Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Book Review: Disgrace


Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Category: Fiction

Synopsis: Set in post-apartheid South Africa Disgrace tells the story of middle aged professor of literature David Laurie. Laurie takes advantage of a student (some synopsis state that he has an affair, to me this is misleading) and is found out. He is forced to leave is job and goes to stay with his daughter on her small farm. Then the unthinkable happens and life is forever changed.

My Thoughts: If it had been my choice this would have been a DNF. I didn’t like the main character. I didn’t like the events. I didn’t like the secondary characters. I just didn’t like it. It leaves me feeling really rather icky.

The main character has an unhealthy obsession with women in my opinion. He uses them for his own purposes and then sees himself as a slave of love. A martyr. But in my mind he has no understanding of what love or passion really is.

This was a book I read for my lit theory class, discussing post colonialism.  In class we spent a great deal of time discussing if the novel was inherently racist. Much criticism of the book has been that it and its author are racist. I do believe that the book perpetuates racist ideas. I think it shows ideas and attitudes that are prevalent not only in South Africa but also in other parts of the world.  Personally I am not sure I would ascribe a racist motive to the author himself. I feel that he is showing the problem of racism and I am not sure that someone could show these attitudes in this way if they themselves hold that attitude.

I found it very difficult to review this book. It has upset me greatly. The view on women and on atonement are ideas and views that I simply cannot buy into. I cannot except the way he treats women. Women in the story are merely things. Although the main character does in some ways change his views on what he has done he doesn’t change enough for me. Although I don’t agree with Lucy’s actions I can to understand her wish to own what happened (don’t agree with it but I can understand it) and so Laurie’s lack of understanding for her actions and unwillingness to let that go I feel perpetuates the wrong. He isn’t helping he is also trying to take away her right to choose. My teacher believes that he excepts her actions in the end. I didn’t feel this way. I don’t think he fully excepts her actions.

All in all not a book I personally would recommend but several of my classmates liked it. It simply upset me to much. I’m going to and read something fluffy now. With lots of kittens and bunnies and other nice things. Or perhaps some AnneGirl.

Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North.clip_image001This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


Amanda said...

I have to admit that Coetzee scares me and I'm not sure i want to read him. Reviews like this don't help of course.

Aarti said...

Oh, no :-( I know we chatted for a bit on how all the books you've been reading lately have basically made you miserable! I'm sorry this is one of them. I hope the reading material gets better later- in the meantime, I'll steer clear of this one.

Zee said...

Thank you both. If you are upset by or don't like novels where women are mere props then yes I would avoid this one.

Aarti I only have two more assigned readings left now so hopefully I will be able to read more of my own books in the future. Or at least I can consign books I don't like to the DNF pile. I don't really want to do that with school books (although Carrie did end up there last year)