I do not have the appropriate historical knowledge to critique this book on African culture or the accuracy of the British invasion into Africa. Although I am certain that how it was presented in the book is very much how it happened. One culture came to the country of another and decided that it's way of seeing the world was correct and everyone else was ignorant. As such people needed to be reeducated and punished.
The story is about Okonkwo who wants to overcome the disgrace of having a lazy father by becoming a strong warrior and a good provider. He is not the most lovable of characters. He does not speak much and he is very concrete in his own views. He strives to be a strong leader in his community and he works very hard to get there.
Even within his own culture, Okonkwo is not a flexible character. He has little love for his oldest son. He helps with the killing of his adopted son because he needs to be strong. He works hard and expects everyone in his family to do the same. He even expected his four-year-old son to understand a conversation about being a man.
Yet he is also a very real character. When his only daughter of his second wife is taken he circles the village looking for her and then stands outside the cave waiting for her exit. Although, I still have no idea what that was about, except to help show his devotion to his tradition that he would allow his favorite child to be taken and just stand and wait for the outcome. When he helps kill his adopted son he is sick by the action. When he goes to his mother's tribe he is grateful for their aid even while he regrets the necessity of being there. He is not exactly a likable character, but he is a very real character.
It is because he is so strong in the tradition of his ancestors that it is guaranteed that there would be conflict with the invaders. Okonkwo can do nothing except continue to fight for the ways of Africa. When he fights and kills one of the white men his people do not back him up. He knows that he is fighting alone, and as his uncle had said prior, a man is nothing without his kin. He has no choice but to keep to his tradition and hang himself. By keeping with his tradition he also kills his tradition. Things Fall Apart is a very moving book. It is well written and seems a bit simplistic, yet the story that it tells is extremely powerful. It is not something that I would normally have read, which is something that I need to remedy in my own reading habits. I am extremely glad that I picked up this book.
Binti is more of a novella than a novel. The story was over as soon as I felt comfortable in the world. It is an amazing world based on African culture in relation to human culture in relation to alien culture. The interplay between cultures is worthy of a thesis.
What really gripped me is how Okorafor was able to draw the reader in, even a reader with no familiarity with African culture, to the heritage of Binti. It started with the very first line of the story. Then through simple narration the reader learned of an important culture and a futuristic Earth without once having to actually be told about it. The storytelling is genius.
My one critique is that I wish the Meduse were described in more depth, especially given their importance. The story focuses on Binti so much that the Meduse are more of an abstract entity that by the time I realize their importance I have either lost all appropriate descriptions or they were never there.
I will, without a doubt, be finishing this series.
I was extremely excited to read Children of Blood and Bones. I have heard about it everywhere, and waited months to receive the book from the library. That is a lot of pressure to put on a book, yet I believe Children of Blood and Bones lived up to all the hype.
There are two main things about this book that I absolutely love. The first is the cultural aspect. Fantasy novels are not all that diverse, and it is exciting to see this changing. Society will not change until it becomes normal to see diversity, and I am excited that literature is paving the way. This book is the best of current fantasy and fiction in general.
In the same way this book encompasses everything that I loved about fantasy novels growing up. There is a band of travelers going through obstacles to complete a quest that will save the world. It has been too long since I have read a good epic fantasy, this is an amazing epic fantasy.
That is what I love about this book. It is a fusion of new literature while still staying true to the roots. It truly is a masterpiece.
Added to all of that there is beautiful writing, complex and dynamic characters, and an amazing magical system. I am anxiously anticipating, like the rest of the world, the sequel.
On top of all of this there is an afterword by the author where she speaks about why she wrote this book. I think it was as emotionally impactful as the entire book. If you have not picked this book up yet, do. It is worth it.
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