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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging little book
There’s a very ordinary domestic story at the heart of Get A Life; there’s illness, adultery, birth, adoption and balancing work life with home life. But this being Gordimer, it also brings in the wider issues of conservation and race relations in contemporary South Africa. The opening pages are a marvel; few writers can set the scene so economically yet so...
Published on 1 Mar 2006 by pseudopanax

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Tried but can't get into this...
I can't really call this a review - as due to the nature of the book, I found myself deeply lacking interest in it whatsoever around 40-50 pages in, and had to give up. It's not like me at all, and even with stories full of plots which are inert or stuck in a rut, I still pull through - but just couldn't with Get A Life. It's sad as I'm a great fan of Gordimer's short...
Published 19 months ago by NJ-and-the-Frieze


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging little book, 1 Mar 2006
By 
pseudopanax (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Get a Life (Hardcover)
There’s a very ordinary domestic story at the heart of Get A Life; there’s illness, adultery, birth, adoption and balancing work life with home life. But this being Gordimer, it also brings in the wider issues of conservation and race relations in contemporary South Africa. The opening pages are a marvel; few writers can set the scene so economically yet so precisely as Gordimer. The landscape of the characters is drawn without sentimentality or judgement, and through it all Gordimer is in complete control of the narrative, showing the reader these characters with all their ambiguities intact. This is a short novel, a mediation almost on the ongoing destruction and reconstruction of aspects of the characters’ lives that they had thought were set in stone and impervious to change. Get A Life is not an easy book for the casual reader, but for those who have enjoyed Gordimer’s previous work or for those new to her and up for a bit of a challenge it is a provocative piece of fiction.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Tried but can't get into this..., 23 April 2013
This review is from: Get a Life (Paperback)
I can't really call this a review - as due to the nature of the book, I found myself deeply lacking interest in it whatsoever around 40-50 pages in, and had to give up. It's not like me at all, and even with stories full of plots which are inert or stuck in a rut, I still pull through - but just couldn't with Get A Life. It's sad as I'm a great fan of Gordimer's short stories - the ones included in Jump and Other Stories really enthralled me - so I turned to Get A Life to get a flavour of what her novel writing skills might be like.

From the blurb the plot seemed fantastic - Bannerman, an ecologist, struck down with cancer which requires radiation treatment, life-threatening illness/treatment vs. preservation of threatened water bodies he deals with, the conflict with his wife's work, his parents' own anxieties and eventual questioning of their own marriage.
But it doesn't develop as it should - the characters are flat and 2-D - I couldn't empathise with any of them, least of all Paul, surely the first rule of successful novel writing? I couldn't get a flavour of who or what was Paul, or Benni until a good way into the novel.

The main reason for this is the convoluted nature of the prose - big sections with no real focus, as one reviewer has commented, lacking a clear direction. While I agree that it may be beautiful prose, a meditation on the fragility of existence, it works against building up a clear, focussed storyline - eg the opening section for the novel doesn't really introduce us to the state of play, but skips between different points of view of Paul, Benni and his parents. Not that I'm saying this is a bad plot device - but it doesn't introduce the plot/storyline clearly enough to us.
The sentence structure is long-winded and unclear - while I loved, for example, his meditation while in the garden, reminiscences of childhood and other experiences, I'd quickly forgotten what had happened before, as sections don't lead on from one another, and had to re-read whole sections again to remind myself of the plot. I'm surprised how such tough prose got past the editors' eye(s) at Bloomsbury, it clearly needs a lot more revision.

All that said, positives for the novel would be the wonderful meditative style Gordimer is able to employ, her real command of language, which I've always admired, her ability to conjure up those stream-of-consciousness moments which count among some of the most poignant moments in Get A life. But it's not enough to make this enjoyable reading - its' convoluted prose style, intended to impress, ultimately works against it. I'd still like to read more Gordimer, I've been recommended July People or the Conservationist by friends, but I may take a while to get round to it, after my experience with this novel..
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks focus, 30 Aug 2006
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Get a Life (Hardcover)
I'm afraid I would have to agree with some of the less complimentary comments on this novel. I felt that it had a couple of rather serious shortcomings.

Firstly, the novel lacked focus. It started out as one man's battle against illness whilst isolated from the rest of the world. This had potential to explore the nature of the pariah and the effect on friends and family of not being able to comfort the man they loved.

Then it moved into the relationship between private and personal life with the conflict between eco-warrioring and having family who represented big corporations in the law courts. And although I understood the device of splitting Benni and Berenice, I didn't think the differentiation was clear from behaviour - and also I couldn't tell Berenice/Benni appart from the grandmother (Lyndsay?)

Then it had the break up of the grandparents.

In all this, there was no obvious progression - just a feeling of drift. There was no celebration of recovery, no reason why the grandparents should become important, no exploration of friends and extended family.

Then there was the language. I found the prose hard to read. I kept stumbling over sentences which did not have a clear sense - or even a verb! I have nothing against arty writing, but when it is done well, it should read smoothly and naturally. If the reader keeps tripping up, the writing is failing in what it is trying to be.

And finally, there was the incessant political correctness. Every so often, the plot turned into a rather one sided portrayal of imminent environmental disaster. That might have been balanced better with an exploration of the economic reasons whi communities felt they should exploit the natural resources. Just showing the downside felt like preaching.

I'm afraid I thought this was quite a weak book - as evidenced by the fact that, one day later, I can barely remember the names of more than two characters.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacks focus, 1 Nov 2006
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Get a Life (Paperback)
I'm afraid I would have to agree with some of the less complimentary comments on this novel. I felt that it had a couple of rather serious shortcomings.

Firstly, the novel lacked focus. It started out as one man's battle against illness whilst isolated from the rest of the world. This had potential to explore the nature of the pariah and the effect on friends and family of not being able to comfort the man they loved.

Then it moved into the relationship between private and personal life with the conflict between eco-warrioring and having family who represented big corporations in the law courts. And although I understood the device of splitting Benni and Berenice, I didn't think the differentiation was clear from behaviour - and also I couldn't tell Berenice/Benni appart from the grandmother (Lyndsay?)

Then it had the break up of the grandparents.

In all this, there was no obvious progression - just a feeling of drift. There was no celebration of recovery, no reason why the grandparents should become important, no exploration of friends and extended family.

Then there was the language. I found the prose hard to read. I kept stumbling over sentences which did not have a clear sense - or even a verb! I have nothing against arty writing, but when it is done well, it should read smoothly and naturally. If the reader keeps tripping up, the writing is failing in what it is trying to be.

And finally, there was the incessant political correctness. Every so often, the plot turned into a rather one sided portrayal of imminent environmental disaster. That might have been balanced better with an exploration of the economic reasons whi communities felt they should exploit the natural resources. Just showing the downside felt like preaching.

I'm afraid I thought this was quite a weak book - as evidenced by the fact that, one day later, I can barely remember the names of more than two characters.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 5 Nov 2006
By 
Dr. Pik Wai Chin (Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Get a Life (Paperback)
I expected an insider's story about South African life. Instead, found 3 main themes: adultery; radiation; ecology. The ideas given about radiation are wrong; they contradict the present understanding of radiation physics by the international scientific community. Readers should not be misled.
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Get a Life
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer (Paperback - 2 Oct 2006)
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