Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
J.M. Coetze has won the Booker Prize twice and the Nobel prize once. He's won many other prizes for literature as well. So I was anxious to read one of his novels. Slow Man starts out with a lot of promise. The first chapter starts with a bang, literally, as Australian photographer Paul Rayment is hit by a car while on a bicycle. The subsequent injury forces the amputation of his leg and changes the course of his life. He hires a Croation nurse, Marijana, to care for him and then falls in love with her. Unfortunately, Marijana has a husband and three children and she rebuffs his proclamation of love.
Inexplicably, a homeless writer (Elizabeth Costello) shows up at his flat for no reason other than, "I'll be with you for a while yet...For the foreseeable future I am to accompany you." It seems that Elizabeth Costello is writing a novel and Paul is a character in it who must decide what action to take with his life, and his infatuation with Marijana, so that she can finish the novel. Elizabeth seems to know all about him and his desires, as well as when Marijana is coming and going, as if she had created him and the world he inhabits out of her imagination. But if she has, and he is indeed her character, it is unclear why she can't finish her story without him.
Paul grudgingly puts up with Elizabeth moving in with him and nosing her way into all of his business, which doesn't really make sense. She keeps probing him for answers and forcing him to be introspective when all he wants is the Croatian nurse, Marijana.
Coetzee's writing is the jewel in this novel, not the story. The ending is disappointing. Paul's development as a character is mostly non-existent. And we never really figure out why Elizabeth was in the story in the first place.
I will move on to another of Coetzee's novels because I don't think this was his best work even though his writing style was certainly admirable.
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Julie Richie is a mother and writer who was inspired to write by the book Beat the Turtle Drum by Constance C. Greene when she was eleven years old.