Ryan's Reviews > Diary of a Bad Year

Diary of a Bad Year by J.M. Coetzee
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's review
Mar 15, 09

Read in March, 2009

Even if this book were a collection of essays, I would've found it an enjoyable read. Coetzee can penetrate to the core of an issue, and though the opinion's are meant to be those of a character, he still manages to say something important on a variety of topics (some citations would've been appreciated in a couple of examples). As a novel, the work proves engaging, but I feel falls a little short of its ambitions. To his credit, Coetzee intertwines the essays so that they are part of the narrative - whether he's speaking about the cold war or mathematics, the subtext of these disquisitions as they relate to the essayists feelings for his typist and neighbour start to permeate. Also, Coetzee convincingly shows the human dimension to abstract thought. My problem was the menage a trois he set up between the essayist, the neighbour and her boyfriend the banker. While both characters, especially the neighbour, are very effective in showing up the essayist, questioning his assumptions and pretensions, they never read as convincing characters in their own right and the essayist doesn't offer much more insight into them than what is obviously established. This is certainly an interesting addition to the novel of ideas but felt more like a sketch than a fully realised work.

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