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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Deep and Thoughtful Book
I'm a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer. So reading a book about a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer was either going to leave me breathless or livid.
Youth is not a book in which very much happens - and that's because it's a book about real life. The real life...
Published on 16 Aug 2003 by D. C. Njoku

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bleak England made bleaker by Coetzee's main character
I found Coetzee's English usage most interesting, with some sentences to relish. But, the paragraphs were less interesting. One major problem for me is that the main character always seemed to be taking, and never giving. In consequence, I found him drab, uninteresting, and unrewarding. There were many excitements and much to savour in the England of the late 1950s/early...
Published on 8 Mar 2010 by Lewis Duckworth


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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Deep and Thoughtful Book, 16 Aug 2003
By 
D. C. Njoku (Bracknell, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
I'm a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer. So reading a book about a Bracknell-based African computer programmer who once had aspirations of being a writer was either going to leave me breathless or livid.
Youth is not a book in which very much happens - and that's because it's a book about real life. The real life of a young man finding his feet in an alien country. But the beauty of Youth is not something as mundane as excitement (any book can give you that), it's the truthfulness of the book (I should know: see paragraph 1). It is the most well-realised book I've read in ages, and in its nuances it contains more feeling than library-fuls of other books.
I guess what I'm saying is that you'll either love it - or be bored silly by it. I loved it. Which is fortunate since it seems so much to be the story of my life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 12 Dec 2006
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
For someone like myself who is interested in writing and in mathematics, I loved this book and didn't want it to end. Coetzee is too cold-hearted to fall in love, too idiosyncratic to make friends and too anal to begin writing so ends up in computers instead. His internal battles rage on. Wonderful stuff. By the way, were the shops really closed on Saturday afternoons in Bracknell in 1963?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first Coetzee, 15 Nov 2003
This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
Piqued by his laureate status, I decided to sample Coetzee, and picked this book for its slimness and because I had heard such mixed opinion of Disgrace. I think it might be the most beautifully written book I have read, not only for the grace of the prose and the wonder of the phrasing, but also for the gentle tragicomedy of what seems a simple tale. I had an unerring feeling throughout the book that the velvet prose was restraining an iron fisted mind and having now read Disgrace and Master of Petersburg, I think this is true. Youth seems to be Coetzee in more gentle and reflective tone and, whilst I have enjoyed his other darker work, Youth is my favourite to date.
He may not be everyone's cup of tea but I think I am beginning to understand why he was made a Nobel laureate. If you already like Coetzee then I would guess that you will love Youth. If you don't know Coetzee this book is a good place to start to understand a true master of the English language.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Each man is an island, 21 April 2008
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
Coetzee's second autobiographical novel is a story of flights and also an 'Education sentimentale'.

It is a flight from the oppressiveness of his family and the love of his mother - `the bond with the firstborn' -, from the socio-political situation in South-Africa - `an albatross around his neck' - and from mortgage shackles. In one word, it is a flight to freedom.
He arrives in London, but the city turns him into a beaten dog: no work, no stay. He quickly understands that the struggle for life is still going on, that he will have to find his place in the world and that he has to prove that he belongs to this earth.

Intellectually, he is attracted to Pure Thought (mathematics), but he also wants to become a poet. He makes his first encounters (through reading and radio programs) with world literature, e.g. Joseph Brodsky who teaches him that `poetry is truth'.

Sentimentally, he has to fight against his own depths of coldness, callousness, caddishness, his lack of heat and heart. He falls in love with filmdivas, but his own love (better: sex) life is not that of a `fine' author.

In impeccable prose, J.M. Coetzee painted without any shame a very realistic picture of a `Youth-struggle'.
Not to be missed.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Coetzee book, 14 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
I am surprised by the ambivalent reviews of this book. I have read several of JM Coetzees books and this is my favourite. Coetzee is a very intelligent and penetrating writer - perhaps this is why his writing has been characterised here as detached. In my opinion, this feature is a virtue. Along with his spare, almost poetic style, this is what makes his books so utterly exhilarating.
'Youth' gets to the heart of the confusion facing a young man torn between worldly constraint and artistic ambition. The everyday dilemmas and insecurities he faces occupy his time more and more as he searches for some kind of grander purpose or secret of artistic success. This is a book that will hypnotize those who have ever found themselves questioning their own life-choices. As the protagonist feels his destiny slowly escaping him, we are left, not with feelings of hopelessness, but with a profound and motivating lesson about the futility of neuroticism and inaction. A wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bleak England made bleaker by Coetzee's main character, 8 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
I found Coetzee's English usage most interesting, with some sentences to relish. But, the paragraphs were less interesting. One major problem for me is that the main character always seemed to be taking, and never giving. In consequence, I found him drab, uninteresting, and unrewarding. There were many excitements and much to savour in the England of the late 1950s/early 1960s and this character and, presumably, this author, just didn't seem able to appreciate any of it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An autobiographical novel that becomes something more, 8 May 2013
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
"Youth", which appeared in 2002, is both a novel and a fictionalised autobiography. It draws heavily on the author's own experience of young manhood: but it isn't necessary for the reader to know anything about this to appreciate the book as a work of fiction.

