Get a Life

Get a Life is a relatively new book by the South African Nobel Prize winning author Nadine Gordimer. Gordimer is known for her spare, yet descriptive and lyrical prose. This novel is no exception. Get a Life tells the story of Paul Bannerman, a 35 year old father of a young son who is diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As part of his treatment regimen, Paul is left temporarily radioactive, and unable to be around his young son. So Paul decamps to his childhood home, to be cared for by his parents and Primrose, the faithful family servant.

This novel follows Paul and his family through  his recovery, as well as his parents’ journey towards their upcoming retirement. As in real life, the family’s journey takes unexpected turns; some happy, others less so.

Like other novels by South African writers, the shadow of apartheid, now abolished, underlays much that the family experiences.The book is also peppered with typical South African phrases, based on native languages. Fortunately, there is also a brief glossary.

Gordimer’s writing style requires a bit of adjusting. She appears to skip through events but if read carefully, it is possible to follow the plot. If you’ve never read Gordimer before, keep plugging away. Get a Life is worth the difficulties involved.


Published in hardcover-Farrar, Straus & Giroux-2005
Softcover edition-Penguin-2006

Get a Life


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