Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

This short novel was his first. It is written in a very simple style, in unadorned prose. It tells the story of a man and his trials, not least of which is his intense awareness of the social expectations and duties of someone in his position in the Nigerian village where he lives.

Most of the book is about his life and how he perceives it. The simple style sometimes creates a strong sense of foreboding – you just know (or you think you do) that something bad is about to happen. But it doesn’t, by and large. Episodes are described in the same dispassionate language, leaving the reader to judge the motivations and moral righteousness of the characters.

The story touches on the arrival of white missionaries and that is when things begin to fall apart. It is a delightful novel, deceptively simple but raising some profound questions about what it means to be human and to live a good life.

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