I have given up on J M Coetzee’s Summertime. Halfway through it I wondered why I was bothering to read it when I could be reading something else. Perhaps it’s just me. I’m having trouble concentrating because I have a nasty nerve pain under a crowned tooth, one of those big ones at the side and I’m trying to get an emergency appointment. So it might not be Coetzee’s fault but that of my miscreant molar. I am about to read John le Carré’s latest. I shall tackle it with an open mind, having been mildly disappointed with his last two novels. I suppose there just aren’t enough spies to write about these days. If Coetzee and le Carré can’t do it for me then I’d better get back to the Beano.
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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.