Literature

Book Review: Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart
Author: 
Achebe, Chinua
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Things Fall Apart is about a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, who watches as his village is destroyed by European missionaries. Once a feared and respected man in his village of Umuofia, Okonkwo is reduced to eventually taking the orders of white men. Okonkwo is a hard and emotionless man who believes that anything that is not masculine is weak and therefore unworthy. When missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo urges his fellow villagers to resist the attempts to diminish their culture and replace their government, but he's met with little support. Eventually, Okonkwo is banned, and when he returns, his village has completely changed.

I liked Things Fall Apart because it's a great book that challenged the idea of African savagery and portrays African culture, specifically Nigerian culture, as complex and intricate, and not the 'uncivilized' society many people view Africans as today. Okonkwo is an interesting character because his unwillingness to adapt to the new change represents an internal struggle many pre-colonized Africans faced in the wake of colonization. The ending is symbolic because it represents the ultimate death of culture as a result of European exploration.

Overall, the novel provides a beautiful insight into another culture often ignored in mainstream media.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: No Longer at Ease

No Longer at Ease
Author: 
Achebe, Chinua
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

No Longer at Ease is the second installment in the African trilogy series. It is preceded by Things Fall Apart and follows the life of Obi, Okonkwo's grandson. Obi leaves his village in Nigeria to pursue an education in Britain where he meets Clara and falls in love with her. He returns to Nigeria and gets a job in civil service with the help of the board of elders. Obi is conflicted between his African culture and Western lifestyle, and heavy in debt, he takes a bribe.

Just like his grandfather, Obi is strong-minded and stubborn. He intends on marrying Clara although she is an osu, and begins taking bribes when he cannot pay his debts. He questions Nigerian traditions, and often compares Africa to Britain, ultimately positioning him in a place where he finds it nearly impossible to balance both cultures. However stubborn and sometimes reckless Obi is, he's a symbol of generational growth: unlike his grandfather and father, Obi ultimately understood that one culture was not better than the other, and change was imminent. Okonkwo, Nwoye, and Obi symbolize the different industrial stages of Nigeria and the social turmoil that followed, and they show the theme of western versus eastern culture clashes.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Star

Star
Author: 
Mishima, Yukio
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Rikio is a star and he likes the glamor, money and notoriety that comes with that lifestyle. His ears ring with the cheers, screams and exhortations of fans, mostly young women, who would kill for a moment with him. But it also means constant scrutiny, which has the 23-year-old celebrity struggling with his own anxieties and obsessions. What if those fans stop desiring him someday? The self-loathing star would rather be in character on a movie set than be himself.
Written shortly after starring in his first film, the late Yukio Mishima delivers a blunt, rich portrayal of a flawed young man lost between his public persona and private life. The novella, first published in 1961 and translated into English for the first time in 2019, is even more relevant now in today's 24/7 media landscape. Awards: Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature

Reviewer's Name: 
Joe P.

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Bluest Eye

Cover of The Bluest Eye
Author: 
Morrison, Toni
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Bluest Eye is about a young African-American girl named Pecola living in 1940's Ohio. Pecola lives with her brother and abusive parents who constantly tell her she is ugly because of her dark skin and kinky hair. On top of that, the children at her school bully her for the fact that her father is an alcoholic. All her life, Pecola has wanted blue eyes to feel pretty. Her only friends, Freida and Claudia try to defend her against the colorism in their community, but Pecola is unable to embrace her features and becomes obsessive over her desire for blue eyes.

One of the reasons I read this book is because of Morrison's writing style and her thematic elements. The book is very intellectually stimulating and gave me better insight into colorism and how it is still largely prevalent today in the African-American community. I really liked how Morrison used a young girl as a main character to show how these feelings of low-esteem and poor body image are started at a young age, and how the people around us influence our thoughts and feelings.

There are a lot of complex characters and you get to hear each of their stories about why they're the way they are. Claudia is my favorite character because she represents women and girls who challenge our ideas of beauty. The ending was sad, but it really brought light to how damaging our obsession with beauty is.

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild
Author: 
London, Jack
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

I was required to read The Call of the Wild for my Literature class. The story is about a lovable St. Bernard dog named Buck. At the start of the story, Buck lives in the cushy and comfy house of Judge Miller, but eventually winds up in the wild North of the Yukon. Serving as a sled dog, Buck passes through many owners, good and bad, and learns to answer the Call of the Wild. Overall, it was a pretty good book, but I would only give it Three Star review for these reasons:
1: As it is a classic, the book was written with an older style of English, which can be a little hard to understand. Older English can also take away some of the gravity in pressing situations.
2: There wasn’t quite as much action as I would have liked.
3: I enjoyed the book, but some of the action scenes may have been ruined by the Older English, although the Older English gives the reader a taste of how people communicated in the past. However, the characters, plot, and setting were developed well, so overall, Call of the Wild is a classic, and a quality work of literature, which still can be enjoyed today.

Reviewer's Name: 
Zach

Book Review: The Things They Carried

Book Cover
Author: 
O'Brien, Tim
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Things They Carried is a memoir by Tim O'Brien about his experiences as an American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War. O'Brien was chosen to be drafted in 1968. This incident was extremely stressful for O'Brien who had taken a stand against the war, yet didn't want to disappoint his community. He pondered running away to Canada, but eventually decided to fight. The Things They Carried is a series of stories that are so well written. The work is a bit hard to understand just because O'Brien wrote it in a way that is not completely nonfiction. In the book, he explains this concept more in depth. Overall, I thought this book was a very well written, interesting, and educational story regarding the horrors of war from O'Brien's perspective in Vietnam.

Reviewer's Name: 
Elizabeth P.

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye
Author: 
Salinger, J. D.
Rating: 
2 stars = Meh
Review: 

The Catcher In The Rye is about the life of Holden Caulfield and his views on the world as well as life. Holden drops out of a prep school in Pennsylvania to explore New York City. This book captures living in the 1950's and 1960's brilliantly, as well, as the spirit of rebellion that Holden has. I did not like this book because Holden complains way too much and has negative views on the world around him. He also has a bad habit of using profane language in every sentence. The message of the book however is meaningful as it discuses how kids should enjoy being themselves and to stop worrying about growing up and becoming an adult so fast.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ananth

Book Review: The Liar

The Liar
Author: 
Gundar-Goshen, Ayelet
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

"Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive’". This novel covers a life changing event of a 17 year old girl, Nofar, who has lived an average life and is about to enter her senior year of high school. During the summer, she works in an ice cream shop. One afternoon, she has unpleasant encounter with a formerly famous singer, and tells a lie that escalates events in both of their lives. Her life changes in an exciting and scary way, and his for the worse. As things progress, Nofar repeatedly considers the consequences of her words, which have a domino effect as her lie not only impacts her, but many around her as they get pulled into her dishonesty.

Reviewer's Name: 
Susi W.

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