July's People

July's People

Book - 1982
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A startling, imaginative novel from the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

For years, it had been what is called a "deteriorating situation." Now all over South Africa the cities are battlegrounds. The members of the Smales family--liberal whites--are rescued from the terror by their servant, July, who leads them to refuge in his village. What happens to the Smaleses and to July--the shifts in character and relationships--gives us an unforgettable look into the terrifying, tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.

"So flawlessly written that every one of its events seems chillingly, ominously possible."--Anne Tyler, The New York Times Book Review
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1982, c1981
ISBN: 9780140061406
Branch Call Number: GORDIMER N
Characteristics: 160 p. ; 20 cm


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Oct 17, 2017

The book begins with a family fleeing from their house in the city to a hut in the village of their long serving servant. It ends...well you'll have to read it... lets just say symmetrically. The authoress doesn't use quotation marks or speech tags (as in, for eg., "blah blah" Bam said.) making it awkward to determine when the narrator was narrating or when a character was speaking or which character was speaking: figuring this out really slowed down the reading and often required re-reading passages. The off-balanced-ness and anxiety of the main characters and their story is well conveyed through the odd sentences - often sentences are followed by others that have an oblique relation to the previous one, the story doesn't steadily flow but rather hops, usually precariously, to another, and then another, like one is trying to go across a stream hopping along large rocks but you only choose which rock to jump to next with one foot in the air trying to hold your balance. These are briefly shattered by exquisite moments of striking descriptions, many of whose phrases are powerful and poetic.

Sep 01, 2014

A disturbing, beautifully written book that suggests what South Africa could be like if the blacks staged a violent overthrow of whites around 1981. Bam and Maureen Smales, together with their three children, escape with their black servant July to July's village. There, the Smaleses become dependent on July for everything, and the novel illustrates the changes in their roles, a change especially powerful because the Smales hold liberal views on race. The author also vividly describes the bush and village life. A challenging but transformative work to read.

brianreynolds Aug 31, 2013

An almost daily theme of Twenty-first Century front-page news in the West seems to be our sympathy for and righteous indignation about the indigenous folk who make our shoes and electronics, who mine our minerals and struggle with our ideas of justice and democracy. I can't remember reading a better analysis of that cultural confrontation than Nadine Gordimer's 1991 prize winning novel, July's People. While her story is set in the turbulence preceding independence in South Africa, her tale could as easily be set in today's Middle East or Asia or Latin America. By simply reversing the roles of servant and master a la a modern day Prince and the Pauper, Gordimer strikes at the heart of our colossal misunderstandings, our well-intentioned affronts, our devastating impositions on peoples of good will. The writing hits hard, but it never forgets it is a story.

Jan 29, 2010

It took me several kick-starts to get into this book as the prose demanded complete focus. Gordimer's writing style made it hard to figure out who was saying what. There was a very different sort of rhythm to it, and once I adapted I got into the story.

It's about a white family escaping a fictional civil war in South Africa to live with July (their man servant). The role reversal that results in his village is what makes this book so interesting.


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