J M Coetzee – Summertime

I am reading J M Coetzee’s ‘Summertime’. A year ago I read ‘Disgrace’, which came with a sincere warning from the bookseller at the till that it was harrowing. I wondered what I had bought (it was one of those books picked off a shelf – not quite at random – when I want to read something by an author who is new to me). The lady at the desk was right. The story was harrowing. I could understand why it upset her.

Summertime is very different. I think if I had read the first few pages in the bookshop without having read a Coetzee novel previously I would have put it back on the shelf. That doesn’t mean it is bad, far from it. It’s simply that I am one of those people that likes to get hooked by the first page and that didn’t happen. However, I started the book at 8pm yesterday and still hadn’t put it down at 11.30 – so you can guess from this that I eventually got hooked.

All I will say about what I have read so far is that it is an impressive and possibly unique way to write your own obituary while you are still alive – assuming it is all true, of course. If it is not, then he has done a very convincing job.

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