After a twenty-one-year hiatus from writing Chinua Achebe published Anthills of the Savannah in Great Britain in 1987. It was published in the United States the following year. The novel just prior to Anthills of the Savannah was A Man of the People, a book that foreshadows the military coups that would figure largely in Nigerian politics in the coming years. To many of Achebe's readers, Anthills of the Savannah is the logical extension of this novel as it depicts the inner workings and consequences of such a coup.
Critical reception was overwhelmingly positive, and many critics regard this novel as Achebe's best to date. Achebe was already respected as one of the founding fathers of Nigeria's literary coming-of-age, so the success of Anthills of the Savannah only confirmed his place among Nigeria's leading intellectuals. In 1987 Anthills of the Savannah was a finalist for the Booker Prize, Britain's most prestigious literary award.
Anthills of the Savannah tells the story of three schoolmates who become major figures in a new regime in the fictional West African land of Kangan. Achebe addresses the course unbridled power often takes and demonstrates how the fierce pursuit of self-interest comes at tremendous cost to the community as a whole. Critics note that this novel is a departure for the author in that he creates fully developed female characters and suggests that the women are sources of moral strength, tradition, and hope in the face of violence and deception.