Laura (laura0218) wrote,


J.M. Coetzee
220 pages

David Lurie is a 50-something university professor, twice divorced. He's not particularly skilled at relationships. Perhaps he doesn't even understand what a relationship truly is, since early on he assumes that weekly encounters with a prostitute constitute some kind of more permanent bond. When the prostitute leaves town, David finds himself without female companionship and makes the even more egregious error of striking up an affair with a student. Of course this is discovered, and David leaves the university in disgrace. He visits his adult daughter Lucy, who runs a small farm and dog kennel in a rough and sometimes dangerous part of rural South Africa. At first it seems David will ease into the slower pace of country life, come to terms with the wrong he has done to others, and potentially make peace. But Coetzee has other plans, and visits upon David and Lucy an horrific act of violence resulting in even more disgrace, this time affecting both of them. Their emotional recovery -- individually and collectively -- is at the center of this novel.

David is not a particularly likable character. He is so interpersonally inept that he nearly always makes the wrong choice. I didn't really care whether he recovered from his ordeal; in many cases he got what he deserved. Lucy, on the other hand, was a more sympathetic figure. A lesbian abandoned by her partner just before David's arrival, she is fiercely independent. She is committed to making her farm successful, despite the danger of being a woman alone in that part of the country. She resists David's attempt to protect her (a natural response for a father, but still unwelcome). And yet despite her independence and strong will, when faced with a situation requiring legal action, she prefers to give in and try to make peace herself. She succeeds to some degree, but with tremendous personal sacrifice.

Disgrace raised up many ethical and moral issues, prompting me to consider how I might handle similar situations. Interesting reading. ( )

Tags: 1001, 1percent, book awards iii, complete booker, library challenge, review
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