Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: "In the Heart of the Country" by J. M. Coetzee

I really enjoy J. M. Coetzee’s books even though I really shouldn’t. They are about specific places and specific issues, which usually makes me pass on most books that fit into this category. I cannot stand it when a book puts an issue before telling a story. It is a stance that handicaps me in the classroom, but has made me a better reader in the long run. But somehow, Coetzee’s books are a real thrill to read, and proof that a Nobel Laureate need not do away with entertainment value to write important fiction (Murakami will win eventually). I don’t really know what it is that makes books like Disgrace and Life & Times of Michael K such joys to read that are still memorable years after reading them. It could be how simple and slim they are and never overstay their welcome, which sounds like kind of a backhanded compliment but it isn’t. And while In the Heart of the Country is too inaccessible to be as good as what I have read before, it still struck a nerve with me. A middle-aged woman lives with her aging father, never having lived a full life due to his controlling ways. She is obsessed with the fact that she is still a virgin and will likely remain so for the rest of her life. When her father begins sleeping with the servant’s wife, her mind collapses, with events happing that contradict one another leaving us having no idea what is real and what is made up. It is a disorienting technique that left me somewhat out of breath, but acts like a sort of brutally realistic take on The Yellow Wallpaper. And with what I am going through personally, I found some solace in what was happening to this woman. A little too much at points, but it is short enough to get a recommendation.
Rating: 4/5

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