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Get a Life

2.91  ·  Rating Details ·  457 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
A young man's treatment for cancer inspires profound changes in his family.

Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he's diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, h
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published November 29th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2005)
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Apr 05, 2012 Chinook rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gift to stacie
Shelves: africa
This is the second Nadine Gordimer I've read, the first being The House Gun. With both, my early impression was that I hated her writing style. The House Gun eventually drew me into the story far enough that I didn't care that I found the style a bit off. Unfortunately with Get A LIfe that never did happen. There were the odd moments that I got into it, but they were not consistent enough.
Dec 15, 2007 sdw rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: notforschool, fiction
This is a book about an environmentalist fighting nuclear expansion diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The treatment for thyroid cancer includes ingesting radioactive iodine making one (briefly) a radioactive threat to others. As an environmentalist with thyroid cancer, this aspect of the novel intrigued me the most.

I found the book's depiction of thyroid cancer over-dramatic. The main character is in his thirties and has papillary thyroid cancer. His chances of dying are slim - yet the book repeat
Gisela Hafezparast
Whenever I see a Nadine Gordimer book in the library I take it home as I am a great fan of hers. When I looked at past reviews I was very surprised that this one had 3 stars. It is only a very small book, more like a novella, but from the first chapter I realised why it had the rating it had and I could understand the reviews. Gordimer's writing is often not necessarily an easy read, but this one although it uses beautiful language and often breath-taking sentences is most definitely a difficult ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Success sometimes may be defined as a disaster put on hold – Nadine Gorminder, Get a Life

I thought the idea behind this novel was an intriguing one: after undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer a man—Paul Bannerman—needs to be quarantined from his family for sixteen days because he’s literally radioactive. His parents agree to care for him, not that they’re immune but they’re not young and that’s what parents do; both are in their mid-sixties. So, at the age of thirty-five Paul’s reduced to bei
Dec 09, 2014 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I hadn't read any Nadine Gordimer since I was 15, when I had to read a book of her short stories for GCSE English, and I hadn't enjoyed them much - I remember vaguely recognising they were good, but not really interesting to me at that age. But I was curious to read more, and this seemed quite interesting - the story of an environmentalist who is given radioactive treatment which means he has to avoid everyone for a couple of week, being radioactive.

I found the writing style a little like wadin
Amanda Patterson
Dec 06, 2009 Amanda Patterson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wish she would get one and stop writing like this. Nadine Gordimer is way past her sell by date. She is read by the 2000 people who still sit in Ivory Towers. Unfortunately some of those people force feed her awful books to our children as set works. Shame on all of you.
Dec 15, 2012 Stuart rated it liked it
Nadine Gordimer’s novel centers on a white, privileged South African family charting its course through several familial crises. The book is divided into two parts, the first dealing the relationship between Paul Bannerman, a thirty-something ecologist, and Berenice, his wife, an advertising copywriter. Paul is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and following surgery must take radioactive iodine as part of his treatment regimen. This radioactive iodine will accumulate in the remnants of his thyroid a ...more
Because the author is famous, the publisher can use real big type and make a 170 page book out of a handful of stories. Fine.

Gordimer lets me see something of life today in the 'new' South Africa through the eyes of a variety of individuals, I was going to say 'ordinary', but they are all too highly educated to use that word...

Anyway, it is good that Gordimer does not shy away from race issues as expressed on the individual level. Good for us, I mean, to educate us, to help us to 'see'.

I fe
from my review I posted on Amazon (a year back)

I can't really call this a review - as due to the nature of the book, I found myself deeply lacking interest in it whatsoever around 40-50 pages in, and had to give up. It's sad as I'm a great fan of Gordimer's short stories - the ones included in Jump and Other Stories really enthralled me. I turned to Get A Life in the hope of getting to a flavour of what those skills applied to a novel might read like.

