July 07, 2016

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee | Book Review

David Lurie is a fifty-two year old college professor in South Africa. He's a two-time divorcee and father to one child, his daughter Lucy. David lives alone and he has sorted his life into a routine that seems to be working well for him. He teaches a college class, grades papers, makes weekly trips to a brothel, and also engages in casual sexual encounters every now and then. He's quite content with the loneliness that comes with this freedom to do as he pleases. One day he runs into a girl who's a student in his college class. He invites her home and sometime later they begin having sexual relations until it all goes wrong. Horribly wrong. In the wake of the ensuing scandal his entire academic career and everything he has worked hard for are on the line. In the chaos you'd be forgiven to anticipate that the plot of Disgrace would head down a certain path but it doesn't. The path it takes instead is shocking and disturbing.

Disgrace is a great novel. I say that reluctantly not because I doubt its greatness but because of the story itself. I'm just a little reluctant to tie the word "great" to what goes on in this book. I put it down a lot so I could pause to sort out and cool the rising disquiet and the occasional horror. Thoughts like "What???", "What's going on???" "What are you saying???", and "Oh my God..." kept surfacing during my reading. Disgrace is not a convoluted tale that seeks to impress. It stays with you because it's so real. You know this is how life works in some parts of the world and it's frightening. It's messed up. It's so messed up. Our world is messed up. The point where Coetzee leaves us doesn't soothe the readers anxiety. I just sat there after I was done, trying to put it all together and also using my imagination to project what happens afterwards. Disgrace won the Man Booker Prize in 1999 making J.M. Coetzee a two time winner of the prestigious prize at the age of fifty-nine. You should read it.

[Image via Middlemiss

7 comments:

  1. I have this on my shelf waiting to be read. You seem to have enjoyed reading it after all.

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  2. I am ashamed to say that I have not read any novel by Coetzee. I have read a few articles, but thats it. I should pick up a book!

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    1. Nahh, don't be. This is my first Coetzee book and I only discovered it because of African Book Addict's blog post. I'm hoping to read one more of his. I also purchased two Nadine Gordimer novels. She's another great author from South Africa. But yeah, you should pick up one of his books. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. I agree with everything in this review Osondu! Disgrace is truly an uncomfortable read, but such great literary fiction all the same :)

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    1. Thanks Darkowaa!! I discovered this book because of your past blog post. Once I'm done with exams I'm going to read Nadine Gordimer's Booker Prize winning novel, "The Conservationist". Have you read any of her books? She's South African too.

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    2. Yes! I definitely know/knew about Nadine Gordimer's awesomeness. I remember she passed away in 2014, when the 2014 Caine Prize winner was about to be announced :(
      I haven't found a book of hers I'm particularly interested in... I'll wait to read your review and see if I'll venture!

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  4. Gosh, I also haven't read any of his work. This book sounds really unsettling and difficult to read...I usually can get through books that are brutally honest about how horrible our world can be, but this sounds sounds especially horrifying. :s

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