Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe

I loved this book. Chinua Achebe writes a sad and melancholic tale about a man called Okonkwo in a small African tribal village called Umuofia. Okonkwo is a man feared and respected by everyone in his village and beyond. He is a wrestling champion and man who enjoys fame and respect because of his hard work. He is a self made man. His father was considered a looser because he did not work very hard to sustain his crops and did nothing else but play music and laze around. He died as an outcast.

The only thing Okonkwo fears is failure and being compared to his father. So he works hard, becomes prosperous and lives comfortably with his 3 wives and children.

But life is not fair to him. After working hard in his village to gain a title and a good life, he is exiled from his fatherland because he kills a boy by mistake. When European colonists come to his village and build a church and start converting the villagers into Christians, Okonkwo wants to take action, he wants to fight the Europeans and preserve his culture and religion and his gods. But no one else wants to fight. Okonkwo watches his son join the Europeans and turn into a Christian and he is in utter despair because he cannot do anything about it.

This book has a sad and tragic end.
What I liked about the book was the simple descriptions of the day to day life of the people in a tribal village. I enjoyed reading about how their lives revolved around the growing and harvesting of Yams, how their beliefs in their gods affected the men and women in the village and their unease and anger when Europeans come and build a church in the village.
I enjoyed reading about folk tales passed down from generation to generation.

Even though I like the book I would like to mention a few points here as I have heard a lot of criticism and bad reviews for this book.

‘Things fall apart’ has been termed as a literary masterpiece. But if you looking for outstanding language, this book is not for you. The language is as simple as it can get, which I think is the beauty of it. If you want to clear your prejudice that African villages are backward and primitive and you think reading this book will give you an insight into why they what they do, do NOT read this book. I thought the tribal customs and beliefs were down right against humanity and whatever way the author would have put it, I wouldn’t have believed otherwise. Would you approve of leaving new born twins in a jungle because twins are considered evil? Mutilating a dead infant’s body so that it isn’t born again? Out casting a man from his village and his loved ones because he has a disease?

If you are looking for a good plot and well rounded and lovable characters, again this book is not for you. I hated Okonkwo. He was a tyrant and he repeatedly beat his wives and kids. I couldn’t sympathize with him no matter what.

I couldn’t take sides with the European colonists either. Though they brought good things in the village, they brought law and order, I hated the fact that they thought their God was the greatest. Trying to undermine any religion is always wrong. Every religion has its good and bad points, what you can do is point out the bad points or the bad interpretations of it. Sorry, but I am against statements like, ‘There is no God except our God’. I believe God is one, whether he is in the form of Christ or Allah or Krishna, everyone is the same, there are just different names given by humans. I don’t want this to turn into a religious discussion, so I’ll stop.

All I can say is I loved this book. Read it if you want to live and experience a culture very different from your own. ‘Things fall apart’ is distinctively African.

17 thoughts on “Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe

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  1. I read this early last year, and about halfway through, I felt like I wasn’t getting it. Where was the book going? It’s the kind of book that you have to get to the end to see what the middle was about, which is something I really enjoyed about it.


  2. Ah….loved this book. I loved the details of lives so different from ours Western ones. And yes, the language is simply beautiful. Try Cry, the Beloved Country if you liked the prose. Thanks for the review and reminding me why I like this book. B.


  3. After reading your review, I want to read this one even more. I especially like how you listed reasons why this book might not be for a particular person going in with certain expectations. Great review!


  4. Krakovianka: Hope you enjoy the book. I’ll look into Arrow of God. thanks.

    Bonnie: Hope you enjoy the book second time around too…

    Meg; I loved the second half more too.

    Belinda: Cry has been on my wishlist for ages. thanks for reminding me.

    Thanks Wendi 🙂


  5. I read this one last year and I really liked it! It started out kind of slow which is why I also liked the second half more. It could get so sad at times though 😦


  6. I loved this book too and totally agreed with the points you made in your review. The simplicity of the language for me was definitely it’s power. If you appreciated this book, I’d recommend Bessie Head, especially her book Where the Rain Clouds Gather.


  7. This particular book and its title establish a greater meaning as we read the book. The change, the struggle to preserve a traditional society and the reaction which Okonkwo receives to his premeditated yet spontaneous action. It’s beautifully narrated and it tells how important it is for Okonkwo to maintain a status and position in the village, to hide his weaknesses and to protect what he feels consecrated since generations. It also tells us about the gender inequalities prevailing especially on Okonkwo’s family. His authority over his wives and children, his anger on the new religion of Christianity and the people following it and his concealed love and concern for his children.
    It’s definitely a must read as it different from the culture we live in but similar also in some terms.


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