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July's People

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  3,689 ratings  ·  277 reviews
Not all whites in South Africa are outright racists. Some, like Bam and Maureen Smales in Nadine Gordimer's thrilling and powerful novel July's People, are sensitive to the plights of blacks during the apartheid state. So imagine their quandary when the blacks stage a full-scale revolution that sends the Smaleses scampering into isolation. The premise of the book is expert ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1981)
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Petra X
All the troubles of apartheid-era South Africa are encapsulated in this slim and beautifully-written book. Just when you think that you know the situation, you understand what is going on, the Chief is introduced and you realise that looking at it from the point of view of the (white) Smales and the in-two-worlds view of their ex-'boy' is only the half of it. It's black against white, but not for liberation alone but for power.

There are many reviews of the story of July's People. I am glad I did
The 5 stars you see flashing at you are not just any 5 stars. They are the end result of a whole day of deliberation.
I happen to be one of those people who are not stingy with their ratings. If a book manages to bestow equal importance on both the prose and the message contained within in such a way that neither overshadows the other and both meld into a single entity of an unforgettable work of literature/fiction capable of whisking the reader away to a special place, then it can take my 5 sta
July's People is about a past that never was. In our world, South Africa had managed a peaceful way out of apartheid and began the painful road to democracy. In July's People, South Africa turned out more like Zimbabwe, where the racial hierarchy broke down into a civil war.

But that is only on the periphery of the story. We're far away from that now, and the news only comes in on scattered radio broadcasts. Our story is about the Smales family, who have fled their comfortable suburban homes and
Sidharth Vardhan
“you like to have some cup of tea?-July bent at the doorway and began that day for them as his kind has always done for their kind.

A great read about that relationship that exists between haves and have-nots. Nadine Gordimer draws a picture of what would have happened, had the civil war took place. Her white characters were actually liberals and treated their servant, July fairly:

"..... master he say can I come in? and they have tried to train him to drop the 'master' for the ubiquitously respe
Published in 1981 during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer imagines a civil war where blacks overthrow whites. It's a fictional time of terrible violence where whites have to go into hiding to avoid being killed in Johannesburg. The Smales, a liberal white couple with three children, have employed July for fifteen years as a servant. They have treated him well so he takes the family to his rural black village to keep them safe.

In the village, a master/servant role reve
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 28, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (20
Shelves: 1001-core
This novel is my 95th book in my quest to read all the 1,021 individual books included in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - 2010 edition. I read somewhere that if you really get the very basic plot of all stories already written, they can be grouped into just a handful or so. I think this is true. Reading July's People made me remember the following novels (most of these are also 1001 books):

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - because July's People is anti-apartheid too
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
In Gordimer's slightly-alternate South Africa, tensions between blacks and whites escalates until all-out violence erupts. Shops and buildings are blown up and the whites are fleeing - but even planes are being blown up as they take off, so how is a white family to escape? The Smales family - Bram and Maureen and their three young children, Victor, Gina and Royce - are rescued by their black servant, July, who leads them out of the city and through the countryside, dodging patrols of armed black ...more
I know, I know....I am supposed to have had some great cathartic experience from reading this book but it just did not happen. I don't particularly enjoy this style of writing. It seems disjointed and confusing and was like trying to read something written on a bumpy ride in the country. The story was okay, could see parts of where it was going. All in all, not enjoyable. I read it mainly because it was on my list of have to reads and I was very glad it was a short book and was very glad when I ...more
Gordimer has a nuanced intelligence that is quite genuine. And the book is stylistically rich. Still, I found it claustrophobic, the entire story taking place in a tiny and narrow settlement, and the resolution ambiguous and unsatisfying. Others may find this much more to their tastes.
Okay, switching gears from "women who need to get married or they will end up destitute", here's a book from the more postcolonial end of the pile.

July's People is set during the apartheid uprisings in South Africa, during the early 1980s, and one thing I really realized as I read was how ignorant I am about what all was going on at that point. I remember studying it in school a bit (there was a movie with Kalvin Klein with a South African accent...?). The only other source of my information has
South Africa becomes a battleground. Armed militants are fighting in all of the cities. The Smales, a liberal white family, escape with the aid of their servant and hide out in his village. That’s where the real battle of this book begins. The roles of ‘servant’ and ‘master’ slowly transform. Tension builds within the Smales as a shift in characters shimmers like the heat rising above the veldt. What surprised me the most was the change in the children.

Gordimer’s writing style took a little eff
you guys, this is a badass book. i actually think it would be an interesting companion piece to "home," because it is also about whiteness and racial constructions (among other things) as expressed through interpersonal relationships. but whereas home left me feeling sort of weepy and moved, "july's people" left me feeling incredibly tense and out of sorts.

the story is set in rural South Africa, where the white, upper-class, liberal Smales family has fled to temporary safety with the help of the
Written before the end of apartheid in 1981. It is a fictionalized account of what could have happened with an armed rebellion. The story follows the Smales, a liberal White South African family who were forced to flee Johannesburg to the native village of their black servant, July.What was so masterful about this book is the way Gordimer portrays the relationship between July and Maureen (the white woman), between Bam (the white man) and Maureen, between the villagers and the white family. It i ...more
For whatever reason, I've become friends with a fair number of white South Africans lately. And while they are all deeply regretful of the apartheid era, there is a sort of tension there, a feeling that despite their modern, liberal attitudes, a lot is being unsaid to me, the outsider, about the issue of race.

