"He trembled with the desire to conquer and subdue. It was like the desire for women."
I bought Things Fall Apart a long time ago (this falls into the category of things I say all the time, but hey, at least I'm reading them!) but I distinctly remember that I bought it based purely on the fact that I liked the title. It's to the point and pretty clear, and I just liked it. Which is obviously why I let it languish on my shelves for years and years, and basically didn't consider reading it ever in that time. I'm smart like that.
So, I finally read it thanks to the Back To The Classics Challenge! *Waits for applause, awkwardly moves on when there is none when there is none because the internet doesn't really work that way* And... Well. It didn't exactly set my world on fire, but I did like it. Above all I liked that it was equally fair, or equally unfair to everyone, but I had some issues with not being massively interested in any of the characters or anything that was going on. Allow me to elaborate.
The basic story of Things Fall Apart is that of Okonkwo, a well respected member of an African tribe, who also happens to beat his wives and has an overall lack of respect for women. Like everyone in the book. Including the women. Which doesn't really have that much to do with the plot, so I'll move on from it. FOR A MINUTE. So, things happen, and then Okokwo gets exiled, and then, when he returns things fall apart. Which is really bad, obviously. (This is basically a plot outline for the whole book, which you might consider a spoiler, but I do not because it was all in the blurb on my copy. And it's not really a book that you can spoil like this, in my opinion.)
What I really liked about this book was the way that no one, and no one's way of life was seen as wholly good or wholly bad. Honestly, I was expecting it to be like 'the evil white men came and killed people and forced their views on the rest' (and I wouldn't have been wholly opposed to that view) but it was definitely a lot more balanced than that. Which was good, because I was decidedly uncomfortable about the amount of violence, and the treatment of women in the tribe culture, but I also felt uncomfortable like denouncing it in my brain because it's like being a colonial overlord and forcing my culture on another, you know? But it was ok, because the book was critical of this, so I could be too. There's no idealism about the tribe way of life, and nothing to suggest that it's a perfect culture that is irreplaceable. And nor is the new one.
So all of that was good. Especially not feeling like a colonial overlord, because that is something that I just HATE! But. I feel like this book is basically all symbols and colonialism and tradition vs new ideas, and while it's all very interesting and if I'd read it for some kind of official purpose (you know, school and stuff) I'd have had loads to say about it and been really impressed. And I am still impressed, but also... I'm not at school anymore. And being kept at an arms length from the characters, and having only the bare bones of a plot for the sake of many many symbolic things is not something that necessarily floats my boat in an 'inspiring deep love for a book' kind of way. Impressive? Sure. Love? Not so much.
On the whole, though, I'm definitely glad I read this because, like I say, it's very interesting and symbolic and all, but also I don't feel any great urge to read it again. It is, however, a relatively quick read, and feels quite enriching compared to the amount of effort you have to put into it. So, on a cost-profit analysis (is that even a thing?!) it's definitely worth a read.