Book Review: Disgrace by JM Coetzee

I read this book during our recent road trip to the mainland. It was recommended by my other half who enjoyed it very much that he thought that I would also feel the same way. Far from it. The only message I got this from this book is not to go to or live in South Africa.

It’s story about a middle-aged man, David Lurie who had been forced to resign as an English professor in a South African technical university because of an affair-gone-wrong with one of his students. He then took refuge in his daughter’s farm in the Eastern Cape, where he experienced a violent attack whilst his daughter was raped. Basically, that is the whole story.

Disgrace by JM Coetzee

To be honest, I was bored and frustrated with this book. I was bored with Lurie’s life. I just couldn’t empathise with him. All I kept thinking about was when is this ‘old man’ going to get a life. I want to squeeze his neck and shake him so he could wake up from his delusional nightmare that he calls life. I do not normally skip pages from a book but I did with this one – especially the part about his obsession on writing a chamber opera based on Byron’s work. Maybe I’m just not literary minded.

I was frustrated with Lurie’s daughter, Lucy who refused to press charges towards the men who raped her and decided not to leave the farm after it had become unsafe to live in. I think the farm represented South Africa during its post-apartheid time when the change of power was becoming apparent. However, I did find Lucy the most interesting character in the book as she was enigmatic and strongly devoted to her way of life – however she might define such life.

This is a short novel so it shouldn’t take that long if you decide to read it. It won the Man Booker Prize in 1999 and Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. So I guess it must be ok but unfortunately I did not enjoy it! There is also a film based on this book, which I hope will be more entertaining than this scholarly written flop.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I loved this book! The way Lurie admits his guilt but does not repent, then his thoughts of the rapists to his daughter is fascinating. He would not repent but he wants them to, its shows hist hypocrisy. Bryon, I felt, was also a bit too literary for me but I think it is simply used to show that human nature is a little bit more base then we might make ourselves believe.

    1. Karina Tumon says:

      I guess what made me give this book the thumbs down is the way it was written. I just couldn’t get into it so it didn’t help with the story telling. I think Lurie didn’t have to apologise if he didn’t want to. I don’t think what he did was wrong as Melanie (the student) consented to the affair. As for the men that raped his daughter, well they actually committed a crime so I could understand how Lurie felt about them. Although I don’t understand what was Lucy’s motivation in not pressing charges. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. mostlycinema says:

    he writer succeeded ..

    1. Karina Tumon says:

      Indeed! Thank you for your comment.

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