by J.M. Coetzee
"J.M Coetzee has crafted an unusual and deeply affecting tale told through in ingenious series of formal addresses. Vividly imagined and masterfully wrought, Elizabeth Costello is, on the surface, the story of a woman's life as mother, sister, lover and writer. Yet it is also a profound and haunting meditation on the nature of storytelling that only a writer of Coetzee's caliber could accomplish." (From the back cover of the Penguin Books edition.)
A highly philosophical, character-driven story. There is little of what most readers would think of as plot, but what I took away from this book was a sense of examining our personal belief systems and their alteration over the course of our lives. Not only beliefs regarding God and religion, but those regarding what is good and what is evil, the rights of the living -- both human and animal -- and of our part in influencing the beliefs and, consequently, actions of others. For what is life in general but a series of acts we carry out according to our beliefs?
One thing that would have been helpful for me would have been to have read Franz Kafka's short story, "A Report to an Academy", because Elizabeth refers to it extensively during her address in one section of the book. I read the short story after the fact, and it all would have made much more of an impact if I had read it first.
After both this book and Waiting for the Barbarians, I have turned the last page feeling as if I could glean so much more with a second or even third reading. Much like Graham Greene, Coetzee's writing is simple only until you peel back the first layer. He is a writer I will be returning to again soon.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!