1 book I read―Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
2 words that describe the book―Literary Fiction
3 setting where the book took place or characters I met
- Setting: South Africa, 1990s
- David Lurie is a twice-divorced professor whose affair with a student leaves him without a job. Disgraced (but unrepentant), he moves in with his daughter Lucy on her farm in an attempt to refocus his life and rekindle his relationship with Lucy. However, an act of violence drives a wedge between David and Lucy that seems impossible to surmount.
- Lucy is David’s daughter who lives by herself on a small farm. Although she welcomes her father into her home, she is independent and stubborn–unwilling to listen to his pleas to seek an easier life for herself. Her need to stay on the farm and live her life as she wants to both perplexes and impresses David. However, after the violent incident, Lucy’s reactions differ so completely from David’s that their relationship seems to be strained beyond repair.
4 things I liked or disliked about the book
- I disliked almost everything about the character of David Lurie. Quite frankly, he came across as an arrogant, stubborn, lecherous man. His interactions with women repulsed me, and I was unable to be very sympathetic to him throughout the book. Although he seems to be trying his hardest to make amends for what he did wrong, I just could not overcome my dislike of him.
- I disliked that I didn’t have enough knowledge or perspective on the country of South Africa to fully grasp the nuances of this book. I suspect that this book would have much more meaning and resonance if I was better informed about South Africa and its complicated racial history. (The book is set in post-apartheid South Africa.) For example, it was particularly difficult for me to understand Lucy’s motivations and decisions toward the end of the book.
- I liked the character of Bev Shaw, a woman who works in an animal clinic near Lucy’s farm. Her strength and realism impressed me (at least until she began having an affair with David … then my opinion of her slipped a bit). But actually I may not like her character so much as I like the writing about her work at the animal clinic. When Coetzee was describing the treatment of animals by the local people and how Bev tried to give them dignity in their deaths, it was one of the few times I was moved by Coetzee’s writing.
- I disliked that this book was only 216 pages but took me quite a long time to finish. I really struggled with this book and forced myself to finish it. Much of the problem was that the characters did not involve me emotionally, and I felt out of touch with the issues and politics of the book. It felt to me like a book I would do better reading in a classroom situation or with a person knowledgeable about the history and dynamics of South Africa.
5 stars or less for my rating:
I’m giving the book 3 stars. I’m sure the book deserves more, but my personal reading experience was not a good one. To be honest, I didn’t like the book, but I place the blame more on my own lack of knowledge than on the book. The author is quite renowned and admired for his writing, but, honestly, this book didn’t work for me on that level either. Perhaps if you are more informed and knowledgeable about South Africa, this book might work better for you. It really wasn’t my cup of tea.
The Whys and Wheres: I got this book to read for my Awesome Authors Challenge because I’d seen the author’s name around quite a bit as an Important Author. He did receive a Novel Prize for Literature at one point, although not for this book. However, Disgrace was awarded the Booker Prize. I received my copy from Paperback Swap.
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