Sue's Reviews > Agaat

Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk
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Feb 05, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: south-africa, fiction, around-the-world-in-52, kindle, read-in-2012
Read from January 02 to February 05, 2012

Where to start with this book. I've never read a novel presented in this way before, told from so many points of view, with three of them being of the same person, Milla. In the novel's present we hear from Milla through her unspoken thoughts and wordless communication with the title character Agaat, her "adopted" daughter. Then Milla presents her past speaking through second person "you", a device at first off-putting, that ultimately works well. Then there are sections of stream of consciousness ramblings. We also hear directly from Milla's son and through both of them we hear from her husband and Agaat herself.

Set on South Africa from the 1940s to the 1990s, the novel covers the life of a farm family and a country, the story of race, gender, marital politics, finding fulfillment, all in the story of Africaaner Milla and Agaat the black child she decides to bring home. The story of their relationship is the novel. It's complex and neither of them truly appears to know the other. Milla's life is full of unhappiness which she tries to remake in her image of happiness. Agaat is a project. With the reading you will ultimately see it's result. To say too much will rob you of the experience of the gradually unfolding story.

There is much here to experience and it's not limited to the setting and time though that underscores the problems. This is not an easy book to read, requiring attention to the multiple shifts in time and tense, but I highly recommend it for any reader who doesn't mind a challenged.
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Reading Progress

01/06/2012
5.0%
01/14/2012
10.0% "traveling back and forth in time through reminiscence, a diary. The life was harsh and the aging appears to have been hard. The in between is starting now."
01/27/2012
33.0% "It's amazing how the author expresses the thoughts and feelings of the physically impaired Milla. Having worked with ALS patients, I can visualize what is happening to her, as her mind is left intact while all her body's functions are failing."
01/31/2012
52.0% "Confrontation between Jak and Milla. The marriage hasn't met either's expectations. Is there a right or wrong view and what about everything we see from Milla's viewpont."
02/04/2012
90.0% "So many story strands are coming together. Amazing how this has been accomplished in multiple times voices."
05/26/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Looks like an interesting use of shifting narratives from several POVs. Thanks for a nice review, Sue.


message 2: by Friederike (new) - added it

Friederike Knabe I had been planning to read this for a while, but it was expensive here and took a long time for the order... now, having read your review and others' comments I will eventually get it.


Asma Sue, your wonderful review brings in Van Niekerk's writing technique and notes the way different facets of a character or relationship emerge. The four POVs sound clear to me, but I noted that one analyst of Agaat said five! Haven't pursued that road yet.


message 4: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Asmah, when I was sorting out the points of view in my mind I wondered if there might be another, but I couldn't find it. To me, Jak and Agaat's voices only come through Jakkie and Milla. But inside me somewhere I still feel an objection as if I'm missing something, not something I can express.

How's that for a complex novel! And one I still find I honestly am glad I read.


message 5: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Friederike wrote: "I had been planning to read this for a while, but it was expensive here and took a long time for the order... now, having read your review and others' comments I will eventually get it."

I was very lucky to get this last year as a kindle book when it was a special deal. That was long before I knew I'd be reading it for this group read but it sounded very interesting. It really is different from anything else. I read kindle books on my netbook through an app...haven't got a kindle yet though I plan too.


message 6: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue K.D. wrote: "Looks like an interesting use of shifting narratives from several POVs. Thanks for a nice review, Sue."

Thanks K.D.


message 7: by Friederike (new) - added it

Friederike Knabe Sue wrote: "Friederike wrote: "I had been planning to read this for a while, but it was expensive here and took a long time for the order... now, having read your review and others' comments I will eventually ..."

I do the same, but Ididn't see it on kindle. Pity. I had it on my list also for a long time. The more I read about it in the discussion the more it intrigues me. May have to invest after all.


message 8: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue It may be the difference between the US and Canada. It's strange how Amazon has differences between countries but I guess copyright may have something to do with it.


message 9: by Mikki (last edited Feb 06, 2012 01:13AM) (new) - added it

Mikki The shifting points of view sound like a plus. This book -- character relationships, plot -- are different than I was expecting. I'm going to add, Sue, thank you for the review.


message 10: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Thanks Mikki. This really is a different book, written in a very different way, which is why I wanted to mention that so prominently in my review. It makes the book a bit more difficult initially but so rewarding in the end to my view.


Angela Nice review Sue. I am so behind on my books. I hope to finish it this week.


message 12: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Thanks Angela and Good luck with it. I made a big push last weekend since I knew I had more to start this week. I think I need to start choosing some books with less than perhaps 300 pages for a while so I can get more feelings of accomplishment (though I do love these big books).


message 13: by Margitte (new)

Margitte Nive review, Sue. I really appreciate it!


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Thanks Margitte.


message 15: by Rozana (new) - added it

Rozana Alhrbi i reconize it was so perfect , recommend it to all that people who have this bad features


message 16: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Rozana wrote: "i reconize it was so perfect , recommend it to all that people who have this bad features"

It's an excellent, if occasionally difficult, book Rozana. I hope you like it.


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