Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe
Rating: 8

To my shame and discredit, I believe Things Fall Apart is the first novel I’ve read by an African novelist. I picked it up largely to address this gap and because I have not read nearly enough writers of color in general.

It is the most widely read novel in Africa, and it was among the first to find a wide audience outside of Africa. It was also Achebe’s first novel. It’s objectively a stunning accomplishment.

It became clear early on that, at its worst, Things Fall Apart was going to succeed based solely on its merits as a piece of ethnography. The story takes place in the late 19th Century, and Achebe is a member of the Igbo tribe, who are the novel’s subjects.

But the book succeeds on a number of levels beyond mere ethnography. It takes a bracingly subtle and nuanced perspective on the theme of colonialism.

The other aspect of the book that was surprising was its unabashed embrace of feminism. It seems in this regard it was not merely a first African novel, but that its take on gender was decades ahead of its time, irrespective of geographical considerations. It’s difficult to imagine the impact a book like that must have had.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and would recommend it highly; we are lucky to have it.