“Reading No Longer at Ease was such a pleasure, as if I were walking barefoot, enjoying all things around me and taking in every little nuance. I truly loved the many parables scattered throughout. The book had such an easy natural flow that it put this reader quite at ease and so able to enjoy all it encompassed. Having read and delighted in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart several years ago, I was prepared for another literary joyride and I was certainly not disappointed.
The story opens with the main character, a young Nigerian, on trial for bribery and then takes us back to understand how this came to be. Achebe addresses conflicts of family, society, sexuality, morality, corruption, etc. and does so with a natural flowing subtlety.
Obi Okonkwo, the central character, returns to Nigeria after studying in England, funded by his townsmen. After being away, he sees his homeland with new, often critical eyes, yet fondly recites poems he wrote while a student paying homage to Lagos. Not quite consciously aware of his resentment toward the British in London and more recently in Nigeria, he also is battling the generation gap and the old ways and the new ways. He is sunk before he even begins to swim.
Obi’s love interest is Clara, a Nigerian nurse he met in London and was dazzled by. Unfortunately, she is an osu, or outcast, so customs forbid a marriage to Obi. Nonetheless, she accepts an engagement ring from Obi and they believe their love will prevail. Clara is a strong and hardworking woman and is devoted to Obi, yet not so certain their love is strong enough to see them through. An unforeseen event creates even more friction for the couple who are facing financial and familial difficulties. Love doesn’t always conquer all.
Isaac Okonkwo, Obi’s father at first appears hard-nosed, however, it becomes evident that his decision to become a devoted Christian, against the will of his father, shows his willingness to be true to himself, such as his son is trying to do. His religious devotion is sometimes extreme as he insists his wife and children adhere to his strict rituals. Ironically, his zealousness prevents him from helping his son and they both miss the point of his being the most appropriate person to do so.
Mr. Achebe is such a marvelous talent and one whose praises I sing. I’m sure he’d put me at ease were I to join him for a little chat over a small meal. I’d love to hear about his days growing up in Nigeria and his interest in world religion and politics. Of course, I’d attempt to get some pointers on his flawless writing. Here’s an author I will definitely return to.
My rating for No Longer at Ease is a 10 out of 10.