From the blurb the plot is contemporary, enga
The reviews for this book are pretty accurate. Nadine is a very good writer but this was not her usual style or best work. The writing is confusingly abstract for the first one hundred pages then is more focused. After reflecting on it for a few days, the abstraction may have been the way the main character, Paul, was feeling and thinking at the time. I can't imagine what it must feel like to have cancer and try to concentrate on any one thing. Plus, he was quarantined away from his wife and kid ...more
Oct 05, 2013 Callie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know how many stars to give this because for the first two thirds of it, I DIDN'T like it. The writing seems muffled, the syntax seems passive, like when you try to talk to someone underwater, it's burbles. . . But she's a NOBEL PRIZE WINNER, so you can't just give up on her. Finally, 2/3 in a plot emerges and I had a way to hang on and even enjoy the last bit. I have never read Nadine Gordimer until now. I think I should have read more slowly and carefully? I don't know. But I don't kno ...more
Oct 20, 2007 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recently-read
I've read a number of Gordimer's books over the years. This is definitely not my favorite--the fragmentary/run-on language is overdone throughout the book, losing its effectiveness. Here's a sample taken from a random page:

"A state of existence. Unimaginable. Because her son, belonging to the historical continuity, brings a state of existence, his, before her days and nights, there returns a chapter not written, included, that surely cannot be believed was possible, could never happen to her as
Apr 05, 2013 Magpie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-not-impressed
It seems rather harsh, a one-star review for a Nobel prize winner, but instead of trying to gauge its merits, I opted for providing just my personal opinion: I didn't like it.

The first 60+ pages I found extremely difficult to read and I entertained the thought of abandoning the book. However, other reviewers said it gets easier after that section and it does. Still, I continued for the sake of finishing the book, out of a sense of 'obligation' so to speak, not because I enjoyed it.

The story open
Donna R
Feb 12, 2013 Donna R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family, awards, africa
Nadine appears in 'Wisdom' by Andrew Zuckerman, our book club chose her randomly from among the people of letters featured in Wisdom and this title was the one we could easiest access.
Her style asked me to pay attention, (no multi tasking with this book) and to proceed slowly. I went back over passages and blew dust from my dictionary once or twice. This is not my usual practice and in many instances it would have chaffed. I'm pleased to have made the effort, thanks in no small part to this b
2014 yılında kaybetiğimiz, 1991 yılında "Alfred Nobel'in deyişiyle insanlığa büyük yarar sağlayan; görkemli epik yazıları için" Nobel ödülü almış Kuzey Afrikalı yazar Nadine Gordimer’in Can Yayınları tarafından Türkçe’ye kazandırılmış kitabı Yaşamaya Bak.
Erken yaşında kanser olan ekoloji uzmanı Paul Bannermann’ın yaşamından bir kesiti anlatıyor. Kanser tedavisi nedeniyle bedeninin radyoaktif ışınlar yaydığı için oğlu Nickie ve reklamcı olan eşi Berenice/Benni’den ayrılıp başarılı bir avukat olan
Sep 20, 2007 K rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldntfinish
I couldn't finish this. I read one other book by Nadine Gordimer (I can't remember the title; the one where the main character ends up marrying her mechanic and moving to Africa, and then staying there even after he returns to England, or wherever she met him? Something like that) and was surprised that I liked her; I expected her to be too highfalutin for me. I found that other book surprisingly accessible, despite (or because of?) its admirably sophisticated writing. Gordimer's sentences are a ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Gordimer, a 1991 Nobel laureate, has historically mined apartheid's personal, social, and psychological landscape and explored the intersection of public and private spheres. Get a Life, her 14th novel, similarly takes place against larger social and political transitions. But here, to many critics' chagrin, her work is less politically intense than usual, her characters embodiments of ideas rather than flesh-and-blood people. Reviewers praised Gordimer's depiction of the renewed parent/child re

Feb 11, 2014 Valeria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really invested in liking this book. I wanted to like it because it would make me discover a South African author, a Nobel Prize winner no less.
Unfortunately, despite the interesting premise (a young man is diagnosed with thyroid cancer and has to confront his mortality while returning to the family home to be taken care of by his aging parents), the delivery falls flat. I assume the author chose the choppy style and the disjointed, halting sentences to convey the frame of mind of the mai
Jun 02, 2008 Carson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If it weren't for Gordimer's incredibly strange (and sometimes just plain grammatically incorrect) sentence structures, I would like this book more. I know, I know, it's an artistic choice, but it's not one that I appreciate. I had to read many sentences over and over, "correcting" them in my head, in order to figure out who was talking, to whom they were talking, and whether they were in the past or present or imagining the future. Gordimer seems to like to make her readers work for clarity. I ...more
Jan 02, 2016 Joy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book for its breadth of concerns from the very intimate and personal matters of the fragile body of human beings to the fragile body of the earth's eco-systems. Her main character is an ecobiologist and the books reports on projects he works on. The novel interested me enough to look them up and they turned out to be actual and current environmental issues.: The Wild Coast where there is the proposed toll road, the sand mining that will be accommodated by this road are both l ...more
Jun 04, 2007 Chelsea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first time reading Nadine Gordimer. It took me a while to feel comfortable with her writing style-- the spare punctiation, the long sentences, the unclear shifts in perspective from character to character to narrator. Occasionally I had a very tough time with the language, particularly when Gordimer's unusual style was mixed with professional jargon. But the story was unexpected, surprising, engaging. It's about a man who begins the book recovering from radiation therapy, himself radioactive ...more
Carolyn Smith
Mar 04, 2015 Carolyn Smith rated it liked it
Although short, this book was a slow read for me, but I liked it-- mostly for its theme of illumination and the post-nuclear dilemma. Paul is "illuminated" with a radioactive drug and struggling with the ecological consequences of a nuclear reactor scheduled to be built in important South African wetlands. Gordimer tells the story of Paul, his wife, and his parents as they each are illuminated by their pasts and the state of being after Paul's recovery. Paul's father, a budding archaeologist in ...more
Zoika Blat
Apr 30, 2013 Zoika Blat rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: none
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth Anne
Aug 28, 2008 Beth Anne rated it it was ok
this was a tough book for me to read. at only 200 pages, it took me longer than it does to read something twice it's heft.

