A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972 - 1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father.
This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was finding his feet as a writer. Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him - a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues.
From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry, evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.
Sometimes heartbreaking, often very funny, Summertime shows us a great writer as he limbers up for his task.
“Compelling, funny, moving and full of life.”
Here in SUMMERTIME, passion exceeds argument. Here for a moment she [the reviewer] answers as a reader not with her head but with her heart.
Delia Falconer, Australian Literary Review
As the [fictional] biography unfolds, the picture that emerges is devastatingly honest, charming, at times funny, but always self critical.
The book is not too cool or too neat. It is a stunning achievement by a man at the height of his powers.
Sandy McCutcheon, The Courier-Mail
“ ... this third volume of fictionalised biographies both odd and brilliantly executed, its main character a distinctly insignificant figure.’
Peter Craven, The Age
“Summertime is an exhilarating read. Like being played with by a magnificent lion whose paws sometimes caress but at other times the muscle and the claw send you spinning. The sly joke is that this lion puts the idea into his text that he, the writer, is inconsequential. Here is a paradox: a man such as this can write words that touch readers at the deepest level.”
Hellen Elliot, The Age
“'To my mind,' she adds, 'a talent for words is not enough if you want to be a great writer. You have also to be a great man. And he was not a great man.' In the flesh, JM Coetzee, the prince of self-reproach, may well second this opinion, but I'll object. Summertime is a great experiment from a fine writer and one day, when he dies a second time, the gap will be too vast to fill.”
David Astle, The Book Show, Radio National
“Summertime is both an elegant request that the sum of Coetzee's existence as a public figure should be looked for only in his writing, and ample evidence, once again, why that request should be honoured.”
Thomas Jones, the Guardian
“... you’ll relish a refreshingly amusing and human foible-ridden story.”
Qantas, The Australian Way
“ ... rich offerings as an imaginatively distorted and distorting portrait of the artist as outsider. “
Patrick Denman Flanery Times Literary Supplement
“ ... this is a Federer game we are watching, all touch, balance and fluency, and its shapes need time to settle in the mind.”
Inga Clendinnen, The Monthly
Where SUMMERTIME evokes South African life in the 1970s, the writing is luminous, revealing intellectual and emotional subtlety of a very high order.
Andrew Riemer, the Sydney Morning Herald
This is a gratifying conclusion to Coetzee’s trilogy and can be highly
recommended as a cerebral but compulsively readable experiment in autobiography.
David Cohen, Australian Bookseller and Publisher
'Boyhood is a deeply-felt and utterly compelling account of a South African childhood: the narrative style is as spare and lean as the Karoo flatlands which form its backdrop'
‘an extraordinarily crystalline and bleak evocation of London in the 1960s’
Bernard O’Donoghue, The Irish Times
‘Coetzee's prose is chaste and lyrical - it is a relief to encounter writing as stylish as this.’
‘One of the best novelists alive.’
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: September 2009
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 23.9 x 15.9 x 2.4
Weight (kg): 0.454