Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer
A Novel

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Synopsis

Paul Bannerman, an ecologist in South Africa, believes he understands the trajectory of his life, with the usual markers of vocation and marriage. But when he's diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, after surgery, prescribed treatment that will leave him radioactive, for a period a danger to others, he begins to question, as Auden wrote, "what Authority gives / existence its surprise."

In the garden of his childhood home, where his businessman father, Adrian, and prominent civil rights lawyer mother, Lyndsay, take him in to protect his wife and child from radiation, he enters an unthinkable existence and another kind of illumination: the contradiction between the values of his work and those of his wife, Benni, an ad agency executive. His mother is transformed by the strange state of her son's existence to face her own past. Meanwhile, projects to build a nuclear reactor and drain vital wetlands preoccupy Paul as if he were at work. By the time he is cured, both families have been changed. On his return to his home and career, his parents go to Mexico to fulfill the archaeological vocation Adrian sacrificed to support his family. The consequence of this trip is the final surprise in this extraordinary exploration of passionate individual existences.

 

About Nadine Gordimer

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Nadine Gordimer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1991, is the author of fourteen novels, more than ten volumes of stories, and three nonfiction collections. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
 
Published May 15, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 208 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Get a Life

Kirkus Reviews

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The 1991 Nobel winner's 14th novel is one of her most provocative books: an unsparing analysis of the permutations—and ramifications—of commitment and fidelity, endangerment and survival.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

The New York Times

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nor are his parents - the parents - or Berenice, although Gordimer tries hard to give her personality depth by inventing an off-duty identity for her, "Benni," to signify the split between the wife and the successful career woman.

Dec 18 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

The New York Times

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Reflecting on his marriage, this thought goes through his mind: "Five years passed - a state of existence in which the question - if it is one, because a choice was made - doesn't sound from within.

Dec 18 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

The Guardian

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Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer 188pp, Bloomsbury £16.99 The quotation following the title page of Gordimer's new novel is from Auden's "The Sea and The Mirror": "O what authority gives / Existence its surprise".

Nov 26 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

The Guardian

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Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer Bloomsbury £16.99, pp208 Most of Nadine Gordimer's oeuvre has been shaped by the struggle against apartheid, in which she played an outstanding and honourable part.

Nov 13 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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During Paul's stay, Gordimer sounds the depths of Paul and Benni's connection (shallow but sometimes tender) and replays Adrian and Lyndsay's turbulent (but on the surface, placid) past together.

Sep 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

Book Reporter

Cain and Abel fight and generally Abel is killed by Cain and thrown from the nest."

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

You know you're holding a Nadine Gordimer novel from the disorienting first line of Get a Life, her icy and astringent new book: ''Only the street-sweeper swishing his broom to collect fallen leaves from the gutter.'' This is the passing observation of a nervous, unnamed young woman who stand...

Nov 30 2005 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

But here, to many critics’ chagrin, her work is less politically intense than usual, her characters embodiments of ideas rather than flesh-and-blood people.

Aug 28 2007 | Read Full Review of Get a Life: A Novel

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