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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 6, 2000
Obi Okonkwo, grandson of the protagonist in Things Fall Apart, is the pride of his Nigerian village, Umuofia. The Ibo villagers pooled their money to send one native son off to England to be educated and Obi was chosen. Now he has returned to a prestigious job with the civil service in Lagos--he's the Administrative Assistant to the Inspector of Schools. He bears the burden of his people's expectations but his exposure to Western culture has distanced him from tribal life and though he is now earning a magnificent living by their standards, he has trouble making ends meet as he tries keeping up with the Joneses in the big city. Borrowing money, he ends up "digging a new pit to fill up an old one." Further complicating matters is his love affair with the lovely Clara, an osu, one of the socio-religious outcasts who also figured prominently in Things Fall Apart.
As financial and romantic pressures continue to mount and his beloved mother sickens and dies, Obi must also deal with temptation, offers of money and sex if he will use his position to assist scholarship applicants. For as long as he can, Obi juggles all of these problems, but gradually they come crashing down on him.
More directly than almost any author I'm aware of, Chinua Achebe faces head on the issues which confront the developing nations in a post-Colonial world. In No Longer At Ease, even as he pokes fun at the remaining English bureaucrats and their condescending ways, he honors their tradition of relatively honest civil service. Meanwhile, he questions whether at least this first generation of natives who are replacing the departing Europeans are truly prepared to meet the same standards or whether a slide into corruption is nearly inevitable.
Obi is a decent enough man and he has the best of intentions, but he gets in way over his head, bringing tragedy down upon himself and disgrace to his village. His situation, as portrayed by Achebe--caught between the traditions and expectations of his village on the one hand and the modern ways and legal constraints of the West on the other--puts him in an untenable position, one where something must give. The title of the book comes from T. S. Eliots's The Journey of the Magi :
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
Achebe offers a fully realized portrait of one of those returned who are "no longer at ease," aliens in their own country. It's a terrific book.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 1998
Achebe's sequel to Things Fall Apart, he seeks to reconcile and give us a further understanding of the struggle between modernism and tradition. He gives us a view of how our ideals contrast with how we really live and exist in reality. The point of this book can be best summed up by Achebe's own words. He states, "The impatient idealist says: 'Give me a place to stand and I shall move the earth.' But such a place does not exist. We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace." This book while centered mainly on the African identity crisis, gives a broad understanding of issues of right and wrong and moral consequences of individualism.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2004
No Longer at Ease, in my opinion, is actually a better book than Things Fall Apart. Achebe does a masterful job of depicting the experience of an ex-patriate returning home after many years abroad. Such experience is universal, not confined to Nigeria or the main character Obi Okonkwo (grandson of the main character in Things Fall Apart).
In adition to the ex-pat experience, Achebe inserts the peculiarly Nigerian experience, in which a group of British still retained some of the leadership positions in civil service while native Nigerians were mostly focused on politics. The moral aspect is also noteworthy, as the widely accepted corruption and favouring done by Nigerians in power was not mirrored by the British.
Aside from the socio-historical aspect of the novel, Achebe is very sensitive in showing the downward spiral of young Obi, as he tries to fight against strong unreasonable traditions (such as with his girlfriend who is of a banished caste). Obi gets enmeshed in a vicious cycle in which he needs to show success, to a point in which his salary can longer sustain his lifestyle, which is forced upon him by expectations.
I highly recommend this book, especially to ex-pats of any nation. As an ex-pat returned home myself, I feel many of the same difficulties Obi did. Obi's anguish and pain are crystal clear, and any ex-pat will relate.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2000
"No Longer At Ease" deals with a theme that is well-developed by Achebe, i.e. the exploration of the interaction between rapid modernization (or, better stated, Westernization) brought to Africa by colonial (mis)rule on the one hand, and tradition on the other. I actually think this book is better than "Things Fall Apart," in which Achebe depicts the brutality of the outright conquest of an African society by a colonial power (in this case the British). In "No Longer At Ease" he shows the deep and drastic changes which occurred in society in Nigeria as colonial rule became established, and how this change warped social relations in the country. Society in the colony is no longer something created and maintained by the native Africans, but rather an imitation (or attempt thereof) of the colonial power's society. It lies somwhere in between, because it's not traditional, yet the natives are treated like second-class citizens in their own country. Through the central character, Achebe does an excellent job of evoking the alienation and frustration this engenders among those Nigerians who are Western-educated and urbanized, yet not really able or allowed to participate in decision-making in any meaningful way. Achebe is a truly masterful writer who can convey such a potent message through literature.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 1998
Violence and corruption in Nigeria have recently made the headlines again, and thousands of refugees seek asylum in Europe and elsewhere - Chinua Achebe's books, and especially "No Longer at Ease," seem particularly relevant. I am struck again by his insights into what happens when traditional values are rejected and new ones not fully internalised. The overlap of old and new is awkward and painful, and the result is inner turmoil, confusion and loss of identity. The few get rich, while most people feel poorer than ever in a climate of rampant materialism. In many ways, the current atmosphere in former communist countries seems to echo and parallel that of Achebe's books. A wonderful book, and Achebe's English is so beautiful!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2005
The title of Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease suggests the possibility of a time when there was "ease." The struggles of the protagonist, Obi Okonkwo, a twenty-six year old Umuofian educated in the British Colonial system and at the university in Great Britain, are analogous to the struggles facing Nigerian society during the period at the end of colonization. Obi must manage the complexities occasioned by his position as a senior civil servant in the British colonial administration in Lagos and his "taboo" love for Clara, a nurse educated in Britain and an osu, a woman banned from marriage by tribal traditions.

