by Julie HaleDecember, 2006
Get a Life
Set in South Africa, Gordimer's 14th novel is another tense, complex exploration of politics, class and race. The narrative focuses on Paul Bannerman, a well-to-do ecologist trying to protect the African bush from developers. Married to Berenice, an advertising executive with whom he has a young son, Paul leads a successful life, but the family's peace is suddenly shattered by the discovery that he has thyroid cancer. When Paul undergoes radiation treatment, the experience leaves him, literally, radioactive. Fearful of harming his son, he seeks refuge with his parents, Adrian and Lyndsay. Paul's stay with them gives him ample time to reflect on his own marriage, and it soon becomes clear that his relationship with his wife is not what it should be. Paul's goal of protecting the bush is threatened by Berenice's clients, who want to construct hotels on the land he's trying to save. His parents experience a similar clash of interests. Lyndsay, Paul's mother, is a civil rights lawyer, while Adrian is a businessman. The author's depiction of these two different generations of South Africans and the ways in which they conduct their personal and public lives is shrewd and revealing. Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize, writes with unflinching honesty about family life, meanwhile slyly commenting on the bigger picture the social and political climate of South Africa.