From the author of ‘Things Fall Apart’, ‘There Was a Country’ is Chinua Achebe’s long-awaited account of the significant experiences of his life, most notably during the Nigerian Civil War (or Biafran War). Charting one of the last century’s greatest humanitarian disasters, successful novelist Achebe recalls his observations as a spectator to the horror of the conflict and its aftermath.
This Personal History of Biafra is just that – detailing Achebe’s own experiences rather than presenting an objective point of view. It never really grabbed my attention as anything other than a very detailed, and at times, tedious, account of his life and his own ideas about his country and the Biafran War. The writing is certainly informative, but it is not engaging, especially in the early part, which you might expect to have a bit more ‘bite’ in order to seize the reader’s attention. Instead he spends whole paragraphs listing people he has known, where they were educated and how wonderful they were.
The poems which appear at various intervals throughout the book are often beautiful and moving. But poetry aside, this was not an interesting read. Achebe may well be a very talented poet and novelist, but as a historian he’s missing a trick.
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A nice review, Colin. Not a book I would read as I am weary of African horror stories.
I know what you mean, though it’s hardly surprising that we sometimes get tired of hearing about all the bad things in the world.