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My Son's Story
     

My Son's Story

by Nadine Gordimer
 

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When Will skips school to slip off to a movie theater near Johannesburg, he is shocked to see his father. An ordinary mishap, but his father is no ordinary man. He is a "colored" and revered anti-apartheid hero, and his female companion is a white activist fiercely dedicated to the cause. As Will struggles with confusion and bitterness, My Son's Story

Overview

When Will skips school to slip off to a movie theater near Johannesburg, he is shocked to see his father. An ordinary mishap, but his father is no ordinary man. He is a "colored" and revered anti-apartheid hero, and his female companion is a white activist fiercely dedicated to the cause. As Will struggles with confusion and bitterness, My Son's Story unravels the consequences of one man's infidelity as a new South Africa violently emerges from the apartheid.

"Captures with convincing detail the ecstatic rewards and terrifying costs of revolutionary politics...Delineates with unblinking candor the collision of public and private experience that takes place on a daily basis in South Africa...A fiercely intelligent novel -- one of her most powerful yet." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Gordimer has taken South Africa's tragedy and laid the truth of it in our laps. The story she tell sis lucid and achingly alive."—The Boston Sunday Globe

"Beautifully felt, both in its anger and its compassion...It is so rich as to make praise superfluous, so vital and disturbing as to send us...back into the world with a heightened sense of what life in it might mean."—USA Today

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A bold, unnerving tour de force . . . brilliantly suggestive and knowing.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Nadine Gordimer has given us a work of bleak beauty and enormous force.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Gordimer has taken South Africa's tragedy and laid the truth of it in our laps. The story she tells is lucid and achingly alive.” —The Boston Sunday Globe

“The moral urgency that informs Nadine Gordimer's novels and stories endows them with a virtue distinct from their literary merits. Her subject is the agony of South Africa; her theme, the corruption that leads *Bigoted rulers, but its reformers as well . . . A brave writer, she has. over the decades and at some risk to herself, combined a layered moral vision with an acute apprehension of how people react to a cruel and self-destructive society.” —Newsweek

“A thoughtful, poised, quietly poignant novel that... recognizes the value and cost of political commitment.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“Although all of Gordimer's novels are written from a political point of view--as an opponent of apartheid and all its work--her intelligence is too subtle, her imagination too exact, to allow her to produce a merely political novel . . . My Son's Story maintains the finest balance of sympathies.” —The Independent (London)

“The turmoil in South Africa leaves no member of a decorous colored family untouched, as the schoolmaster husband turns activist and lover. Gordimer is perceptive, unflinching, and sympathetic” —The Observer (London)

“If one were never to read any other literature about South Africa, Gordimer's work should be enough. For more than thirty years she has delineated each shift and change in the system in [her] novels and short stories that intertwine the personal with the political. As a literary keeper of records, she has no peer.” —The Sunday Times (London)

“Beautifully felt, both in its anger and its compassion. It is so rich as to make praise superfluous, so vital and disturbing as to send us . . . back into the world, with a heightened sense of what life in it might mean.” —USA Today

“A remarkable novel--tough, unsentimental, moving in the extreme.” —The Daily Mail (London)

“A bleak, powerful novel of issues . . . This book radiates strength, personality, intelligence, and commitment.” —The Sunday Telegraph (London)

My Son's Story, about a colored South African family ravaged by the father's affair with a white human rights advocate, probes with breathtaking power and precision the complexities of 'love, love/hate,' and the interplay of public and private reality. . . . Gordimer retains perfect control over her material, rendering her characters' shifting perspectives with truly extraordinary empathy and discernment. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Gordimer delivers her most perceptive and powerful novel in years. The story of a man's evolution as a political activist and the toll it takes on his family and on him, it is also a picture of a marriage and of an extramarital affair, set against a backdrop of daily life in segregated South Africa, even as the winds of change begin to blow. The novel is eloquent in its understated prose and anguished understanding of moral complexities.” —Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Highly praised as a literate goad to South Africa's conscience under apartheid, Gordimer (A Sport of Nature) here delivers her most perceptive and powerful novel in years. The story of a man's evolution as a political activist and the toll it takes on his family and on him, it is also a picture of a marriage and of an extramarital affair, set against a backdrop of daily life in segregated South Africa, even as the winds of change begin to blow. An exemplary husband and father, a pillar of rectitude in the black community, Sonny is dismissed from his teaching job after he leads a political protest. On his release from his imprisonment, he becomes a leader in the revolutionary underground; at the same time he is swept into an affair with a white woman, a worker in a human rights organization. The intertwined events that lead to the breakup of Sonny's family and the tragic end of his high hopes and ideals are partially narrated by his teenage son Will, bitter and cynical over his father's marital betrayal. The novel is eloquent in its understated prose and anguished understanding of moral complexities in a land where blacks keep ``rags...on their persons as protection against tear-gas as white people carry credit cards.'' Tightly focused and controlled, expertly plotted, the narrative is replete with ironies; the tension increases almost invisibly, until the unexpected, jolting denouement. In the end, Will resolves to record ``what it really was like to live a life determined by the struggle to be free.'' Which is exactly what this book does, honestly and memorably.
Library Journal
Gordimer's new novel, about a colored South African family ravaged by the father's affair with a white human rights advocate, probes with breathtaking power and precision the complexities of ``love, love/hate,'' and the interplay of public and private reality. First-person narration shows son Will's struggle to deal with confusion and bitterness after discovering father Sonny's infidelity; alternating third-person sequences depict Sonny's evolution from a committed schoolteacher and devoted husband/father into a resistance worker for whom the movement itself ultimately becomes a second family--one his loyal wife Aila cannot share with him, though his lover Hannah does. The book's richness of sensation and consciousness is such that Gordimer's eloquence is, at times, almost unbearable. Always, though, she retains perfect control over her material, rendering her characters' shifting perspectives with truly extraordinary empathy and discernment. -- Elise Chase, Forbes Library, Northampton, Massachusetts

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781250003751
Publisher:
Picador
Publication date:
03/27/2012
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
729,025
Product dimensions:
5.53(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.79(d)

Read an Excerpt

My Son's Story

You had a Father, let your son say so.

 

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Sonnet 13

Copyright © 1990 by Felix Licensing BV All rights reserved

Meet the Author

Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, is the author of fifteen novels, more than ten volumes of stories, and three nonfiction collections. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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