.) Conrad travels deep into the heart of the Congo and, through the eyes of a European colonizer, discusses the process and environment and the people. The process is brutal; the environment otherworldly; the people inhuman. The Congo is a creepy place after you read Heart of Darkness, ok. So good work creeping us all out, Joe, but not good work at everything else. (Also, I know you had nothing to do with it, Joe, but the movie was not great at all.) Achebe on the other side takes the story to the other side. Conrad spends most of his time on the actual colonization of the Congo and it’s people, but Achebe seems to take a different approach. We only see the Europeans very late in the book. He takes us through the life of these people through the journey of one man. A culture, a civilization. He brings life back to Africa. Brings life back to it’s people.

(I’d obviously post my entire senior paper up on this bad boy but that would be really very obnoxious so I won’t do that. Well, maybe not all of it. And maybe another time. Also, I’m bad at this.)

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