It's certainly not for everyone. There were times when I was flat-out irritated with this book. Chapters 3 & 4 I really struggled with. I know CoeIt's certainly not for everyone. There were times when I was flat-out irritated with this book. Chapters 3 & 4 I really struggled with. I know Coetzee himself is passionate about animal rights, and yet these two heavy-handed chapters did nothing to sell me on vegetarianism, etc. Instead, they seemed to highlight the flaws of the side he is well-known to be on. Why would he do that? With the kind of writer he seems to be, I can't believe it's an accident, and yet I don't understand it.
Elizabeth Costello as a character is largely unlikable. She wasn't - and isn't - a good mother. She's harsh, judgmental, icy cold. Downright nasty at times.
But then, chapter 5 hit home for me. I, too, have a non relationship with my own sister, that seems as irreconcilable as the one in this book. Though I was not liking Elizabeth at all by this point, I really saw myself in her in this chapter. For once, she's dealing with someone just as harsh and unforgiving as she is, only coming from a different angle.
But chapter 6 was a masterpiece. "The Problem of Evil." I read that heading and groaned. I thought it was going to be something different than it was. But, when I read it, it addressed a question I have often pondered myself, but called by another name. I really connected with this chapter. Although I shouldn't need validation, that's what it was for me. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I won't say more, but this one I might read over again a few times.
In the end, my experience of this book was uneven. There were whole chunks that I found unpleasant, a chore to get through, and times when I felt Coetzee (well, Elizabeth at least) were just plain wrong. But then there were pieces that were extraordinary.
I know a lot of people will just not like this one, but I feel like most people, if they give it a careful read, will find something that touches them here. Makes them think. If they read it with patience and care and forgiveness for the bits that rub them the wrong way. ...more
I enjoyed, but didn't love this. Long ago, I - somewhat reluctantly - acknowledged that as much as I love them, I am no collector of books. I'm happyI enjoyed, but didn't love this. Long ago, I - somewhat reluctantly - acknowledged that as much as I love them, I am no collector of books. I'm happy to read them, and very happy to let them go when finished. So I can't actually say I relate to Gilkey. Gilkey claimed to be a reader, but it's actually kind of hard to believe he was. He was so focused on gathering a collection so that others would look at his books and think better of him, I'm guessing he didn't have much time or inclination for actually reading.
A good, interesting, sad story that made me a little angry. A thief is a thief is a thief, a liar is a liar... blah blah blah you get it. I didn't find this guy any more sympathetic than I would any other criminal, which surprised me a bit. I think because I don't actually buy the title of this story. John Gilkey didn't love books too much. He just wanted status, and books just happened to be the way he thought he could get it. Pisses me off just thinking about it. Typical thuggish, selfish, rather pathetic criminal attitude.
I also wish the author had inserted a little less of herself into this story. She seemed to be trying to justify herself a lot toward the end of the book, to assuage her guilt about having knowledge of crimes without doing much about them - although she didn't technically have any legal responsibility to do so. I just didn't really enjoy reading her long-winded explanations of why she chose not to help some of those books get back to the rightful owners. I understood her reasoning, and didn't really blame her, but her excuses made her less sympathetic than if she'd just left that stuff out. Or, maybe she could have put it in the afterword, rather than cluttering up the story with her angst....more