July’s People was recommended by one of my favourite travel writers, Paul Theroux, in his book about Africa and aid, Dark Star Africa. Written well before the end of apartheid, it imagines a South Africa descended into violence and confusion. The plot follows a privileged white family who are rescued by their black servant, July, and handles a number of threads in a very short space of time – the tensions arising from this, the characters’ safety, race, class, “civilisation”, and the relationships between the characters in a changed context. The language is creative, but very immediate so you’re always in the moment. Gordimer doesn’t take sides, either, so all the characters remain interesting while leaving a slight bitter taste.
Written in 1981 and set in an imagined, near-future South Africa.
Recommended by Alison Humphreys.
Buy the book here.