Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “July's People” as Want to Read:
July's People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

July's People

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  6,342 ratings  ·  530 reviews
For 15 years, July has been the decently treated black servant in a South African household. Now, in the deteriorating situation, the roles must reverse as he becomes the former master's family's host, their savior--their keeper.
Published January 1st 1993 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1981)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about July's People, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Purbasa Banerjee Not really abandoning. She just starts living by herself. Alienated. And psychologically disturbed and confused.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,342 ratings  ·  530 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of July's People
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nadine Gordimer is an award winning South African author of multiple books, and has won the prestigious Booker Prize. In July's People, Gordimer writes of the 1980 race riots in Johannesburg that wrestled the city out of white control. As the violence begins to escalate and the city begins to crumble, families ponder their future. Gordimer writes of the Smales family and their house servant named July, who rescues them and offers them hope moving forward.

An upper class family, Bamford and Maure
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
Sometimes a fictional account of what didn't happen to a country tells you more about its inhabitants than a history book ever could.

What if South Africa had a different development? What if violence erupted and a liberal white family had to rely on their black servant to survive in his village, among his people? What would happen to their power balance, to their understanding of interracial relations, to their personal communication?

Gordimer analyses the tiny details in suddenly changed mutu
Whitney Atkinson
This book was downright rough. It took a lot of googling and professor explanations to realize what was happening, because me and this writing style just did NOT click. That was the main downfall of this book, I definitely think: the writing was done so weirdly and awkwardly and hard to read. A lot of times, random lists and jagged sentences were thrown together, and with the dialogue having no speaker tags or even quotation marks, I was forced to get the audiobook just so that I could comprehen ...more
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything shines like blistering cobalt, cooper & gold: dialogue (precise & natural), character, prose, story, history, the resulting legend. "July's People" is all about tiny events that go all but unnoticed as whites and blacks try to hide from the civil war in 80's South Africa. The fractions of moments equal both salvation and apocalypse, & many times simultaneously. A huge question opens up above the whole enterprise. It is thought-provoking and meditative. The type of stuff to get lost in ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the ways of the world
The more I evolve as a reader, I find my five-star tastes vary from "the norm." But this doesn't deter me, for the way I read of Africa, is from the inside out. I read for texture and sound, for authenticity in 'voice.' These are all the things Gordimer does so well. When Gordimer writes of southern Africa, her characters embody post colonial strife, and her language is African rhythm: smooth, with strange sounds of syntax, with complexity embedded.

July, your people. Even in my part of West Afr
Raul Bimenyimana
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-writers
While reading certain books, like this one, I think of the numerous term papers that can be written from them. Nadine Gordimer's writing is concise, her ability to dissect relationships remarkable.

In this book, Gordimer envisions civil unrest after Black South Africans take up arms against the apartheid regime. July, a black servant to the Smales, a liberal white family, leads them to his rural village for safety.

Reading South African books from the days of the apartheid regime, I always feel a
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2018, read-for-uni
“The transport of a novel, the false awareness of being within another time,
place and life that was the pleasure of reading.”

I'm not a fan of Nadine Gordimer's and I never will be. Her style of writing is bland, colourless, devoid of any emotion. Not only did it bore me to pieces, it confused me more than anything. Thoughts, feelings and events blurred into one another and I had difficulties keeping them apart. Similarly, it felt like the plot was not moving forward. However, after reading an es
A short, but multi-layered novel. A white middle-class family, with a liberal world view and living in South-Africa at the time of apartheid, has to flee for a black military upraising with the help of Cubans and Russians. They are sheltered by their black servant July, in his little village.

Two theme's are worked out: the difficult process of adaption of the white family to living in a strange, 'uncivilized' environment, without their certainties. And the reversal of power-relations: the white
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
At once you're a servant, living on the property of your Master(s) and then, when they need you the most, when they are thrust from their homes, left abandoned because of war, you are the one to be thankful for; not for your servitude, but for your caring nature, for your allegiance to a people that treated you well.

This poses the question: When do leaders become followers? When they have no other choice.

