The Moon Also Sets is a very ambitious novel, which captures the conflicts in modern African society. It is a narrative that follows the life of an Igbo Widow, Mama Oby and her daughter, Oby, as they struggle to assert themselves in a confused society unsure of the right social path to thread between tradition, Christianity and modernity. The book paints a vivid picture of the dilemma facing most post-colonial societies, which is that of defining a basis for its development. The traditional development trajectory has been thwarted by Christianity, which came alongside a contradictory modern culture that rejects both tradition and Christianity. People are constantly faced with a situation where actions are evaluated and re-evaluated through the lens of the three different competing value systems. For instance, in the novel, Mama Oby and most Catholics in Isiakpu profess Christianity, but at the same time chose to obey the traditional custom that ostracizes anyone accused of murder who refuses to swear before the village idol, against the direction of the church. Similarly, the Igwe, who carries himself as an exposed modern man, cares very little about both Christianity and traditional values especially when they stand on his way to success, even though he was supposed to be the custodian of the culture in his capacity as the ruler of Isiakpu.
One may be tempted to interpret The Moon Also Sets as merely a study on the gender question or female subjugation, but to do so is to misread and misunderstand it. Surely, the book captures the masculinist ethos of Igbo nay African culture which relegates women's' views to the background, but it is also, a subtle yet powerful reflection on Love, widowhood, extended family system, challenges of adulthood and the cyclical destructiveness of greed. Pa Okolo's selfish calculations dressed up as protection of family interests finally went burst when the resilience of Oby threatened to expose the evil designs behind the burning of her Mother's shop and this led him to commit suicide.
There are many ways in which one can see Achebe's influence in this novel. For instance, part of the pleasure one gets in reading Osi Ogbu, lies in his rendering of Igbo language-processes -- idioms, imagery, syntax and so forth --into English. The characters speak in a manner any Igbo or allied language-speaker would easily recognize as natural to them. The author neither rudely shocks nor seriously wounds the basic English sentence-pattern or sentence-structure, but at the same time he does not reduce the fundamental Igbo language idiom, sound and flow, to obscurity. Also, just like Achebe, one notices the Author's style of interposing Western linguistic forms and literary traditions with Igbo words and phrases, proverbs, fables, tales, and other elements of African oral and communal storytelling traditions which is gaining popularity among the new generation of identity-conscious African writers who strive to record and preserve African oral traditions as well as subvert the domination of the colonialist language style and culture.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to more novels from the author. For anyone who wants a firsthand appreciation of the struggles in a changing society, The Moon Also Sets is a very useful starting point and one which will remain relevant for years to come. I recommend it without reservation.