Apr 28, 10
Recommended to K.D. by:
501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (20
Read from April 26 to 28, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1
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. However, this is different because the race that is being oppressed is the white being the minority in Johannesburg when the majority blacks seized the control of the government from the migrant whites. Thus, this reversal of fortune reminded me of that part in Black Like Me when John Howard Griffin returned to his white color while still living inside the black community.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky - because of the exodus by the white rich family to the province or rural area. In July's People, the white Smales family (Bam, Maureen and their 3 small children: Victor, Gina and Royce) left the city and took shelter in the rural house of their servant for 15 years, a black man named July. The change in the Smales family lifestyle reminded me of the family of Suite Francaise's Charlotte Pericand and her two small children fleeing Paris to hide in in rural parts of France. This dramatic change in lifestyle of a family was also effectively shown in 1982 critically acclaimed Peque Gallaga's movie here in the Philippines: Oro, Plata, Mata. The character of Maya Valdez mouthing: Ang bahay sa ibabaw ng bundok! is still vivid in my mind after almost 30 years!
Lastly, in terms of writing, reading July's People reminded me of my favorite ever John Steinbeck's opus, The Grapes of Wrath because of its enthralling lush sad tone. At the start of each chapter, Ms. Gordimer, 1991 Nobel awardee for Literature, referred to a particular character as black or white. For example, instead of referring Maureen by her name, she used "white woman". It reminded me of how Mr. Steinbeck, himself a Nobel laureate for literature, alternately wrote the chapter by having a generic description of what is happening with the succeeding chapter narrating the actual characters. Unforgettable writing style: very clever, very brilliant.
Being a combination of the above great novels is in itself a feat that makes, for me, July's People a classic. The different parts are not original but the sum of those parts is original and something that I will remember probably until my twilight years.
Ms. Gordimer truly deserves her Nobel Prize for Literature! More, more, more novels please!