You can almost feel the warmth of a campfire as Peter Francis James delivers a passionate reading of Chinua Achebe's classic African tale about power, prestige, and the Herculian struggle of one man to acquir status in the face of overwhelming odds and one gigantic obstacle after another: droughts, missionaries, poverty, and, most of all, his own powerful Shakespearian demons.
Things Fall Apart remains one of the most revered African novels ever written, and James brings an authoritative tone to this 1959 classic. Listening to his booming voice, you understand why he previously narrated portions of The Bible. His rich, baritone voice perfectly suits Achebe's fable-like prose. James' melodic voice lulls you into thinking this seemingly simple tale will resolve itself with everyone living happily ever after. Don't be fooled. This short, incisive book packs a punch you might not see coming right away.
The main character, Okonkwo, aspires to be everything his father was not: industrious, serious, successful, respected. But no matter how hard this determined farmer works, fate or the forces of nature seem to conspire against him. Then things become even more complicated when a missionary comes to Okonkwo's village. The changes seem subtle at first, but slowly the social fabric of the village begins to unravel like a loose strand of yarn in a hand-made sweater.
The razor-sharp plot twists could easily feel far-fetched in a lesser author's hands. But Achebe earns every predicament that bedevils Okonkwo with precise sentences and perceptive insights into what drives people to do what they do. And you don't have to know anything about Africa to relate to Okonkwo's struggles. Like all great authors, Achebe taps into the same fears and desires that inspire and consume people around the world, for better or for worse. Ken Ross
With over eight million copies in print world wide, Achebe's work is a definitive novel in African literature. Filled with powerful language and finely drawn characters, Things Fall Apart also shimmers with the sounds and sights of village life.
Okonkwo is born into poverty, with a wastrel for a father. Driven by ambition, he works tirelessly to gain the prosperity of many fields and wives, and prestige in his village. But he is harsh as well as diligent. As he sees the traditions of his people eroded by white missionaries and government officials, he lashes out in anger.
Things Fall Apart traces the growing friction between village leaders and Europeans determined to save the heathen souls of Africa. But its hero, a noble man who is driven by destructive forces, speaks a universal tongue.
©1959 Chinua Achebe; (P)1997 Recorded Books, LLC
"Deceptively simple in its prose, Things Fall Apart packs a powerful punch as Achebe holds up the ruin of one proud man to stand for the destruction of an entire culture." (Amazon.com review)
"Peter Frances James offers a superb narration of Nigerian novelist Achebe's deceptively simple 1959 masterpiece." (Library Journal)
This moving book is so well written I felt completely transported to pre-colonial/colonial Africa while listening to it. It was impossible not to lose myself in the story. And, in the end, it gave me a new and very different perspective on that time and place and how devastating the clash of cultures can be.
The characters have a very genuine feel. They all reminded me of people I know or have known. The main character, Okonkwo, is surprisingly endearing despite being harsh, violent, and uncompromising by modern western standards.
Okonkwo's motivations are all honourable or at least understandable. He is self-interested but also genuinely cares about his people, his ancestors, his gods, and his way of life. He's always ready to take whatever steps he truly believes will make things right, no matter how it may pain him. He consistently maintains very high standards for himself and, perhaps unfortunately, expects the same from others. Ikemefuna, Ezinma, and Obierika are also very likable characters, each in different ways.
(Spoiler alert:) Okonkwo and his people pay a high price in their losing battle against colonialism. But at least in Okonkwo's case there does not seem to be many alternatives. By the end of the story found I had to respect his decisions.
I was genuinely moved by this book and its portrayal of ordinary people and life in precolonial Africa. I highly recommend this beautifully told and wonderfully narrated classic of modern literature.
On final point worth noting is the narrator's steady manner. He moderates his emotions nicely, and that compliments the even-handed and frank feel of the story.
I listened to this story because my 16 year old was reading it in his world literature class. This story was about missionaries coming to Africa in the middle of the 20th century. There were many characters with indigenous African names. Lots of references to culture-specific customs, practices, ,and artifacts. I kept wanting to google the names of various "things" to find out what they were. Perhaps the print edition of this book comes with a glossary to define all the unique names.
This is an interesting story of the culture of First Nations in Africa. The all to familiar mistreatment by so-called 'civilized' people is outlined once again. For me, it was an interesting novel but it did not hold my attention and I have not recommended 'Things Fall Apart' to any of my family.
I found this book a very difficult read. I have lived in this area, but found the lack of context jarring. The author did not adequately describe talking drums, the cultural import of "chief", the meaning of "spirit" (i.e. Voodouns), or even different food. I knew what they were talking about, because I've lived there, but I was disappointed that the book didn't illustrate the beauty & depth of the culture.
This wasn't plot driven or character driven, so it was difficult to find any narrative element to follow. Performance was patterened and did not add/elucidate meaning to the text.
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