And Gordimer, writing at the height of the apartheid era, was able to crack just that. Our primary characters are decent white people who suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar terrain. And
This was a difficult read. While Gordimer uses language effectively and at time jarringly, the content itself should be difficult for any South African. It forces constant introspection and self- confrontation. Necessary, always necessary.
For me, 21 years past democracy, I found myself looking at our country and at how little had changed. Yes we are a democracy, but in light of the recent xenophobic attacks and lack of transformation; is this dystopian reality unavoidable?
An almost daily theme of Twenty-first Century front-page news in the West seems to be our sympathy for and righteous indignation about the indigenous folk who make our shoes and electronics, who mine our minerals and struggle with our ideas of justice and democracy. I can't remember reading a better analysis of that cultural confrontation than Nadine Gordimer's 1991 prize winning novel, July's People. While her story is set in the turbulence preceding independence in South Africa, her tale coul ...more
Totally f**ked-up fiction describing a successful majority uprising in South Africa during apartheid. It smashed my white liberal heart into pieces. I particularly loved the ambiguous ending. (view spoiler) Great book!
The blurb says it all, what I can say about this book.
It is an interesting, though not particularly gripping story. The writing style is somewhat idiosyncratic, and I needed a while to get used to it.

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How can I say I “liked” this? I didn’t. It was grim and depressing and powerfully difficult to read. It may well be a great novel, but I had to force myself to read every single page. It forced me to confront my own gathering horror at the fact that I was indeed horrified at seeing deep injustice being over-turned. Not only is it an intensely emotionally wrenching novel, Gordimer’s narrative flows right through thought, dialogue, memory, and action without distinction. The literary difficulty an ...more
In Luglio Nadine Gordimer ci fa riflettere sul tema della sopraffazione in un modo piuttosto originale: e se in un futuro ipotetico fosse la popolazione nera del Sudafrica a sollevarsi, costringendo la classe borghese dei sudafricani bianchi a fuggire? È il caso della famiglia Smales, costretta a fuggire dai disordini di Johannesburg per trovare rifugio nel villaggio del loro domestico di colore, Luglio. Il romanzo diventa così un gioco di ribaltamento delle parti, dove il padrone diventa servo ...more
This is one of those books where I can appreciate the craftsmanship of it, but simply didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s fiction set in South Africa that deals with all sorts of intense issues like race relations, loyalty, dignity, and love but I never felt involved in the characters and I found some of the writing distractingly vague.
My first reading of this book was not fruitful. My second reading was ! After reading about South African history and the cruelty of the apartheid system I changed my mind. I liked the way Gordimer treats the issue. and the violence in the book is so accurate.
So I change it from 1 star to 4 stars.
The writing is pretty good, but nothing really happens. It's kind of fascinating, in that there's this almost unbearable tension that is sustained throughout the whole book - it's downright uncomfortable - but it just keeps going and going and then the book is over and you're like "Um, ok. Wait, what?"
This was an interesting read that I enjoyed. The writer's style took a little getting used to but once I became familiar with her narration voice, I was able to get into the story and finish it pretty quickly. This book is about July, a black servant in a white home in South Africa, who takes his "people" to his village for protection against the fighting taking place in Johannesburg. The story seems to focus on the white couple and their struggles with adapting to village life, and I wish ther ...more
Prashanthini Mande
Maureen, Bam and their 3 kids had been living happily in Johannesburg. They are kind white people who have a black servant named July. The black revolution breaks out and all white people's lives are in danger. So July brings the whole family back to his village and saves them.

You would expect Maureen to be grateful for that, but no. She compares the life in the village and their life "back there". How it was too hot, how her toe nails were getting dirty, how unhygienic it was and how monotonous
Bamford and Maureen Smales along with their children Victor, Royce and Gina are a white family who live in Johannesburg. During one of the uprisings, they determine it isn’t safe to stay there any longer. It is their servant July who comes to their help smuggling them out in the family’s bakkie. They go to his village and live in his mother’s hut. It is the story of the change in their relationship with the change of location.
I really wanted to enjoy this; it sounded so good to me. I had a har
Paul Haspel
July, in this context, is the name of a person, not a month – the first thing one needs to know about Nadine Gordimer’s excellent short novel July’s People. The National Party apartheid regime still held power in South Africa when Gordimer wrote this novel in 1981, and it is understandable that the Nobel Prize-winning author would want to set for herself the task of imagining what might happen in her native country if resistance to apartheid expanded into full-blown civil war. Yet July’s People ...more
Cooper Cooper
Novelist Nadine Gordimer, a South African, won the Nobel Prize in 1991. July’s People is about a liberal Afrikaaner couple who, with their four children, escape the urban violence of the early 80s by hiding in the village of the African man, July, who has been their servant for fifteen years. The entire book is set in the native village, and focuses on the intricacies of role reversal and the complexities of the master-servant and white-black relationships: subjects Gordimer handles with great ...more
Daniel Bullen
This is a post-apocalyptic scenario about a civil war that might have arisen out of apartheid in South Africa. A man and his wife and three children are taken in by their black servant, who takes them back to his village in the veld. But under the strain of this new situation, the old roles of master and servant unravel and the characters struggle to keep their old civil relationship alive in a deteriorating situation.

The brilliance of July's People (the title refers to the whites as much as to
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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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“you like to have some cup of tea?-July bent at the doorway and began that day for them as his kind has always done for their kind.” 3 likes
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