50 books to read before you die discussion

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Book Discussions - 100 list > Things Fall Apart

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message 1: by Christine (new)

Christine No 34 on the 100 list


message 2: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments So far, I really like this one! I'm through part 1, and I like that it's got a very careful approach to a specific culture. The people in that culture aren't living in perfect harmony, but they aren't devoid of a societal system either. The author makes sure to paint them as neither good or bad, just simply different. People in Okonkwo's village do things very differently, but those things are ordinary - flawed, interesting, rich in tradition, and reflective of who those people are.

I feel like I can see where the story is going. I've noticed glimpses of colonialism here and there, like the fact Okonkwo's people have guns, or the stories they tell themselves about white people (how they may not have toes). I expect we'll clash with Europeans in part 2, and the clash will be reflective of that not-good-or-bad attitude. But that clash will end the way this kind of story usually ends - with one culture attempting (and succeeding?) to stomp out the other.

Hope others are enjoying the book too!


message 3: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Here is a link to my review from a few years ago. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Spoiler Alert


message 4: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments All finished!

I liked your review Buck - I agree, the second half of the book moved along much more quickly. I struggled in the first few chapters with the character names and the Igbo words, but once I got a handle on the language, the story was almost easy to follow.

Okonkwo was far more interesting than I could have predicted. All of his strength comes from a place of fearing and hating weakness, and he takes the patriarchal rules of his male-dominated culture to new extremes. Even his wise friend, Obierika, counsel's Okonkwo against his more irrational behaviors, but Okonkwo's stubborness wins out - something he carries over from his hatred of his supposedly weak father. His hatred of effeminate behavior leads him to treat his children unfairly (hard to talk about this without spoilers). In particular, there is one murder he commits only because he is afraid of appearing weak, even thought it pains him to do it. That fear drives his every move, and the violence that results is a catalyst for the events at the end.

I'm a sucker for symbolism, and Buck, you mentioned in your review that the "queen" referenced was likely Victoria. Okonkwo's hatred of "the effeminate" adds fuel to the fire - the white men that clash with Okonkwo's people are led by a woman, and though it's never outright said, he clearly thinks of that as he opposes these newcomers.

Like I said in my other comment, what I really like is that Achebe doesn't paint things as good and bad. For instance, the missionaries and their behaviors are as diverse as the native Africans. The missionary in charge initially is Mr. Brown, who is willing to compromise theologically and discuss beliefs frankly with Okonkwo's people. Brown wants to build something and he's willing to give up a part of himself and his beliefs to do so. His replacement, Reverend James Smith has no notion of compromising his beliefs. His way is the colonial way - instill Christianity in the minds of the natives and if they don't like it, they can be doomed, in this life and the next.

Just like Okonkwo is a man of violence and Obierika is a man of reason - and just like every character behaves with actions considered both "womanly" and "manly" - this story is about two cultures with a spectrum of behaviors, representing the feminine, the masculine, and the everything-beyond-those-two-binaries. In that lens, Okonkwo's arc is about reconciling what he sees as the masculine good and the feminine bad, or else failing to reconcile them, at a time when his culture is falling apart.

I absolutely loved this book. I will be reading it again someday.


message 5: by Indeneri (new)

Indeneri | 13 comments I've just started reading part two. Just some thoughts to far:

I found the prose at the beginning of the book quite stilted and uneven. It was almost as if the book had been translated into english from another language. I had to check a few times to be sure.

However as the book goes on, the prose evens out and flows much better.

The only character we get to know well is Okonkwo. He's a self made mans man with a chip on his shoulder and high expectations for his eldest son to follow in his footsteps.

The first part seems to an introduction to the setting, the characters and their way of life. The story seems to start in the second part.

Interesting to see how it goes from here.


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