"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe (1959)
"Okonkwo was beginning to feel like his old self again. All that he required was something to occupy his mind. If he had killed Ikemefuna during the busy planting season or harvesting it would not have been so bad; his mind would have been centered on his work. Okonkwo was not a man of thought but of action. But in absence of work, talking was the next best."
Chinhua Achebe grew up in Nigeria, and later moved to America, where he taught in several universities. This novel is considered his best, and it is also" the most widely read book" in African Literature.
Things Fall Apart is the story of a small village near the Lower Niger River. In this village Okonkwo, the novel's protagonist, has risen from poor circumstances to become one of the leaders of his tribe. He dreams of ascending to the highest rank his people can offer, but a series of personal tragedies, and the arrival of white missionaries, thwart many of his designs.
It's a short book, and up until the arrival of the white men it resembles a folktale. I thought it was good, though it lacks more descriptive passages that would have made the story more vivid. Not having grown up in a Nigerian village, I began to wonder what the characters looked like, what their surroundings contained, or how one place differed from another. In the presence of such details the novel would have moved much slower, but for those of us who grew up in distant, more Western places they would have helped.
It's a good novel, but I found myself wanting something more substantial. Perhaps this substance I'm looking for can be found in Achebe's other books?