“When Suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool. The white man is like that.” –Chinua Achebe
Why I’m Reading this Book?
Famous for his masterpiece, ‘Things fall apart’ (which is a very short and moving novel), Chinua Achebe concludes his African trilogy with this book. I’ve read first two (‘Things fall apart’ and ‘No longer at ease’) , and I loved them, so it was inevitable to read this one. First published in 1964, this book and in fact whole trilogy is a masterpiece that should be must read for everyone.
Set in Nigeria, story is about Ezeulu, the chief priest of 6 villages of Umuaro who is a very powerful and prominent member of community. But with changing times, his power is slowly diminishing. He feels under attack from all sides, his rivals, his people, white men, and even his family. But he is a wise man, and he knows how to change with time. He sends his second son to christian school just to be prepared when white men inevitably invade. He warns his people when they unnecessarily wage war against their neighbors. He even goes against his people by giving testimony against them. Slowly his actions are getting questioned, first in whispers and then loudly, but he considers himself arrow of God and even though he feels bad, considering the will of Gods, he continues.
But, is he actually the Arrow of God, or Ezeulu will succumb to common person’s fate? How far can a man keep his belief and what happens when he starts questioning it? In very detailed , poetic and heartbreaking way, Chinua has answered these questions through this book.
Once more, Chinua has surpassed my expectations. All 3 books of this trilogy explains the impact of British colonialism on natives and how their lives, customs and traditions, pride slowly crumbles.It’s really devastating to see a community brutally stomped into the fragments of its past glory.
In this story, it’s the life of head priest we see unravelling step by step. Initially , we come to know about the beautiful traditions, songs, festivals, deities, folk-lores of Igbo people. Although no glossary provided in the book, we instinctively understand them. Its enchanting to see the calm in these people even when they are angry. Depiction of their assemblies are really interesting. In short, they are happy, satisfied and hard-working people.
But this calm is breaking with time. Along with the invasion of British, competition; rivalry; greed and pride has made way into their lives. People are pitted against their own , their way of life is in danger and their society is altered forever. It’s an unforgettable story that can haunt a reader for a very long time.
Igbo people put their points with elaborate proverbs and I’m in love with them. Some of my favorite one’s are:
It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless, my son, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live. The man who has never submitted to anything will soon submit to the burial mat.
The death that will kill a man begins as an appetite.
The fly that no one to advise it follows the corpse into the grave.
I found that it’s hard to remember the name of characters, so I created family chart of Ezeulu. Attaching that here for reference:
My Rating — 4
On the scale of: (1- Hate , 2- Neither like nor dislike, 3- Like, 4- Love, 5- Gaga)
Why anyone else should read this Book?
The other two books, ‘Things fall apart’ and ‘No longer at ease’ are slightly related to each other, but this book can be read on its own. So, you can start with it right away without missing anything.
Book is fast paced and written very simply. In fact sometimes with blatant disregard to language, it just conveys the emotions. And I really love such stories that can diminish criticism of grammar police because story is so damn good.
Igbo people’s proverbs, their songs, their festivals, their dances are really a treat to read about. They are so simple yet with such a deep meaning. It would be a tragedy not to read those.
I myself am from India which was also a British colony and in some sense, I can relate to this story. It’s a must read for everyone to know the impact on people’s lives of these colonies. This story won’t give you a war and lot of killings, but irrevocable damage to a society, which actually is a real loss.
In my opinion, this is one of the best books I’ve read in this year and I would make everyone in my contact to read it if I have my way. So, as soon as you finish this review, start reading. You won’t regret it.
Have you read it? Are you planning to? What is your opinion? Share them here. Till next time, Happy Reading Folks!!!