My first exposure to the Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer was at times an enlight
Connie G
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
Nov 07, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  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
The author of this book, Nadine Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. I am of the opinion that all too often this is awarded on political or social grounds, not for the excellence of writing.

The book does well draw the disintegrating situation in South Africa in the 1980s. Not merely the strikes, violence and abuses inflicted, but also the mistrust between the races. One sees both how the Blacks viewed Whites and the Whites viewed Blacks. What people said and what they thought. Y
Jun 16, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2012
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
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Nadine Gordimer was easily one of the best writers in the world, and it was fitting that she garnered the most prestigious literary awards during her lifetime, including the Nobel. She had a long career in writing or producing an astonishing amount of fiction, short and long. The glittering quality of her writings stunned many readers.

She created memorable characters in her work which was often weaved around the turbulent political and social mileau of her native South Africa. Many of her fellow
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
The crazy thing is that this is fiction: apartheid in South Africa somehow didn't end in war. People actually got together and said this isn't going to work, and they had an election, and Mandela won, and that was that. (This is the short version, okay?)

So July's People is sortof science fiction. Written in 1981, about a decade before apartheid fell, it presents how Gordimer, a white anti-apartheid activist and a Nobel prize winner, predicted the fall would go. Her white protagonists (also anti-
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a brilliantly-written novella, though the style takes a little getting used to. The writing is densely packed with meaning but at the same time quite spare; every word and its placement counts.

July’s People was first published in 1981, during the time of apartheid and unrest in South Africa, and it posited a violent near future for the country – one that did not, in the end, come to pass, but that might have under slightly different circumstances. A liberal white couple and their three y
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
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.
Mél ☽
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mél by: My English Professor
There is an immense beauty lying in the folds of this unexpected (alternate reality?) and disturbing turn that South Africa took (in relation to Britain), the way it slowly unravels, elegantly accentuating the dynamics within a state of apartheid.

This book was Nadine Gordimer’s visualization of a future where the power structure turns up-side down, the colour-bar is destroyed, and black men steer ‘the yellow car’, and lead the way, through a chaotic and frenzied warzone. It was her very own way
Moushine Zahr
This fiction novel was first published in 1981, thus 10 years before the end of Apartheid in South Africa. Therefore, at that time, it would have been considered a futuristic fiction about what would happen to the White South Africans if their fellow black citizens would engage in a civil war against them and would chase them away out of the country or just killed them like it had happened in other African countries.

This novel follows a White couple and their 3 children, wealthy suburbans, civi
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-15
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
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book -- it's been on my "to-read" list for ages. The subject (whites running from apartheid-incited unrest end up staying with their black servant's family) was interesting.
However, the writing was a struggle to read. The author often uses vague pronouns (e.g., in a scene with 3-4 females, I had to re-read a few paragraphs to discern which "she" was the subject). I appreciate sparse prose, but not at the sacrifice of too little information.
Jun 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great premise, I just couldn't get into Nadine Gordimer's writing style.
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oops! Another must-read that I ended up not liking that much. Perhaps the book has some grand message to convey or something … Yet I had to push myself hard to finish it while I’m usually a fan of African literature and devour a book in no time!! Probably only the last ten pages or so, where it got interesting for me. giving it two starts ...
Nov 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008, nobel
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience
  • A Dry White Season
  • Generals Die in Bed
  • Ways of Dying (Toloki #1)
  • Matigari
  • Waiting for the Barbarians
  • Death and the King's Horseman: A Play
  • The Smell of Apples
  • The Grass Is Singing
  • There's Something I Want You to Do
  • Triumph of Achilles
  • Disgrace
  • Coconut
  • Age of Iron
  • Obasan
  • A Moon for the Misbegotten
  • Nervous Conditions
  • God's Bits of Wood
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
18 likes · 13 comments
“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.” 6 likes
“But the transport of a novel, the false awareness of being within another time,
place and life that was the pleasure of reading, for her, was not possible. She
was in another time, place, consciousness; it pressed in upon her and filled her as someone’s breath fills a balloon’s shape. She was already not what she was. No fiction could compete with what she was finding she did not know, could not have imagined or discovered through imagination.”
More quotes…