Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Childhood of Jesus

Finished September 5
The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee

This novel is set in an unnamed land at an unknown time. After a voyage across an ocean, Simon and David arrive in a new land where Spanish is the language used. As part of the decision to travel to a new land and start a new life, all arrivals are given new names, and their memories of the past are erased. The two have come together on the ship when 5-year-old David loses the papers giving the identity of his mother. Simon has taken on the role of guardian to the boy and, yet is determined to find the mother of the child, despite his lack of knowledge about her.
As the two find a home and Simon finds work in this new land, both have difficulty adjusting. Simon finds everyone too amenable, and yet unhelpful in answering the questions he has. He struggles with the lack of drama in his new life, and the expectations of acceptance that are laid before him.
David continually asks why everything is, why things happen, why he must do what he is told.
When Simon identified a woman, Ynes, he feels to be David's mother and she agrees to take on this role, he struggles to find a new role in David's life, where he can still have some influence on the boy. As David's rebellious nature leads to difficulties when he begins school, and the authorities wish to remove him to a boarding school for difficult children, Ynes is determined that this not happen and want to flee with the boy to another new life. Simon finds himself drawn into this plan.
This is another novel where my lack of feeling for the characters made it hard for me to like the book. I found the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. However the novel raises many philosophical questions about society and how we behave towards each other and those that are different, as well as the difficulties faced by immigrants to a new land. So a book that has intellectual weight and challenges, but did not reach my emotions or heart.

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