I had to stop reading A Song of Ice and Fire for a second so I could cannonball this before book club, and three pages in I’m all, Nope, not enough dragons. And our book club reads have been unintentionally rapey (including that One Book In Particular where you spend half the book being like, Please do not rape that little girl, and then just when you think she’s going to make it he goes ahead and rapes that little girl), so this book was pronounced ‘not as rapey as some,’ which (as Lord Peter Wimsey once said) is praising with faint damns.
ANYway, the main character had some icky opinions about women that sort of weren’t redeemed in the end. But I think Coetzee thought he was trying? Like, the main character writes this opera about Theresa, Byron’s lover, only it’s not the mad and tempestuous love affair, but Theresa’s sad, sad life after Byron is dead and all she has are his love letters, and I think he’s supposed to be sympathizing with her in her middle dumpy age but it really just reads as Woman Without Man Is Sad.
And this won the BOOKER, which is starting to mean nothing and less to me, and the back is covered with LAUDS, but I am reading the lauds and they are all like, THIS IS THE MOST ORIGINAL BOOK EVER, signed, A Dude, and NOTHING THIS PASSIONATE AND RAW HAS BEEN SEEN BEFORE, signed, Some Other Dude, and I am like HOW DO THE WOMEN FEEL ABOUT THIS ONE?
Also, a bunch of dogs are killed. Like, a BUNCH.
Are you still reading this review? I said dogs were killed. Ok then. David is a professor in South Africa, twice-divorced, and one day he is like, Hullo, student of mine. *leer* So he sleeps with a student and she isn’t really into it but she doesn’t shout no, so it’s not like legitimate rape or whatever (and later, she comes to crash at his house because she is having Personal Problems and he is like, Wait, I didn’t want this, this is inconvenient for me. Let’s go back to just casually fucking, and I am like
but, while that attitude of his kind of became The Point for me, I don’t think it’s the Intended Point of the Novel.)
So there’s an inquest and all his pals on the board are like, Just say you’re sorry and you can go back to work, and he’s like, I’ll admit I did it, but I won’t admit to being sorry, and I THINK we’re supposed to read this as some sort of Moral Stance Against Hypocrisy, whatever.
So they have to fire him and he goes and lives with his single lesbian daughter on her farm and she’s isolated and vulnerable and white and there’s some MORE rapings goes on (racial subtext that I can’t even) and she goes from being his daughter to being Woman Raped and he just won’t let it go even though she asks him to and then she turns up pregnant and that’s the last straw and there is NO FEMALE CHARACTER in this book who isn’t a character second and a thing in which to poke yourself (or to prevent other men from poking themselves) first. Like, his daughter has this friend who he thinks is weird and dowdy and who is MARRIED but he’s still like
I am sick to death of this shit. File this under Men Writing About Douches Like They Are Some Sort of Admirable Character Who Find Redemption In The End Only I Am Not Buying It, You Asshats. The writing is super-good, though. Like that fixes anything.