At the core of his narrator's sense of self, as a young white growing up in the intensely racist South Africa of the 1950s, is a peculiar conviction: that he will be a literary artist, though nothing in his background and education really destines him for the task, and he has only intermittent, wavering belief in his own abilities. Coetzee captures perfectly the vacillations and listlessness of the awkward stage of life in which a person has to decide who they are and what they will do.

In the short term, this conviction is disabling, unfitting him for everyday life and derailing his efforts to construct a viable mode of existence. He drifts through a succession of academic dead ends, unexciting jobs and dysfunctional relationships, each of which terminates in disappointment and self-disgust. Moving in the early '60s from South Africa to England, he seems as much to be fleeing capture by the mundane as actively seeking the centre of literary activity.

Coetzee is a master of the unpalatable truth, and he is quite merciless here at the expense of his younger self, as refracted through his young protagonist. His bone-dry sense of humour has plenty of material to work on: his young man is priggish, nave, gauche, selfish; and yet in spite of this Coetzee managed to engage my sympathy. There is a sense of truth in the telling of the tale, and there were many moments in which I found myself laughing or wincing in recognition.

By the end, the author has contrived to make the narrator's dilemma seem both real and important. Perhaps the most telling achievement is that it doesn't matter at all that we know - or think we know - how the story ends in 'real life'.

Well up to Coetzee's high standards, and recommended, particularly to anyone interested in the Bildungsroman.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sad but penetrating portrait of Coetzee as a young man, 13 Nov 2008
By 
Andres C. Salama (Buenos Aires, Argentina) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
This book by South African writer J. M. Coetzee is not exactly an autobiography, as it recounts a few years of his life, from about the time he was 19 to his mid 20s, during the early 1960s. Though less than 200 pages long, this is hardly a fast read. Coetzee's writing style is not overly complex, but he packs so many things in it, in terms of ideas and reactions to the world around him, that you have to go slow in order to pay close attention. Not that the life shown here is particularly eventful, since most of the time he finds himself bored and lonely. A familiar theme in autobiographies by writers is growing up alone and with few friends and this book certainly shows this. If his male friends are few, his relationships with women are even worse, sordid and often abusive. The book starts in South Africa as the narrator finishes his degree in mathematics, while secretly dreaming of becoming a poet. After the Sharpeville massacre, he decides to move to London, where he works at jobs he finds depressing, first in IBM and then in a British computer firm. Far from being Swinging London, the English capital depicted in this book seems cold and depressing. The protagonist (presumably Coetzee himself) seems very selfish, and self possessed, seemingly incapable of developing a meaningful relationship with fellow human beings. Coupled with a job that he finds meaningless, his only solace (aside with occasional casual sex) comes with reading poetry. Since the book ends when the protagonist is in his mid 20s, the immediate question after reading this book, is what happened to him after that, did he become wiser or did he grew up to be a bitter man.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A high-quality novel, 28 May 2002
This review is from: Youth (Hardcover)
As in Coetzee's other books, Youth is enojoyable to read if for no other reason than to appreciate the quality of the writing. The novel captures poignantly the tension that many university-age people experience between idealism and pragmatism in deciding how they want to live their lives, and how their youth and inexperience in life affects their perspective. It is a short, easy read, and the story moves from South Africa to London and into the English countryside, which keeps the book moving along nicely despite there not being much action. I give it only 4 stars because it doesn't have the richness or drama I liked so much in Coetzee's other books, and there is an excessive amount of name dropping of famous writers and poets.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 23 Feb 2003
This review is from: Youth (Paperback)
This is the first Coetzee book that I've read, recommended to me by a friend. After reading this over the weekend, I will certainly be eager to look out for some of his other novels.
The story is about a man in this early twenties, who is trying to identify the best way of expressing himself - to do this is searching for his destiny. The difficulty is that he doesn't know if he has the key to his destiny, or if someone will be give him the key to unlock his talents as a poet.
Deciding what to do with ones life, and how to make the impact on society without disappearing in the masses is a theme that I can relate to. The questions the narrator asks echo the thoughts and questions that I'm sure many readers will have asked themselves in the process of ending a romanticised university life and entering the cold realities of daily work.
The story is a short but an easy and absorbing read. The style is clean and crisp - each question and sentence effortlessly leads onto the next, which results in a novel that richly describes the journey that John, the protagonist, goes through.
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Youth
Youth by J M Coetzee (Paperback - 6 Feb 2003)
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