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Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There might be a lesson in all this, if I could only find it, July 25, 2012
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This review is from: The Good Doctor: A Novel (Paperback)
South Africa after the change. The former homelands, the bantustans, given to the black population during the apartheid system, are reintegrated into the South African state, but they are still not normal districts of a normal country.

A medical doctor in a run down hospital of a former homeland receives a shocked new colleague, who had not expected anything like this. Not this decay, not this desertion. The young man had volunteered for this place for a one year community service. He is an idealist, he wants to do things, change things.

The narrator does not expect his new young colleague to stay. He does not believe that anything can be done. He does not want anything to be done. As the young one says to him later: you belong to the old regime.

The two men have to share a room in the nearly empty hospital. The narrator is not an honest man, strictly speaking. He lets us know of the lies he tells his new friend; he also lies to others, but don't forget, we know that from him. Maybe he is not an unreliable narrator, just an unreliable friend and colleague.

One thinks immediately of similar male pairings in literature. Think of Fowler and Pyle. Is Maria, the older man's lover, going to be the Phuong between the two men? Or will the young man's surprisingly American girlfriend Linda play that role?

Suspense and mystery comes from several directions: why is the narrator here at all, doing essentially nothing in the line of work? What does Maria, the souvenir shack woman, mean to him? Who is she anyway, and who is her sinister husband?
And what havoc is the newcomer going to wreak? Or his girlfriend?

Better don't expect things to go as expected. Both men are ridiculous in their different ways, but there is nothing funny about them or the story. My review headline is a comment by the narrator from near the end of the novel.

Reviews and blurbs compare Galgut to Greene and Coetzee, also Gordimer. There is much justification in that and it is a shame. Practically it seems impossible for a young writer not to be compared to somebody. I catch myself doing that kind of thing myself all the time. See my allusion to the Quiet American. We can't avoid thinking that way.
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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 25, 2012 5:53:26 AM PDT
H - intriguing comments on the book, as usual. I wasn't sure with how many stars you would end up, but glad that you gave it 5. Galgut is indeed a very serious younger author, getting under the skin of things (and the reader). F

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 6:06:28 AM PDT
H. Schneider says:
F, I wish I knew why some books talk to me and others don't. Before I got hooked by this, I tried the Japan book by D. Mitchell, about Jakob van Zoet, and couldn't read it. Gave up after 30 pages. H

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 6:38:36 AM PDT
H - yes, I know the feeling... Have Mitchell on my tbr pile but not looked into it. I met Dalgut when he introduced another of his books (THE IMPOSTOR) and left it aside. Now I will pick it up more likely. F

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 8:32:58 AM PDT
Gio says:
You may have missed your true vocation, Herr Einsiedler, which was writing teasers and scripted previews. Now I have to read this novel just to answer all those provocative questions.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 8:35:15 AM PDT
GB - and you can read mine and DR's reviews and either add or substract questions... F

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 10:09:52 AM PDT
H. Schneider says:
Mel, I am angling for a part time job as teaser after retirement. H

Posted on Jul 25, 2012 1:39:50 PM PDT
Aceto says:
Again you fall into the Kahnemanian trap. Associative heuristics at work again. You therefore must be a librarian. The third letter in two of your names is the same. He is a bigger fan of the Black Swan than you let on. Still this looks worth reading.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 1:43:04 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 25, 2012 1:44:05 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2012 1:45:06 PM PDT
H. Schneider says:
And so is the first in two others!
FK and DR agree with your last sentence. H

Posted on Jul 25, 2012 1:46:52 PM PDT
H. Schneider says:
The previous deletion happened by accident. Darn keypad. H
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