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Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Summertime JM Coetzee by Amanda Bennett, 6 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Summertime (Hardcover)
Book Review

Summertime by J M Coetzee

Summertime (2009) is the third of South African John Coetzee's fictionalised autobiographies following Boyhood (1997) and youth (2002). The inspired novel centres around a young English biographer who is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee, focusing on the years 1972-1977 when Coetzee was in his thirties.
Following the premature end to his six years in America, John returned to South Africa to live in the outskirts of Cape Town with his widowed father. This period is emphasised by the biographer as an era when Coetzee was `finding his feet as a writer'.
Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on an exciting journey of interviewing a number of characters who were physically and emotionally involved with him.

The Coetzee that we are introduced to, through a series of interviews, is lonely and uncomfortable with almost every aspect of his life. Further on in the novel, a more humuorous side is developed as Coetzee becomes sexually involved with a number of female characters. He takes up dancing in attempt to woo a woman, only to make a fool of himself. Coetzee continues to place himself in awkward situations throughout the novel creating an ongoing theme of comedy for the reader to enjoy.

Within the novel, he is regarded with mistrust by his family as he engages in manual labour in penitence for his country's long history of `making other people do our work for us as we sit in the shade and watch'. His love for the Coetzee family estate in the Karoo remains as passionate as ever it was in Boyhood but everywhere else he is lost. South Africa has become a `loud angry place'.

Summertime is a captivating portrait of life, and like most lives it is full of dichotomy and everyday moral struggles. It is biographical in most of its elegant content, yet largely fictional in the manner of its telling. It is meant to be about one man, however it spends most of the time exploring the lives of the characters John was involved with. This unpredictable period of John's life is presented by women who John believed he had a significant relationship with. Unfortunately, it was unrequited love, and from the female side of the story, their relationships held no passion.

Dominating the Man Booker Prize Summertime is said to be his most popular work since Youth was published seven years ago, also another enticing read.
In style and character, one gets the feeling that this portrayal is true to the man Coetzee feels himself to be. It is an exercise in self awareness and honesty which makes his autobiographies such a joy to read, exploring the life of one of our greatest esteemed writers.

By Amanda Bennett

Bournemouth University
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Jan 2010 20:16:58 GMT
Extremely helpful review. Loved the book and your review of it was perfect!!

5/5! 100%

Posted on 6 Feb 2010 18:36:51 GMT
BlestMiss T says:
Mmm, I don't think those aspects to which you refer as 'comical' are funny at all. They are at times humiliating and heart-wrenching.
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Location: Bournemouth University

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