3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
An Authors Imaginary Vision of South Africa,
This review is from: July's People (Paperback)
I think its best for me to be straight with you all and say I went into reading `July's People' with certain expectations. I thought `this will be a gory and horrific tale of the tumultuous events in South Africa, its going to be emotional shocking and something bad will happen to the main characters' and that interestingly isn't the case at all with this book. The actual story follows the flight from the city of white couple Bam and Maureen Smales have been living in luxury for years. Their saviour is their servant of fifteen years July who drives them to the safety of his village, a poverty stricken village where food must be caught and money has no real value. From here on in through the eyes of all the characters involved we look at how life changes for all the parties involved as they wait for whatever fate has in store for them and as they struggle to gain a new order of power in their new situations.
Despite being written through many characters eyes, in a slightly disorientating style which I will come to in a moment, the tale really gravitates around Maureen. A woman who clearly believes she was the best mistress a servant could have has her eyes shockingly opened and yet fights it. She feels gratitude for being rescued and then as the power shifts her true colours slowly emerge. She also never really fits in, though does she actually try to or is she a woman trapped? I found the idea of the story really interesting; it looks at how some whites had treated blacks and how things could be when roles are reversed. I say could be because I later found out this book was written by Gordimer as a possible future prediction for South Africa and was what she thought could happen not what actually happened, once I knew that afterwards the book in a strange way made much more sense.
The other thing that threw me at first apart from trying to place this historically was Gordimer's writing style. I actually had to read the opening chapter three times to gain any gist of it because very like a certain Miss Woolf there is a stream of consciousness to it. You hop skip and jump between characters and their thoughts not only between paragraphs but also on occasion in between sentences. Interestingly I adapted to it and ended up, about 30 pages in, forgetting how it was written because I was very much in the story will the people. An author I would like to try again in the future for sure.