Date Read: February 8th 2016
Publisher: Penguin Books
At fifty-two, Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire, but lacking in passion. When an affair with a student leaves him jobless, shunned by friends, and ridiculed by his ex-wife, he retreats to his daughter Lucy’s smallholding. David’s visit becomes an extended stay as he attempts to find meaning in his one remaining relationship. Instead, an incident of unimaginable terror and violence forces father and daughter to confront their strained relationship – and the equally complicated racial complexities of the new South Africa.
Review – ★★★★ (4 stars)
This book engrossed me from the first to the last page! I totally understand why J.M. Coetzee won several awards for this novel, including The Man Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature 4 years after the publication of this book AND even has a 2008 film adaptation of this book starring John Malkovich as the main character, Professor David Lurie. I need to find that film and watch it! I doubt it would be as good as the book, but it will definitely be worth the watch.
Professor David Lurie – the protagonist (who is portrayed as a white South African) rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning of this novel. We first encounter him in bed with a prostitute at a brothel he frequents in Cape Town. This prostitute for some reason decides to quite her job, and David starts searching for her, as he believes they share an intimate bond. Once she tells him off after he spotted her with her children walking about in town, he decides to find new sexual adventures elsewhere. Sooner than later, David finds interest in one of his undergraduate students – Melanie.
For some strange, sick reason, David believes Melanie is actually into him and he invites her to his home, makes her feel comfortable with some alcohol and sleeps with her. This happens several times during the semester, even though Melanie is clearly uncomfortable. When David is finally confronted with his inappropriate behavior by the academic board and Melanie’s father, David (who is not really ashamed of this abominable affair) quits his job and travels to the countryside where his daughter, Lucy resides. Lucy isn’t the same girl David knew her to be. She is overweight, slightly depressed and seems to be living in a trance as she resides on a farm, adjacent to Petrus – a black South African, who apparently is helpful to her.
The story takes a serious turn while David stays in the countryside with Lucy. Readers are rudely awakened by the violent, racially tense incidents that occur and the novel suddenly becomes dark and quite frightening. J.M. Coetzee does an incredible job at ceasing readers’ attention and emotions from the beginning of this novel to the end. There are heavy themes of rape, racism, violence, depression, (white) guilt, animal rights issues, new generation versus old generation, abortion, shame, feminism, sexism, satyriasis, infidelity AND disgrace – all in this novel!
When I sat back and accessed how I felt about this book after I completed it, I concluded that there were double meanings and interpretations to the events that occur in the storyline. There are lots of complexities to unravel in this book. Disgrace would make for excellent discussions in book clubs and literature classes. I have so many opinions on David and his daughter Lucy – it was hard not to judge them… but I’ll keep my opinions to myself so I don’t divulge too much of the storyline! This book definitely took a toll on my emotions and actually had me feeling offended and upset at some parts. Please be warned: if rape is a trigger for you, you might not want to read this novel.
Disgrace is excellent literary fiction, nonetheless. This was a great page-turner with intelligent, yet tender prose. I will surely read more Coetzee soon. Disgrace takes place in South Africa, but the myriad of sensitive themes addressed are certainly universal to humanity. I give this 4.5 stars. Please read this!
(I got Disgrace from a used book store [Ghana Book Trust] last summer. I found some other gems there too! Check out Challenge Update (summer); Currently Reading to see them).
★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!
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