I had to read this book for my Contemporary Novel class at school. With that being said, I had never heard of the book before and probably would've never read this book otherwise. The book was all right and was a very well-thought out book, but it did a little too much that came off as pretentious to me, and ultimately made the book a difficult read when it really didn't have to be. I'm not going to bother with a cut, as this review won't be very long and will remain spoiler-free.
One of the first things that jumped out at me about this book was the plot. I know that seems like a weird thing to say, but just hear me out for a sec. So this is the story of a young woman who lives in the midst of white parents who are part of the anti-apartheid movement in Africa. Most authors would've focused the story of this young girl/woman growing up amidst all the chaos, but Gordimer instead focuses on the AFTER. We don't get in on Rosa's story until after her parents have both died, and she's left to find herself after being defined by her parents for her entire life. It's a much more quiet and slow story. I at one time applaud Gordimer for taking this approach, but at the same time, this is not a riveting story. It's very slow, very self-reflexive and inward. I wanted to like it, but I honestly found it so dull, and the writing felt so distant that I never felt like I was connecting with Rosa on any level. Considering her quest for self-discovery is what anchors this novel, the disconnect really hurt the reading experience for me.
One of the reasons the writing felt so disconnected was because of a stylistic choice that Gordimer made concerning the dialogue. There are absolutely no quotation marks to be found in this book. Dialogue is marked by a long dash (is there a word for that?). What was frustrating about that though was that Gordimer uses these dashes even when there isn't any dialogue! So you'll be reading a passage, DASH, read a bit more, and then you're doing a double-take because you just read a chunk of dialogue without realizing it. It worked in reverse too -- there would be times where I was reading, would come across and a dash, and then expect dialogue, only to have it NOT be dialogue. It made reading the book feel like a pain and disjointed. I couldn't fall into any kind of rhythm or flow. The choice to make the dialogue like this didn't seem to serve any apparent purpose, so it was difficult to read for nothing and came off as pretentious to me.
Final Verdict: The book has a lot of imagery, allusions and all other kinds of literary devices, and it's obvious that this book was very well-thought out. It advocates a cause that I'm 100% for, but the story was dull and the writing made the book overly strenuous to read. I would only recommend this if someone was very interested in reading any kind of fiction that dealt with the anti-apartheid movement, or any kind of literature that deals with African colonization, because this book is one of the most renowned of its kind in that regard. I, however, did not personally enjoy it, even though I can see its merit and why it's been recognized.