While working on his English B.A. and living in Britain on a 800 pound sterling investment of his tribe, the Umuofian Union, Obi celebrates his country in a poem, entitled "Nigeria." He writes, "How sweet it is to lie beneath a tree / At eventime and share the ecstasy / Of jocund birds and flimsy butterflies" (19). No Longer at Ease depicts the complicated picture of Nigeria that Obi finds after four years study abroad.

The novel portrays the interactions of diverse, layered communities in pre-Independence Nigeria in the late 1950s. Achebe describes rural tribal societies, such Umuofia, in contrast to the urban elite of Lagos. He examines the coexistence of traditional tribal religious practices with the Christianity practiced by first and second generation Christian converts. Obi's father, Isaac Okonkwo is a first generation Umuofian convert to Christianity. The son of Okonkwo, the great yet tragic tribal leader of Achebe's Things Fall Apart (1959), Isaac converts to Christianity and later rejects his dying father with the statement: "Those who live by the sword die by the sword." Furthermore, in characterizations of Mr. Green, an English administrator in the colonial government, and Justice William Galloway, an English colonial judge, neither of whom can "comprehend" Obi, Achebe presents the myopia and racism underlying British colonial rule.

No Longer at Ease is a sensitive novel that presents a broad view of humanity. Achebe deals frankly with a number of controversial topics, including sexuality, racism, and corruption. Obi finds himself at the intersection of a number of competing allegiances pulling him in contradictory directions. Obi's poem, "Nigeria," quoted in various parts throughout the novel, embodies the hopes for Nigeria that the novel, in its unflinching realism, ultimately upholds: "God bless our noble countrymen / And women everywhere. / Teach them to walk in unity / To build our nation dear."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2007
Although considered a sequel to "Things Fall Apart," "No Longer at Ease" stands on its own and does not require that you read Achebe's more famous work (assuming you've somehow made it through school and managed to escape its ubiquity). It's probably more accurate to say that "No Longer at Ease" is a retelling set in modern Nigeria, and it is as great as--perhaps better than--his earlier work.

Obi Okonkwo is the grandson of Okonkwo, the central character in "Things Fall Apart" (and, other than thematic similarities, this is the only direct link between the two books). With the assistance of fellow villagers who had "made it" in the larger world, Obi leaves home for schooling in England and returns to a civil service job in the colonial administration of Nigeria. Because he is one of the select representatives of his village to receive such treatment, expectations are high: he is to live like a member of his class, entertain like a prince, and pay back his educational expenses. He also finds out quickly that his position on the Scholarship Board, recommending prospective students, is a magnet for bribery.

Here, Achebe forsakes the quasi-mythical storytelling tone of "Things Fall Apart" in favor of a more realist style--and this novel, I think, is both stronger and more accessible as a result. In both works, though, Achebe examines how native culture and tradition come into conflict with Western conventions and materialism. Not only is Obi is torn between the often contradictory demands of success and politesse, but he must also face the patronizing racism of his white superiors and the "backward" conventions of his own people. He falls in love with a woman, only to find her spurned by his people because she is "osu"--an outcast. "It was scandalous," Obi thinks, " that in the middle of the twentieth century a man could be barred from marrying a girl simply because her great-great-great-great-grandfather had been dedicated to serve a god, thereby setting himself apart and turning his descendents into a forbidden caste to the end of the Time."

Unable to satisfy either his family and friends or his British overlords, Obi is headed for the nearly preordained downfall that opens the book. It's a tragedy that underscores all of Achebe's works, which critically examine both Western attitudes toward Africa and the corruption in his native homeland. (The title of this review, in fact, is appropriated from one of Achebe's nonfiction works.) It is not modernization per se to which Achebe objects (after all, he now lives in the United States), but the racism and marginalization that accompanied and have superseded imperialism and that created unreasonable expectations for Nigerians. Through the prism of fiction, "Things Fall Apart" represents powerfully the paradoxes of African life in a Western world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2004
Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease touches upon the chord of discontent and disillusionment prevalent among many foreign-educated Africans returning home. It follows the story of Obi Okonkwo (grandson of Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart) as he returns to Nigeria after a British education. As he attempts to break social boundaries and traditions, he is inevitably held back by his relatives, friends, and European co-workers. In desperation, he loses his sense of purpose and becomes one of many bribe-taking officials that he formerly despised, leading to a tragic end.
In many ways, No Longer at Ease reflects upon the problems facing much of Africa today, corruption and tradition conflicting with progress. The western world may condemn their rampant corruption as Obi first did but it is at the bottom of a spiral of other problems.
Chinua Achebe continues to use his characteristically simple style evident in Things Fall Apart for No Longer at Ease. He combines phrases in native languages and uses folk tales to illustrate examples. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the language does not serve to keep the reader's interest completely. At times it feels choppy and almost too simplistic, leaving out details that could serve to further the story. Nevertheless, No Longer at Ease is a remarakble parable of modern Africa.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2003
"No Longer at Ease" is an interesting novel, whose well-relayed story remains fascinating despite its age. It is a sequel to the more popular "Things Fall Apart". Thus, potential readers who are already acquainted with "Things Fall Apart" would feel at home in this niche.
The story which this book tells is captivating, exhilarating, and down-to-earth. It is another brilliant piece from Professor Achebe.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2006
After writing "Things Fall Apart", Achebe again comes to us with a masterpiece sequel tiled "No Longer At Ease". This book depicts Obi Okonkwo, the grandson of the Okonkwo in the former. He is an honorable character who comes to a tragic end because of the corruption going on around him, this book also depicts the assimilation that the Nigerians go through and their identity shaken with waves and waves of European influence. A book more concerned over the social issues that the Nigerians at the time felt for their time. This is also shown in Africa today, where corruption run rampant and those in power care nothing about those without power. A powerful novel indeed.
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