the writing style was extremely difficult for me to get. i found myself reading and rereading passages sometimes three times in a row just to understand what the author was trying to say. i found myself left behind by many of the environmental passages, and never really felt close to or much care for any of the characters.

i don't really have much more to say about it. i am
2015 Reading Challenge Category: A book you own but have never read.

My husband got me this book when I was facing surgery for thyroid cancer. He thought, since I like reading, I might enjoy a novel about someone in the same predicament. I'm glad I waited to read this book, though. As another reviewer pointed out, Gordimer handles the topics of thyroid cancer and radioactive iodine rather dramatically in this novel. Her style is also highly literary. So while the book has its merits, I wouldn't n
Gürcan Öztürk
Kitap ana karakter Paul'un kanser teşhisi sonrası aldığı ışın tedavisi nedeniyle ailesi ve yakın çevresi için tehlike teşkil etmesiyle başlıyor. İlk yarı biraz ağır ilerlemekle beraber kitabın genelindeki anlatım ya türkçe çevirisinden kaynaklı yada orijinal yazımından dolayı biraz savruk ve kopuk. İkinci yarı daha güzel ve steril okunabilir bir hal alıyor. Yazar anne baba çocuklar büyükanne ve büyükbaba ilişkilerini incelerken. Kapitalizmin dayatmacılığı Afrika da süregelen sorunlar, zencilere ...more
Since I'm not very familiar with societal cleavages and discussions in South-Africa I was really looking forward to reading a novel by Nadine Gordimer. "Get a life" turned out to be a solid novel, nicely connecting personal matters of the characters with the big societal issues such as environment or health. This is certainly the great strength of the novel.
However, although the story line has some nice twists I was kind of disappointed about the end of the story that happens to be a dead end t
Dec 22, 2009 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is another stunning masterpiece from a very deserving Nobelist, and one of my favorite authors ever, Nadine Gordimer. Her style requires some patience and focus but I enjoy the challenge. Her themes and vivid characters make every line worth the effort to absorb. She provides a very straightforward look into modern South Africa, from both sides of the color line. She manages to express hope within descriptions of some of the world's worst horrors (to humans and to the environment) at the ha ...more
Sara Willis
Nov 30, 2007 Sara Willis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite Gordimer but not as bad as the reviewers harsh criticisms. I am a fan of Gordimer's difficult and different writing style so maybe that is why. Most interesting how conservation and environmental struggles are brought into a post-apartheid South African narrative to show how they cannot escape their location within discourses of power that include but are not limited to family alliances, the body, the state and prior colonial struggles.
There were promising elements to this book. She describes the emotion and relationship between characters in very interesting prose, the language is wonderful. But I didn't feel pulled into the narrative nor did I really empathize with any of the characters. It seemed a little to antiseptic to me considering the emotionally charged situations. And I always felt like I had missed something as the transitions were stark.
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Nadine Gordimer was a South African writer, political activist and recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was recognized as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".

Gordimer's writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa. Under that regime, works such as Burger'
More about Nadine Gordimer...

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“The caged eagle become a metaphor for all forms of isolation, the ultimate in imprisonment. A zoo is prison.” 17 likes
“Success sometimes may be defined as a disaster put on hold. Qualified. Has to be.” 13 likes
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