It's true that most of the books we read in this book club are Western-centric, but the purpose of this group has always been to read the famous works of literature that gives someone the bragging rights of being a "well-read individual". And it just so happens that most of the books on almost any Top 100 list are going to come from Western authors. That's why I'm very pleased that we have our first African novel on the list. This is a book that is widely read in schools across Africa as well as studied in other cultures. It's the first book of a series, but we'll only read this one for the HHBC, and you can see if it whets your palate for more.
Here's a review from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jan/31/things-fall-apart-achebe-review
First published in 1958 – the year after Ghana became the first African nation to gain independence, as Britain, France and Belgium started to recognise the end of colonialism in Africa and began their unseemly withdrawal – Chinua Achebe's debut novel concerns itself with the events surrounding the start of this disastrous chapter in African history.
Things Fall Apart (Pocket Penguin Classics)
by Chinua Achebe
Set in the late 19th century, at the height of the "Scramble" for African territories by the great European powers, Things Fall Apart tells the story of Okonkwo, a proud and highly respected Igbo from Umuofia, somewhere near the Lower Niger. Okonkwo's clan are farmers, their complex society a patriarchal, democratic one. Achebe suggests that village life has not changed substantially in generations.
But then the English arrive in their region, with the Bible – rather than the gun – their weapon of choice. As the villagers begin to convert to Christianity, the ties that had ensured the clan's equilibrium come undone. As Okonkwo's friend Obierika explains: "The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers and our clan can no longer act like one." Unwilling to adapt, Okonkwo finds himself the protagonist in a modern Greek tragedy.
The first part of a trilogy, Things Fall Apart was one of the first African novels to gain worldwide recognition: half a century on, it remains one of the great novels about the colonial era.
If you're feeling particularly ambitious, why not read Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" while you're at it? Achebe's novel is suppose to be his response to Conrad's book, and it would be great to be able to compare or feed off both of them at the discussion. The good news is that they're both relatively short novels, so it's doable with a little extra time. :) Hope to see you all there!
New to the Hungry Hundred Book Club? Here's what you need to know:
1. Read the book (If you don't manage to finish it by the meetup date, don't worry. As long as you're not going to be too disappointed by spoilers, you're still welcome to join.)
2. Come to the meeting, always on the last Sunday of every month
3. Be prepared to order food/drink at the venue (where ever that may be) to show our appreciation for letting us use their space
4. Discuss! It's a casual conversation, so don't be afraid to ask questions and let us know what you think.