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)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Achebe's Magnum Opus is one of those essential novels that one can see greatness while at the same moment understand that part of its strength lies not in anything the novel itself ever does, but in the place the novel holds in time and place. If 'Things Fall Apart' were written 40 years earlier it would have probably been ignored both in Africa and the West. If it had been written 40 years later, it would have been seen as good postcolonialist novel, but just one of many. Coming when and where they did, 'Things Fall Apart'/Achebe managed to achieve greatness because they became the central model/mentor to which many later African novels/novelists would look as they tried to communicate their unique historical and cultural vision of modern Africa.
Tragedy of History
The jailing of the six tribe leaders and how they were treated was painful to read about because it was so unfair for the D.C. not to try to understand the Igbo culture.
It seems that whenever Europeans come in contact with indigenous people anywhere in the world there is a sad story to tell. Lost traditions, human exploitation, religious intolerance are all part of this sad story. It is rare that we get a glimpse into the life of the people before the introduction of the "white man". This book gives us such a glimpse. The opening chapters show us a world of prosperity, long-held tradition, brutal but effective justice. The people of a village called Umofia in Nigeria have lived the same way for thousands of years. Everyone knows his place. Life is stable, predictable, eternal.
Okonkwo is a leader in this village, famed for his prowess as a great wrestler. Well-off in his compound with his barns full of yams and his three wives, he lives the good life. An accident topples him from his high place in his society, and from there, nothing is ever the same. We watch the inevitable change occurring over a decade when Christian missionaries begin a slow but irrevocable imposition of new thoughts, beliefs, customs and laws.
This book reminded me again and again of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (Dee Brown) for its wonderful vision of life before European influence. The story is told from the inside. The reader (listener) is not aware of any world beyond the borders of the land Okonkwo and his family and village occupy. The culture is self-contained, without any reference to a position in relation to the rest of the globe of humanity. This part of the story could be taking place at any time in the history in Africa. But with the first visit by the missionaries on their "iron horses", Okonkwo, his children and the whole people of the Nine Villages are thrust suddenly and forever into modern times.
I loved this book. I hated the way it ended, but the ending was exactly right. There is no turning back the clock. Peter Francis James' reading is patient and strong and sets the pace for the characters to live their lives and the story to unwind in their own time.
-Amy McLean (Jonathan's wife)
Yes, because another listen would allow me to focus on nuances, rather than trying so hard to keep the many characters straight.
Maybe something from Ben Okri.
I was grateful for a narrator who knew how to pronounce the names. This would be a big stumbling block if I were simply reading the book.
On balance, African and European cultures are no better or worse than each other.
My feeling was that, the old African culture presented in the beginning is portrayed as much more sophisticated and fair-minded than the Europeans can imagine. However, Achebe does understand that this is an entirely male-centric culture and I think he has sympathy for the women and for the "misfits."
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.
A proud yam farmer struggles with adversities in his African village at the dawn of colonial age. Author intimates the unique African tribal life eloquently, yet interjects the universal theme of a man's toil under the burden of social tradition, selfish ambition and unstoppable force of changes.
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