Tag Archives: African literature

Things Fall Apart | Book Review

This is a book review of the Book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The language is strikingly simple and engaging. It sucks you into the story immediately. This is the kind of writing that I take to and enjoy the most. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to. Always, always write like Hemingway. Or as I shall now say, always always write like Achebe. Big emotions don’t need big words.

It’s the first book of a trilogy and I am aching to read the next two books. (The only thing stopping me from buying them immediately is the staggering number of books I’ve already bought and not read yet.) Yet, it works perfectly well as a standalone, which I really appreciate because of my exasperation with authors using cliffhangers to get readers to read the next book. And using them poorly, to boot. A cliffhanger can’t just be stopping a story mid-scene. It’s a cheap gimmick in a consumerist era. It’s so much more delightful and authorly to cause your readers to care deeply for your characters so rhat they want to know what happens to them. The impending fate of someone you care for is cliffhanger enough, in my opinion.

Chinua Achebe made me pity, love and root for his characters, even the misogynistic, patriarchal, violent protagonist, Okonkwo, which is an achievement in itself. Harper Lee said that to understand a person, you have to step into their and walk around in it. Achebe forced me to step into Okonkwo’s skin and sprint a few miles in it, until I ached with his hopes, dreamed his dreams, and felt his helpless anger. Who hasn’t felt futile rage of helplessness against people in power against whom we have no recourse? Whose eyes haven’t stung with rage at  the grave injustices we suffer at the hands of the privileged people? Okonkwo makes you relive each of those moments.

Lastly, I want to talk to you guys about a question that’s relevant to me as a book reviewer. Right after I read this book, I read the Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Things Fall Apart is referred to in that one. One of the characters states that the book is about the lack of unity being the downfall of the tribe which really struck me because I simply didn’t get that message from this book at all because I thought the book is about culture imperialism and the pain of becoming obsolete regardless of if you’re united. Now I can’t stop thinking of the magic of layered and nuanced books.What do they teach their readers really? Do readers see books in their own image? Whose opinion is even relevant? Is everything in literature subjective? What do you guys think?

Have you read this book, or any other book by Achebe? What did you think? Are there any other African authors I should read? Let me know in the comments!

Hoot.

-Sin

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The Weight of Expectation on a Tiny Book

I’ve renewed my blog domain for another year, which is optimistic considering how little I actually post these days. I chose to take it as a promise to myself to post more often and write more often and give myself more time in general. Cheers to that. 🙂

Having read and enjoyed The Orchard of Lost Souls, I’ve decided to read more books set in Africa and written by African authors. I have a couple more books matching that description which I’ve bought during my ridiculous book hauls. 

Today I’m going to start reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s a short book, clocking in at about 150 pages. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author on Book tube and I had that in mind when I bought the book a little less than a year ago.

These days, I’m making a conscious effort to buy books and authors that I’ve heard nothing about just so that I can come to my own conclusions about them without my opinions being coloured by others’ opinions and the weight of my own expectations.I made this move after I realised that I was only reading books that others have read and that it was severely limiting me. That’s not to say that I’m not reading well-known or “mainstream”; I still am, but my reading experience is very different when I already know about the book or the author. 

When I pick up a book that I’ve heard good things about, I get in to it having made up my mind to love it. If I don’t love it, I experience feelings of guilt and i justify the perceived problems with the book because of my determination to love it. If I happen to review the book, my criticism is riddled with apologies. A decent or good book which isn’t as amazing as people have said it is remains forever sullied in my memory as the book that wasn’t good enough. Any book that I’ve heard is good both has to try harder and less to impress me because of a battle between my faith in certain reviewers and my objectivity. 

This is why I’m nervous to begin reading this book and am writing this post instead to know what you guys think about this problem and how you deal with it. What do you think? Have you read this book? What did you think of it? (Because after everything I just said, I still am a sucker for affirmation that I’ve made the right choice in devoting my limited time to a book.) Which is a book that you expected to love but hated? Which is a book that you were told you’d hate but really enjoyed (or loved)? Which is the last book you picked up without knowing a thing about it which you ended up adoring? Let me know in the comments! 

Monday Morning Commute Thoughts

I’m currently reading The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. It’s the story of three Somali women who lived during the Somali civil war. It’s a beautifully written book and it prompted me to talk to you about the cathartic experience that is a good book. 

The weather is beautiful and even the fact that it’s Monday and I have a long day ahead of me does not take away from the joy that good prose gives me. 

As I grow older, I realise that being a writer isn’t just a childhood dream but a real, honest longing that I can’t overcome. As this longing increases in intensity, I notice the music that the written word produces more and more each day. 

Gone are the days when I sped through books, desperate to know what happens next. Now, after coming across a particularly delightful line, I set my book down and stare at the ceiling for a while, marvelling. I wonder what humans have done to deserve the delight that is language  And I thank my lucky stars for the family and the time I was born into. I hug the book to my chest. And I smile. As long as the words I’ve read dance on my tongue and in my mind, I stay smiling. 

I may take an extra day or an extra week to finish my book at this rate. And that’s okay. As long as there exist words that send me into ecstacies, everything will always be okay. 

“Kawsar closes her eyes in embarrassment, the kisses making her skin sing” That’s the latest line from the book that I’m delighting in. In case any one is wondering. But there are several brilliant lines in the book. Read it. 
Do you prefer plot-heavy stories or language-heavy stories? What kind of language are you more comfortable navigating; flowery or simple? Have you read this book or any of Nadifa Mohamed’s other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!