Despite having won the Booker Prize, and Gordimer herself being a Nobel literature laureate, I found 'The Conservationist' rather disappointing. It's not terrible, but it's unexciting and often quite hard work to read. It does improve as it goes along and you become more familiar with the style, but it was one of those books I had to make a conscious effort to pick up and read.
The story is set in South Africa during the seventies, and focuses on a rich white businessman who owns a farm as a weekend hobby. Other characters are the farm workers, the local shopkeepers, and the son of the businessman. I found it hard to get to know or really empathise with any of the characters. The prose from Mehring's point of view frequently refers to his former mistress, a liberal humanist, and his arguments with her. There are some interesting points in there but I found the intrusion of flashbacks into the past and sudden changes into second person narration irritating and confusing.
This is a story that may have more resonance for those who lived in or visited South Africa during the seventies. For those who haven't, this book doesn't bring the setting or era alive enough to draw the reader in.