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Slow Man
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1001 book reviews > Slow Man by J.M. Coetzee

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 2.5 stars


I think I am getting tired of Coetzee. He is certainly over-represented on the list. This is about an otherwise healthy older man who loses his leg in a biking accident. He grapples with his mortality and loss of mobility, yet rejects the use of a prosthesis. This was something I could relate to having experienced a catastrophic injury myself. But, as in all of the Coetzee books I have read, the old man/younger woman situation emerges making me feel as though I'd been here before. Then the fictional author Elizabeth Costello appears. I didn't like her in her "Elizabeth Costello" and i don't like her here. What I did think was clever was that the main character was the character in a book Costello was writing and that Costello was a character in a book that Coetzee was writing. Perhaps that's why it made the list.


Valerie Brown | 646 comments Read July 2019

I did enjoy this book, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It starts as a straight-forward narrative of Paul Rayment’s accident which causes him to lose a leg. Then during his recovery, when he is back home, Elizabeth Costello (another Coetzee character from another novel) inserts herself into Paul’s life. At first, I wasn’t sure if Coetzee was using her unexplained and seemingly random presence to introduce an element of magic realism into the novel. However, it became clear that this is a work of metafiction.

The book is an easy read, although you do have to suspend disbelief. I found the characters interesting, even if they weren’t necessarily likeable they were realistic. I am puzzled about Coetzee’s point though. Perhaps he is making a statement about the small part we play in the larger ‘play’/story that is life or how little control we have over the sequence of events in our lives. Who knows? 3.5*


Book Wormy | 2082 comments Mod
3 Stars

I didn't actually enjoy this book while reading it and that was because of the old man, younger woman situation that Diane mentions, however after going through the discussion questions and seeing other peoples responses I do now find it to be cleverer than I initially appreciated.

This book is not in my copy of the 1001 books so I guess it has been removed at some point.


message 4: by Kelly_Hunsaker_reads (last edited Jul 14, 2019 08:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments 3 stars

This is my first read of a Coetzee novel, so I have no idea what his style is, or if there was another book I should have read first. This book is taut, intriguing, smart and unique, but I didn't come away from it missing any of the characters or sad to close the cover.

In Slow Man we get to know a photographer named Paul Rayment who lives in Australia. Paul is 60 years old and has suffered the loss of a leg due to a bicycle accident. He is bitter and angry and refuses to have a prosthesis fit. He pushes away the services of visiting nurses, until one finds a way in. Her name is Marijana and she is Croatian. Quietly, gradually, Paul falls in love with Marijana. Unfortunately she is married with three children.

This part of the story occurs over the first third of the book and while conventional I enjoyed it the most because I felt most connected to the two characters. I found Paul's anger and resentment to be believable and very raw. And I respected and liked Marijana.

At this point the author Coetzee, introduced the author Costello whom I understand is the main character of the book for which she is the titular character. She enters his life and announces that she is moving in. It confuses Paul, and honestly, it confused me. She then says that Paul was a character she created, and that his life was only a story, written by her. ''You occurred to me -- a man with a bad leg and no future and an unsuitable passion. That was where it started. Where we go from there I have no idea.'' Magical realism? Humor? Unnecessary complexity? I don't know but this is where Coetzee started to lose me.

Yep, Coetzee created the characters of Elizabeth and Paul, but in this book Elizabeth also created the character Paul. I know it isn't really all that confusing, but it also wasn't all that enjoyable. I lost focus, and worse yet, I lost connection.

Of course what really made me lose my connection to the book was the fact that I found Elizabeth to be irritating. And she dominates much of the rest of the book. She is an interfering woman. She is a know-it-all. She is a busybody. She is unlikable. And I didn't feel she propelled Paul forward or made him change his life perspective.

I know all of this part of the story is much complex than my review is showing. I know it is about how an author creates a character and how a character takes control of the story. I know that Coetzee is showing the reader how a character can choose his or her own destiny. But for me it just felt too clever, too forced.

Eventually we do return to that story of Paul and Marijana whose relationship gets even more complicated. And, I am glad it did, but it felt a bit too late. Like I already lost my empathy and compassion. All I really wanted was to see Paul and Marijana work out their relationship whatever that may have been. And, of course I wanted redemption for Paul. I suppose I wanted the conventional novel that I thought I was reading during that first third.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4264 comments Mod
When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his solitary life is irrevocably changed whether he likes it or not. Stubbornly refusing a prosthesis, Paul returns to his bachelor’s apartment in Adelaide, Australia, uncomfortable with his new dependency on others. He is given to bouts of hopelessness and resignation as he looks back on his sixty years of life, but his spirits are lifted when he finds himself falling in love with Marijana, his practical, down-to-earth Croatian nurse who is struggling to raise her family in a foreign land. As Paul contemplates how to win her heart, he is visited by the mysterious writer Elizabeth Costello, who challenges Paul to take an active role in his own life.
In this new book, Coetzee offers a profound meditation on what makes us human, on what it means to grow older and reflect on how we have lived our lives. Like all great works of literature, Slow Man is a novel that asks questions but rarely provides answers; it is a portrait of a man in search of truth. Paul Rayment’s accident changes his perspective on life, and as a result, he begins to address the kinds of universal concerns that define us all: What does it mean to do good? What in our lives is ultimately meaningful? Is it more important for one to feel loved or cared for? How do we define the place that we call “home”? In his clear and uncompromising voice, Coetzee struggles with these issues, and the result is a deeply moving story about love and mortality that dazzles the reader on every page. Rating 3.67


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