Book 2: Things Fall Apart

My reading is on schedule, but blogging about it is not. In the interests of catching up, I’m going to talk about my experience of the second book, and (in the next blog) introduce the third (which I’m already reading) before I look back at To Kill A Mockingbird.

Things Fall Apart is a 1958 English language novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa and widely read and studied in English-speaking countries around the world. It is seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English, and one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim.

– From Wikipedia

A lot of people recommended I read Things Fall Apart. It is, I’ve been told, “a very Oxfam-staff sort of book to read”.

I can understand why Things Fall Apart is regarded as groundbreaking, educational and unique. It’s an important insight into a world and an experience that I otherwise would almost certainly never have been given. But I found it very difficult book to enjoy. It is, I suspect, not entirely intended to be enjoyed, but to be admired. Unfortunately the cold, almost biblical writing and thankless characters simply turned me off. And there was a pervading sense that the author was so much better educated than myself, and that I should be ashamed for my ignorance. This may well have been intentional and is almost certainly accurate, but the constant air of condescension ate at me from the very first page and never let up, such that I felt I wasn’t being invited to be involved in the story, only to silently and ignorantly observe it from too great a distance.

Did anyone else find the style of writing a barrier to their enjoyment or engrossment in Things Fall Apart? Or did you find it enhancing? Is my reaction to the content a perfect example of the type of cultural misunderstanding the book seems designed to highlight? Let me know in the comments.

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