Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

My uncle, a high school English teacher, lent me this book while I was home.  Winner of the 1999 Booker prize, it was made into a film that he saw at the Film Festival, and he thought I would be interested in it.  I put it off for most of the trip, since there was all this delightful urban fantasy to be read, but ended up reading it in the couple days before my return to school.

All in all, it’s a good book.  It’s not an easy book but it is good.  Set in South Africa, the star of the show is a white professor at the University of Cape Town named David Lurie, who has a brief affair with a student, gets caught out and subsequently leaves his job.  The rest of the book is about his time with his daughter on her remote farm.  Everything is not hunky-dory on the farm and Coetzee really explores how events affect David and his relationships.

I’m not going to lie.  David is an unlikeable protagonist.  I didn’t have much sympathy for him.  And since the story is told from his perspective, it is uncompromising, and, at times, cold and uncomfortable to read.  In fact, there aren’t many likeable characters in the book, and definitely no simple ones, which is, I suppose, true to life.  I can’t say that I enjoyed reading the book but I’m glad that I did, since it is a wonderful piece of fiction.  Although I prefer books that are a bit more fantastical, I really enjoy a gritty, realistic story every once in a while and I think the author really captures the flavour of David’s environment, giving an honest portrayal of the situation.

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