Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

The Conservationist begins, in attention-grabbing fashion, with a dead body on a farm in South Africa. The farm workers, full of superstition, are worried about the presence of a body, and beg the farmer owner, Mehring, to do something about it.

Mehring, a wealthy white man, who has bought the farm (like many of his peers) to 'get back to nature' surprisingly has no trouble with the local law enforcement about the corpse on his land, but even so, it's arrival heralds he beginning of the end for Mehring and the lifestyle he half buys into at weekends.

The Conservationist is slow paced, focusing on Mehrings nostalgia and his increasing lack of control at the farm. Though it ends with a climax, it is a surprise that the numerous tensions between characters do not boil over. Though the internal situation at the farm is far from perfect, it assumes a kind of resigned peace, and so the stressing factors all impose themselves from outside. All in all, it seemed like something was eluding my comprehension, and though I enjoyed the read overall, the expectations induced by the opening were not met. But then, I think this is a novel about pulling the rug from under your feet, so I think it was successful if not brilliant.

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