J. M. Coetzee's trilogy of fictionalised memoir comprises Boyhood, Youth and Summertime. Although each part has been published separately, they have been collected and revised for publication in this version under the title Scenes from Provincial Life, the sub-title of the component works.
We have decided to list this as a novel, thought it might also have been called autobiography.
'A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972 - 1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. This, the biographer senses, is the period when he was finding his feet as a writer. Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him: a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider, someone who tried to flee the tribe and has now returned, chastened. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.
Sometimes heartbreaking, often very funny, Summertime shows us a great writer as he limbers up for his task. It completes the majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir begun with Boyhood and Youth.' (Provided by the publisher.)
"The narrator of Youth, a student in the South Africa of the 1950s, has long been plotting an escape from his native country: from the stifling love of his mother, from a father whose failures haunt him, and from what he is sure is impending revolution. Studying mathematics, reading poetry, saving money, he tries to ensure that when he arrives in the real world, wherever that may be, he will be prepared to experience life to its full intensity, and transform it into art." "Arriving at last in London, however, he finds neither poetry nor romance. Instead he succumbs to the monotony of life as a computer programmer, from which random, loveless affairs offer no relief. Devoid of inspiration, he stops writing. An awkward colonial, a constitutional outsider, he begins a dark pilgrimage in which he is continually tested and continually found wanting" (Source: Viking publisher's blurb)
Coetzee has been reluctant to talk about himself. Now, revisiting the South Africa of a half century ago, he writes about his childhood and his own interior life. Boyhood's young narrator grew up in a new development north of Cape Town, tormented by guilt and fear. With a father he did not respect, and a mother he both adored and resented, he led a double life - at school the brilliant and well-behaved student, at home the princely despot, always terrified of losing his mother's love. His first encounters with literature, the awakenings of sexual desire, and a growing awareness of apartheid left him with baffling questions; and only in his love of the veld ("farms are places of freedom, of life") could he find a sense of belonging. Bold and telling, this masterly evocation of a young boy's life is the book Coetzee's many admirers have been waiting for, but never could have expected (Source: Libraries Australia).