Ronke Phillips, Senior Correspondent for ITN News and multi-award winning journalist, chooses Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe as our Book of the Month. Find out why she chose the title below and buy your copy here.
Things Fall Apart, the title is taken from William Yeats’s poem “The Second Coming,”
I insist all the people I love read Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. I have read it so many times, I cannot count. I find something different in it every time. It will make you laugh and cry and often at the same time. It is addictive. It really is the book you can’t put down. It has been described as the To Kill A Mockingbird of African literature.
My father gave it to me to read when I was a child and that was it. I was addicted. I give it to everyone I love. It is also my daughter’s favourite book. My husband, Kevin, devoured it in a few hours. My sister-in-law, the historian Lady Antonia Fraser Pinter, my stepson Ben, friends and colleagues- I have given it to them all!
For many people Things Fall Apart is only about pre-colonial life in the south-eastern part of Nigeria and the invasion by Europeans during the late 19th century. For me it is more than that. It is also about the way religion was used to conquer and dominate, about relationships, especially those between a father and son. It’s about ambition and crushed dreams and a longing for parental approval. It is about life and death.
I am Yoruba, but the book follows the lives of a family who are Igbo. We are both Nigerian, but we are as different as we are similar. Think Welsh to English.
Achebe uses the most wonderfully descriptive narrative that brings the people and places to life. Often described as the Shakespeare of Nigeria, he is clever with language. His sentences are always simple but colourful and he is clever not to translate everything into English. Some words are left in their primal state, so the reader is exposed to a new, rich, enticing language that paints a bold picture of Africa.
For me, it is the sheer simplicity of the language combined with the seriousness of the plot which make the book so compelling. You are taken on a journey into the heart of the life and customs of the tight knit Igbo community and given a bird’s eye view of their well-defined rules, ceremonies, trials, festivals and every day existence.
Things Fall Apart is not only a beautiful piece of work, it is a historical novel, which delightfully, but painfully describes what happened in Africa. It answers the many questions about who we Africans are, what we lost along the way and what we still have to discover. It is a book of discovery.