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Youthful Optimism vs Middle Aged Cynicism,
This review is from: The Good Doctor (Paperback)
Galgut's novel evokes the stark landscape of rural post-apartheid South Africa. But do not let the daunting subject matter scare you away. This is a highly accessible novel written in simple, but eloquent prose. It's told from the point of view of middle-aged Frank Eloff who is an under-achieving doctor that has spent many years of his life at a remote hospital waiting to be promoted. He begins the tale when an enthusiastic young doctor named Laurence joins the hospital as part of a required year of training. The two are required to share a room. A uncomfortable friendship blossoms. Laurence is determined to use his time at the hospital to make some radical changes as part of the new South Africa he welcomes. Frank however isn't so certain that the old South Africa has entirely left. Through the novel they are confronted by unavoidable people and problems from the past which slow the progress Laurence so ardently desires.
It's a literary work that contemplates the dilemma of the new South Africa with the same brevity as Gordimer's None to Accompany Me and Coetzee's Disgrace. Apart from the political connotations, this novel is a powerful and haunting tale about friendship and a man coming to terms with his middle age. It echoes the disturbing quality of Ibsen's Ghosts through its repetition of sexual betrayal. Toward the end of Frank's narrative, his accounts become more hallucinatory and his honesty becomes uncertain. A tremendous guilt overshadows his narrative. There is a desire to shake the complacency of the environment, yet any attempt at progress instantly proves futile. This is a very melancholy novel, but one of captivating beauty and intriguing mystery.