Things have been quiet around here – sorry for the unexpected blogging break but I’m back today with more Nadine Gordimer. I finished her 11th and 12th novels over the weekend – None to Accompany Me and The House Gun. Both excellent – of course you all guessed I would say that right?
None to Accompany Me meanders in the way that several of her novels meander. It doesn’t have a precise, focused story. Instead it charts a period of time, following the lives of two women (one black, one white) during South Africa‘s transitional period away from apartheid.
One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate with Gordimer is her willingness to put what I can only call “story” onto a smaller stage and let the details and intricacies of the lives of her characters create an effective storyline on their own. On the one hand, both women (and their husbands) are involved in dismantling the apartheid system, on the other, they are concerned with more personal issues – a teen daughter’s pregnancy, the death of a co-worker, a son’s divorce, their own marital commitment, new employment and shifting friendships. And all of this is set against the evolving political landscape into which each of the four must somehow fit or transform their identity.
The book made an interesting parallel between apartheid and a certain kind of marriage in which one person holds all the power. The kind of relationship in which one person does all the defining for both halves of the couple. Gordimer makes the point carefully, showing that although it is possible for the parties on opposite sides to connect, even care for one another, until that original imbalance is corrected, the connection remains a false one.
I’m finding it difficult here to put together a neat synopsis of the novel because it encompasses such a wide variety of human experience. None to Accompany Me is a fairly complicated and weighty read (with exquisite writing, however, to make things just a little easier). The story is deceptively quiet when in fact it takes on a steady stream of huge issues and treats them each with a particularly painful honesty.