I was very confused by February’s ‘Penguin Reading Challenge’, as I don’t think I got one. Their February newsletter did recommend ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as a valentine read so potentially that may have been my classic recommendation for the month, however I’ve already read that one so I decided this month to go for January’s second recommendation of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things fall apart’.
I don’t really know how to summarise this book without giving a lot away so I’m going to rely on Amazon –
Okonowo is the greatest warrior alive. His fame has spread like a bushfire in West Africa and he is one of the most powerful men of his clan.
But he also has a fiery temper. Determined not to be like his father, he refuses to show weakness to anyone – even if the only way he can master his feelings is with his fists. When outsiders threaten the traditions of his clan, Okonowo takes violent action. Will the great man’s dangerous pride eventually destroy him?
Again a Classic that did actually engross me. At the risk of sounding like a complete heel I was expecting to be lectured to by this book. Usually with Historical literature books of such high acclaim we encounter a lot of hidden and profound messages about our place in the world and how we treat others and the story can feel a bit dry. Also, with the other Historical fiction based in other countries I’ve read, I’ve appreciated the story, but they have essentially been based around problems exclusive to that era and culture, so it’s not really something I can relate to.
So oddly enough this little book set within a Nigerian tribe in the 1890s was actually quite relatable. Ok so maybe not many people can relate to a situation where you and a group of other men lead your foster son to a dark forest and kill him, but we can relate to making hard choices in life and letting down the ones we love.
You know as soon as you meet Okonowo that things are not going to go well for him, he is a prideful man quick to anger. He mistreats his wives and has high expectations of his children, and his intentions whilst well-meaning for his family are also misguided. Okonowo lives in a very superstitious village, and you can see that, after Okonowo does something that a close friend warns him against, that things will start to go bad from there. Things do not end well for Okonowo, as he doesn’t seem to learn or heed the warnings around him, but in the end you do start to sympathise with him a bit.
I think the best way to summarise the events in ‘Things fall apart’ is that whilst Okonowo’s problems are steered by his tribe’s beliefs and superstitions they are in essence problems that are relatable around the world.