Thursday, June 14, 2007

Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee

This was a quirky novel, but a really enjoyable read. Rather than “Chapters,” the book is divided into “Lessons.” It is the story of last years of an Australian author, living off the reputation of an early, award winning novel, The House on Eccles Street. This work is a retelling of the story of Molly Bloom (of Joyce’s Ulysses).
Coetzee writes, “Isn’t that what is most important about fiction: that it takes us out of ourselves, into other lives?” (23). Coetzee more than practices what he preaches here. I felt her aches and pains, her emotions, anguished moments, and struggles with sons and a daughter-in-law. All were vivid and drew me into the life of this interesting woman. Elizabeth Costello brims with discussions about literature, reading, writing, but as her life progresses, it spirals down to some rather confusing discussions about animal rights. The last “Lesson” is really worth working your way towards. I haven’t read much Coetzee, and, I admit, I only bought this because he won the Nobel Prize, but that is my custom. In this case, I am glad I did! I will be searching for more of his work.
By the way, he is listed as a South African writer, but he lives in Australia now. Elizabeth Costello was born in Africa, but moved to Australia. Hmmm. Definitely five stars –- despite the PETA stuff!
--Chiron, 6/14/2007

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