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Review: The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer

Title: The Pickup

Author: Nadine Gordimer
Year published: 2013
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)South Africa and Morocco

SummaryWhen Julie Summers's car breaks down on a street in Cape Town, a young Arab mechanic comes to her aid. Their attraction to each other is immediate. Julia, the daughter of a powerful businessman, is trying to escape a privileged background she despises. Abdu, an educated but poor illegal immigrant, is desperate to evade deportation. The consequences of this chance meeting are unpredictable and intense, as each person's notions of the other are overturned. Set in the social mix of post-apartheid South Africa and an unnamed Arab country, Nadine Gordimer's The Pickup "is a masterpiece of creative empathy...a gripping tale of contemporary anguish and unexpected desire, and it also opens the Arab world to unusually nuanced perception" (Edward W. Said).

Review: My daughter read this book and really wants to talk to someone about it so I said I would read it. I have only read one Nadine Gordimer book before (a really long time ago) and thought it was ok so I was hoping I'd like this one better. My daughter warned me that the first 15 pages are really tough to read and to hang in there. I did and I am still not a Gordimer fan.

Am I the only one out there who has a difficult time with Gordimer? She is a Novel Laureate, I feel like I am missing something. I think the topics are good (immigration, belonging, relationships, family, and cultures), but I think it's the way she writes that gets in the way for me. I need quotation marks! And this was in the third person, which I don't like so much.

I think Julie, the main character, is pretty awful. She is so privileged and doesn't seem to get it. And Ibrahim is at least fully aware of her privilege and his lack thereof. But I didn't really like him either. 

I am making it sound like there is nothing redeeming about this book and that isn't true. Gordimer deftly deals with issues of poverty, immigration status, and race/ethnicity well. I just wish the ideas were packaged differently.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (title)--P
  • Literary Escapes--South Africa and Morocco

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