This book cracked my heart. At first I struggled to get into it as it talked about people and customs I had no knowledge of, and some which, like the leaving of twins in the forest to die, I instinctively recoiled from. But gradually, as I got to know the great warrior Okonkwo I started to emphasise with him. Realising that all his bluster and hardness was driven by a fear that he would turn out to be ‘soft’ and worthless, like his father, if he ever relaxed his vigilance, hard work and hold on his family. I began to grasp that although the setting and the customs may be different the things that matter, the characteristics and frailties that bind us together in a common humanity, are the same the world over.

And that is why, when the white missionaries and administrators arrive, changing Okonkwo’s world of stability and erasing its seeming permanence and certainly, I empathised with him, I was on his side. The tragic ending of this novel is all the more forceful due to a sudden switch in perspective to that of a white colonial administrator. You realise that the administrator doesn’t understand any of the things this book has taught you about common humanity, and that instead he exists in a dichotomous world where there is the, correct, white man’s way of doing things, and the, incorrect, black man’s way. And it is this dichotomous view that led to things falling apart in such a pitiful way.

A lesson that we need to learn from, and is just as important in today’s world as it was when this book was written over 50 years ago.

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