Friday, 12 April 2013

Anthills of the Savannah

Anthills of The Savannah
By Chinua Achebe

First Published in Great Britain, 1987, William Heinemann

My edition, 1988, Pan Books

ISBN: 0-330-30095-4

I chose this book for my next review for several reasons; the title is reasonably well known, the author is of international standing, (he has also won the international version of the Man Booker Prize) and as he recently passed away, I thought it might be a small, but nice way to mark his passing.  That is, though, about as polite as I can be.

I am a fairly intelligent chap, with fairly broad experience in reading all sorts of literature, but I found myself getting lost in the book. I don’t mean I lost myself in the plot, or the descriptive landscapes or inside the mind of the main protagonist; I just got lost...about half way through. I’m not too sure why, the text is rich in colour, the reflections wise and the characters real. But it is all far too dense.

I try to give a review without giving away the plot, and this time it is relatively easy; I could have had a stab at it within the first two or three chapters, but then the emphasis shifted, still not a problem. But as we drifted into an African folklore tale, and a poem that serves over two pages I became gently aware that I had now no idea what was going on, or where the book was going. But I knew where I was going, backwards. I was beginning to turn the pages back to check on what I might has misread, or omitted to read in the first place. Clearly, this was not the way forward.

This sounds as if I am being as if I’m being churlish, but I’m not being derogatory in any sense. The text is obviously cleverly written, the scenery lushly described and the darker moments in the plot line were quite stark, and, quite honestly, a little scary. The poem is ok too. I have no doubt that the subject matter, the life of prominent people within an African dictatorship, is written, I imagine, true to life, warts and all.  A place I would prefer not to be.

So off this book goes, back onto my bookshelf, perhaps to be tried again at another date. The Literary Word tell me that it is ‘a tremendous work, and a brave one.’ I’ll be content, for now, to take their word for it. As I say on my profile, life is far too short to read books that fail to engage you. Move on to the next one, and that’s exactly what I intend to do now.

BookerBookBloke verdict: 4/10

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