263 pages (189 pages read)
stopped reading 4/30/2011
read for: tbr challenge
*may contain spoilers*
The blow catches him from the right, sharp and surprising and painful, like a bolt of electricity, lifting him up off the bicycle.
After being hit by a car while out riding a bicycle, Paul must relearn how to live and get around as an amputee, dependent on others. He refuses to entertain the idea of a prosthetic limb, opting instead to remain on crutches. Due to a lack of family, Paul is assigned a nurse to look him, Marijana, a Croation mother of three. Paul forms an attachment to Marijana and her children, but she is a married woman. Paul has to decide what, if anything, he wants to do. Helping him along is Elizabeth, an eccentric author who takes up residence in Paul's flat. Though Paul and Elizabeth have never met before this time, she seems to have more stake in Paul's action than would be expected.
Sadly, I didn't finish this book, so I don't know how Paul and Marijana's story ended. I have no idea if they got together (though I hope they didn't).
For the first third of the book, I was really enjoying it. It was a simple story, an older amputee falling in love with his younger and very married nurse. Their story was good. The developing relationship between Paul and Marijana's children was good. The confrontation between Paul and Marijana's husband was good. I was even amused by the fact that I had a hard time not pronouncing Marijana's name as marijuana. All good.
And then Elizabeth was introduced.
The introduction of Elizabeth completely changed the course of the book. Instead of a simple story of a man and his somewhat inappropriate love for his nurse, the book changed suddenly into a work of meta-fiction. Elizabeth was not only a character of the book, she was the author. She was pulling the strings, prodding Paul to act. Elizabeth interacts with Paul but he's not really a real person, he's one of her characters.
It's entirely possible I could have gotten behind this had the book held this meta theme from the beginning. But once I've gone through 100 pages invested in the relationship between patient and nurse, it's hard to shift focus to such a radically different relationship between author and character. I don't like when there is such a drastic shift in theme and focus.
I very much enjoyed the voice of the author which is why it took me so long to make the decision to abandon the book. I feel I should continue looking into JM Coetzee, but this book just turned out not to be for me.