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on 12 December 2000
Michael K left me feeling on the one hand empty inside as though something had left me during the reading and on the other, elated. Wiser. On the surface it's a story of struggle but as you turn each page it slowly dawns that this struggle will never end. It's relentless. The forces against Michael K, a gardner, are too great and too many. In the end he takes his own route through an extrordianry maze of difficulties the best way he knows how until he is left at the end with everything intact, as though he never made the first step of this journey. We are left wondering, who is Michael K? We never discover what Michael K has to say or how he really feels, we must accept that we only know him by the hardships he encounters. The Life and Times of Michael K tells us more about ourselves than it does the characters in the book and this is the real essence of Coetzee's writing. Michael K will stay with me forever, a ghostly book that still haunts the mind.
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on 1 January 2015
This is a relatively brief book, but has a magnitude of meaning far beyond its size. I began reading Life & Times of Michael K on New Year's Eve, and was finished before breakfast on New Year's Day. However, I'm pretty sure I will return to it again, and again.

Set in Apartheid era South Africa during a fictionalised civil war, Michael K is a gardener and an outsider in Cape Town. He tries to return his sick mother to her rural birthplace, but lacks the appropriate paperwork and permissions. He is robbed, arrested, placed in an internment camp for vagrants and suffers the injustices of a grossly unfair system. However, he also learns to survive on his own and discovers a form of true freedom that is beyond the understanding of others. The image that concludes the book is as fine an image of the true value and resilience of life as I have read in a long time. What could so easily have been a book about the futility of life, becomes a challenge and a source of hope.

I love the directness of Coetzee's writing. Nothing is wasted. He is a two-time winner of the Booker Prize, and I would argue that this is the better of his two prizewinners. I recently had the misfortune to read a Booker shortlisted novel which the publisher had described as '... a novel to be talked of in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, thought-provoking and life-changing.' That description would be much better suited to Life & Times of Michael K. Highly recommended.
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on 31 August 2015
A deep and very engaging book on some levels. The completely rotten luck of poor Michael from birth made you wonder what would become of him. I did not personally think the development of the story was either sufficient or sufficiently compelling. This was the main fault of what was a very thoughtful reflection on apartheid and life.
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on 22 July 2017
Superb, harsh, cruel and still so moving. No other Author has managed to deep down into the human soul and provide such a narrative for survival and bitterness.
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on 21 January 2016
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a book of heartache but it opens your eyes to the extreme poverty of that era. Often harrowing, the reader warms to Michael hoping his life will improve,
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on 12 November 2014
A good quick read and thought provoking. Excellent for book groups. We had a great discussion about it
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on 7 January 2015
Subtle and compelling.
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on 8 August 2015
Another beautiful book from Coetzee. The character of Michael K stays with you long after the final page...
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on 8 March 2016
Received and read
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on 27 September 2014
Excellent.
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