This story follows the life of Okonkwo, and his family and clan that equally fear and revere him. Eager to rid himself of his father’s reputation as a lazy drunkard, he becomes known as one the greatest warriors alive. Yet a string of events puts his entire life into jeopardy, and one by one, things fall apart.
This wasn’t an easy read at first. I didn’t know where the story was going in Part 1 and I found it difficult to follow and remember all the different characters storylines (my own fault). But it did a really effortless job at transporting the reader to Nigeria in the 19th century in the lead up to the arrival of the colonising missionaries. If a book can make you feel like you’re sitting in on a place and time entirely foreign to your own, then that is a sign of a good book.
The pace of the story picked up by Part 2 and you could feel the life of Okonkwo crack and fissure with each chapter. It then came to a very abrupt end that I wasn’t expecting. My heart dropped reading the last two pages but in a sad and absurd way, it was the perfect ending.
What the book made me reflect on the most was the idea of identity and how a lot of it built on pride. Pride of where you come from, the life you made for yourself, how others perceive you. Okonkwo was driven by his pride, and when he no longer had a hold of it his entire world fell apart.
The other thing the book did really was place the coloniser in the minds of the colonised. Anything got to do with Africa, whether it be the news, or books or art, often reduces their experiences and cultures to that of caricatures. The author demonstrated the power of owning the language so the characters could speak on his their own terms.
The very last paragraph demonstrates the loss of that power through the shift in language. As Okonkwo loses his grip on the world, his voice drowns out and the narration shifts to to the perspective of the coloniser. In the final sentence, the richness and complexity of Okonkwo’s world is reduced by the coloniser in a book he would title “The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger”.
I give it 3/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
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– your sis Nis