July’s People (Nadine Gordimer, 1981)

july's people

Why did you choose this book?

You may remember that I was doing books set in Africa for a class at the library.  This is the second one I read all the way through rather than skimmed (don’t tell…).  As for why I chose this book to present in the class, I was told I had to do a Gordimer because she’s a Nobel laureate, and this one seemed like it would be the most evocative of a time and place in Africa.

What’s it about?

The Smales family is forced to flee Johannesburg as a result of apartheid-induced violence.  The only place they can go is with their manservant, July, to his ancestral village.  He is the chief of that village, though not of his tribe.  Their attempts to understand the new culture and the new role of this man they have known for years are the underlying themes of the book.



Other recommended reads? 

It’s hard to say.  This book is unique because it was written before the end of apartheid, so Gordimer was only guessing what she thought would happen.  It’s the author’s vision of South Africa.  So it’s not really historical fiction or dystopian.  Just somewhere in between.  And, yes, I realize I failed to answer the question.


This is an extremely short book, which can easily be read in just a few hours.  I had a hard time with the writing style and didn’t find the descriptions of Africa or village life as evocative of a place as I had hoped, and as I saw in other books like Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible or Okparanta’s Under the Udala Trees.

Up next?

A Diamond Deal with the Greek by Maya Blake


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