I have a history with Things Fall Apart: I was forced to read it when I was a sophomore in high school. I’m actually not entirely sure I read it because I didn’t remember one thing about it – except, of course, that it’s African of some sort. That said, I was less than half my age back then (scary!). I don’t remember whether I liked it or not – I’d imagine I didn’t because assigning this book to fifteen-year-olds is probably a bad idea. They’d hate it because it’s boring as all hell.
And that’s exactly what I think about it now: boring as all hell. It’s a short 200 pages, and nothing interesting really happens. The only part I halfway cared about is when one of the protagonist’s daughters is taken by a prophetess in the middle of the night, but we never find out what comes of it.
Things Fall Apart is essentially a list of a Nigerian tribe’s traditions that are upset in the last third of the novel by the influx of British imperialists and Christianity. We all know who the bad guys are and what’s going to happen. Meh.
Simply put, I don’t think Things Fall Apart is a good novel. It certainly doesn’t have a solid plot: it’s full of holes, and, again, it’s boring as all hell. The language is also too spare, and you have to flip back and forth to a glossary in the back. I didn’t sympathize with any of the characters except maybe the daughter I mentioned above. I just wanted it to be over, which is why I read it so quickly.
After I finished reading the novel, I looked through some reviews on Goodreads and found this one, which just about sums up my opinion:
How To Criticize Things Fall Apart Without Sounding Like A Racist Imperialist:
1. Focus on the plot and how nothing very interesting really happens. Stress that it was only your opinion that nothing interesting happens, so that everyone realizes that you just can’t identify with any of the events described, and this is your fault only.
2. Explain (gently and with examples) that bestowing daddy issues on a flawed protagonist is not a sufficient excuse for all of the character’s flaws, and is a device that has been overused ad naseum.
3. Also explain how the main character is a generic bully, with no unique characteristics that make him interesting to the reader. Crack joke about Achebe stealing Walt Disney’sHow To Create A Villain checklist and pray no one beats you to death for it.
4. Do not criticize the rampant misongyny present in the book. It is part of the culture, and is therefore beyond criticism by you because you are not in a position to understand or comdemn what you have not experienced directly.
5. Do not say that the frequent use of untranslated words and confusing names that were often very similar made the story and characters hard to keep track of at times. Achebe is being forced to write in English, a foreign tongue, because he is a post-colonial writer and the fact that the book is written in English stresses his role as a repressed minority, something that you are incapable of understanding, you racist imperialist!
Urgh. I generally like novels I’m supposed to like – like Jane Eyre , which I read only recently. This is supposed to be a good novel, but it’s not, and I’m not going to pretend it’s any good just because I’m supposed to.