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A rich, funny, and deeply affecting autobiographical novel from one of the world's greatest living writers.

A rich, funny, and deeply affecting autobiographical novel from one of the world's greatest living writers.

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972–1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was 'finding his feet as a writer'.

Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him – a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.

Reviews

“Compelling, funny, moving and full of life.”

The Observer

Here in Summertime, passion exceeds argument. Here for a moment she [the reviewer] answers as a reader not with her head but with her heart.

Delia Falconer, Australian Literary Review

As the [fictional] biography unfolds, the picture that emerges is devastatingly honest, charming, at times funny, but always self critical. The book is not too cool or too neat. It is a stunning achievement by a man at the height of his powers.

Sandy McCutcheon, Courier Mail

“ ... this third volume of fictionalised biographies both odd and brilliantly executed, its main character a distinctly insignificant figure.’

Peter Craven, The Age

“Summertime is an exhilarating read. Like being played with by a magnificent lion whose paws sometimes caress but at other times the muscle and the claw send you spinning. The sly joke is that this lion puts the idea into his text that he, the writer, is inconsequential. Here is a paradox: a man such as this can write words that touch readers at the deepest level.”

Helen Elliot, The Age

“'To my mind,' she adds, 'a talent for words is not enough if you want to be a great writer. You have also to be a great man. And he was not a great man.' In the flesh, JM Coetzee, the prince of self-reproach, may well second this opinion, but I'll object. Summertime is a great experiment from a fine writer and one day, when he dies a second time, the gap will be too vast to fill.”

David Astle, Book Show, Radio National

Summertime is both an elegant request that the sum of Coetzee's existence as a public figure should be looked for only in his writing, and ample evidence, once again, why that request should be honoured.

Thomas Jones, The Guardian

“... you’ll relish a refreshingly amusing and human foible-ridden story.”

Qantas, The Australian Way

Where Summertime evokes South African life in the 1970s, the writing is luminous, revealing intellectual and emotional subtlety of a very high order.

Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald

Boyhood is a deeply-felt and utterly compelling account of a South African childhood: the narrative style is as spare and lean as the Karoo flatlands which form its backdrop

Daily Telegraph

‘an extraordinarily crystalline and bleak evocation of London in the 1960s’

Bernard O'Donohue, Irish Times

‘Coetzee's prose is chaste and lyrical - it is a relief to encounter writing as stylish as this.’

The Independent

‘One of the best novelists alive.’

Sunday Times

Is it a cheat to suggest this quasi-memoir by a South African-born Nobel Prize winner as the best work of Australian fiction since the dawn of the new century? Perhaps it shows how problematic those categories have become. Whatever the case, the third volume in the autobiographical trilogy Scenes from a Provincial Life is the best thing Coetzee has written since Disgrace (itself a signal novel of the last quarter-century). A fictional examination of the author's life between 1972 and 1977, constructed by a curious biographer following Coetzee's death, Summertime is built from archival fragments and the invented testimony of men and women who knew him well. The conceit of posthumous authorship permits a liberation of sorts after the grimly censorious third-person perspective of predecessors Boyhood and Youth. Coetzee's trademark melancholy and self-laceration remain, of course. But there is joy here, particularly in those passages dealing with his return as an adult to the Karoo, the harshly beautiful land of his forebears: This place wrenches my heart, he says. It wrenched my heart when I was a child, and I have never been right since. To read lines such as these from Coetzee's pen is like watching a cold-climate plant slowly swivel toward the sun.

Geordie Williamson, The Monthly

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9781741669039

    August 2, 2010

    Vintage Australia

    272 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781741669022

    September 1, 2009

    Knopf Australia

    272 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781742741208

    November 1, 2010

    RHA eBooks Adult

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by J.M. Coetzee

Late Essays
Age Of Iron
The Good Story
Here and Now
Scenes from Provincial Life
Foe
Inner Workings
Slow Man
Waiting For The Barbarians
In The Heart Of The Country
Master Of Petersburg
Life And Times Of Michael K
Elizabeth Costello
Youth
Stranger Shores
Disgrace
Boyhood
Dusklands

Recommendations

The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Best Laid Plans
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Fool Me Once
Private Delhi
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Voyager
Swing Time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Girls
The Mistress
The Bone Collection
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
Colombiano
The Trip of a Lifetime