Age of Iron by J M Coetzee

About the book

An old woman is dying of cancer in Cape Town. A classics professor, Mrs Curren has always been opposed to the brutality of apartheid, but has lived insulated from its true horrors. Now she is suddenly forced to come to terms with the iron-hearted rage that the system has wrought. In an extended letter addressed to her daughter, who has long since fled to America, Mrs Curren recounts the strange events of her dying days. She witnesses the burning of a nearby black township; discovers the bullet-riddled body of her servant’s son, and a teenage black activist hiding in her house is killed by security forces. And through it all, her only companion is a homeless man, an alcoholic who appears on her doorstep.

Reviewed by Victoria Book Group:

We had an extremely in depth discussion. J M Coetzee’s writing was thought provoking – raising almost as many questions as he provided answers. The main character was not easy to empathise with and in fact one member actually disliked her! Was Aceā€¦..? black or white? A thoroughly good read giving rise to a full hour of discussion.

Star rating: ****

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5 thoughts on “Age of Iron by J M Coetzee”

  1. Review by Non-Reading Group:
    Hard-going, both in style and content. Characters are not described in sufficient detail for any attachment to their lives or well-being to be formed.
    Star rating: *

  2. Review by Cheerful Bags Reading Group:
    Really interesting and written with real feeling for situations e.g. death of a lady and death of ‘old’ apartheid in South Africa.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Museum Book Group:
    A sad but riveting read. Educated lonely white woman dying with cancer, develops a closeness with a black vagrant who moves onto her property. They have need of each other. Set in apartheid South Africa her only daughter lives in America and won’t return. She is forced to acknowledge the rising anger and deprivation of the townships when her servants teenage son is killed. the cruelty and hardness of the regime enrages her. Amazed this was written by a man.
    Star rating: ***

  4. Review by Kings Somborne reading group:
    Vivid, bleak descriptions of characters and political situation. Guilt seemed to be the main theme – guilt at being part of an abhorrent regime (albeit not actively). The loneliness and helplessness that accompanies the gradual decline into illness and death also acutely observed. An unsettling and compelling read, full of regret and anger. Superbly written!
    Star rating: ****

  5. Review by Alresford Library Reading Group:
    We felt this was a dense and complex novel which gave rise to a great deal of discussion about loneliness, motherhood, guilt and South African peoples.
    Star rating: ***

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