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The Conservationist [Paperback]

Nadine Gordimer
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Nov 2005
Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm. As the upheaval in Mehring's world increasingly resembles that in the country as a whole, it becomes clear that only a seismic shift in ideas and concrete action can avert annihilation.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (21 Nov 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747578249
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747578246
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'This is a novel of enormous power' New Statesman 'Gordimer is a great writer ... It is Turgenev that she most brings to mind' New York Review of Books 'Nadine Gordimer writes of blacks and whites, but her steady, unblinking eye sees something grey there. You could call it human nature, and you would be right' Daily Telegraph 'Gordimer has undoubtedly become one of the World's Great Writers ... her rootedness in a political time, place and faith has never dimmed her complex gifts as an artist' Independent

About the Author

Nadine Gordimer's many novels include The Lying Days, Burger's Daughter, My Son's Story, None To Accompany Me, A World Of Strangers and The House Gun. Her collections of short stories include Something Out There, Jump and Loot. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. She lives in South Africa.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 7 Sep 2008
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring boring 19 Aug 2009
What hard work, tedious and unrewarding, to get through this novel. It is the worst I've read in years. The story is really simple and utterly unoriginal, it's hardly a story at all, more like silly social realism of the seventies. But the worst thing about it is the style. Characters are not really introduced and settings neither. The reader pops in and out of heads of people but as they aren't really grounded in a figure the thoughts and shallow oberservations we read come across as echoes of thoughts. Real observations are very few indeed. Assumption on the other hand are quite plentifull.
But listen to this one: an Indian family plays a minor role and suddenly we zoom in on them and see the wife standing in a room.
" What did she think, standing looking out into the yard or across the burned veld - you could grow bananas, it would be warm and steamy and green, like the coast?"
And goodbye wife, not to be heard of again. What do we care what she might think if it isn't put into perspective of something, anything, show some respect for the trees Gordimer!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORING 20 Aug 2010
I read every boring word on every boring page of this boring, boring book - and only because my mission is to read every Booker prize winner. Otherwise, I would have hurled this book into the bin after twenty pages. NOTHING HAPPENS, except a tedious interior monologue from someone about whom you constantly think 'who cares?' To add insult to injury, the punctuation makes it almost impossible to follow what is going on. Even if Gordimer holds her readers in such contempt, at least her publisher should have ensured that the small concession of making the work readable would be a good idea.
If I could give negative numbers of stars for this book, I would.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is writing at its best. 21 Sep 2008
By Xaves
Form and style are matched to content in this expertly crafted novel by Gordimer. 'The Conservationist' was my introduction to Gordimer's writing and I wasn't disappointed. Her Modernist style, with its rapid shifts of narrative viewpoints, stream of consciousness and insertion of flashbacks is exactly suited to the tragedy that is Mehring's life and times - capturing his increasing ennui, uncertainty and his inability to fit. It's not difficult to understand why they gave her the Nobel.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent novel I'm glad I came across 9 Oct 2013
By Susie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I came across this novel when I was trying to locate a certain short story by Nadine Gordimer that I had read years ago. After much searching I found that it was a chapter from this novel. I decided to read the whole book, which jointly won the Booker Prize in 1974. It's a great novel, which is like a series of linked short stories. Gordimer powerfully evokes the literal and metaphorical landscape of South Africa during the apartheid era. I'd like to read more of her when I have the time.
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