I was disappointed with this book for several reasons. The stream-of-consciousness-eque writing is especially confusing when you're referring to a place or a style of language unfamiliar to the audience. The ending left much to be desired. Ms. Gordimer only made the situation more and more edgy, then kind of left it off. What she does well, though, is chronicle the evolution of relationships in a severely changed environment. What role do you take when your "boy" becomes your only means of survival? Recommended only for fans of Gordimer.
Fascinating, but depressing. A liberal white couple in South Africa are helped by one of their long-term black servants to escape to his village during the upheaval at the end of apartheid. Their children quickly adapt to "native" life and are happy, but the parents are another story. I thought the writing very good and perceptive. Didn't like the fact that the story ends up in the air, but then again, plot was not the point.
The narrative is often choppy and abstract. In many ways, the authors style and structure remind me of that of Alan Paton. Crisp, sentences. Often merely phrases. No quotation marks. Who is speaking? Is someone speaking? Often up to a page of narrative expires before, by assumption, the reader becomes aware of which character it concerns. A South African trait, or style? Prose imitating poetry! July is a native servant who rescues his white family from the riots and hides them in his native village. Gradually, their roles reverse. A sort of cliff-hanger ending that leaves far too much to the reader to fill in.
When race war breaks out in apartheid South Africa, a liberal white family are taken by their servant July to his native village. How the village and the family respond to the ensuing strains and pressures is the subject of this renowned short novel by Nadine Gordimer.
For years, it has been what is called a "deteriorating situation." Now it is war. All over South Africa, cities are battlegrounds, and radio and television stations are under siege. Bam and Maureen Smales take up their servant July's suggestion and drive with their children to his remote home village. For fifteen years, July has been the decently treated black servant, totally dependent on them. Now, he becomes their host, their savior, and their keeper. Suddenly facing a hunted life of bare subsistence, owing their survival to July, the Smales are forced to look at him and at one another in an entirely new light. They find life utterly changed and harboring different dread and hope for each individual.
This is a story about the turmoil of apartheid in South Africa. One white family is rescued by their black servant and taken to his home village. You get a glimpse at how the power has changed between these two different groups of people. I found the book very well-written and easy to read and understand. The vivid descriptions set the mood and atmosphere and you feel everything the characters are feeling. The book is a little outdated (written in 1981) and this did not really happen but it is a haunting premise. I would highly recommend this book to those who want to learn about apartheid in South Africa.
"For years, it had been what is called a "deteriorating situation." Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family- liberal whites- are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his village. What happens to the Smaleses and to July- the shifts in character and relationships- give us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites."
Written by Nobel Prize in Literature Winner Nadine Gordimer.
"Gordimer's art has achieved and sustained a rare beauty. Her prose has a density and sparsity that one finds in the greatest writers."-The News Leader
"Gordimer knows this complex emotional and political territory all too well and writes about it superbly."-Newsweek