Books Magazine

Book Review: the Pickup by Nadine Gordimer

By Pamelascott





PAGES: 268


YEAR: 2001


Who picked up whom? Is the pickup the illegal immigrant desperate to evade deportation to his impoverished desert country? Or is the pickup the businessman’s daughter trying to escape a privileged background she despises?

When Julie Summers’s car breaks down near a garage on a sleazy street, a young Arab emerges from beneath the chassis of a vehicle to aid her. Soon they are enmeshed in a relationship of unpredictably relentless emotions, a relationship that overturns each one’s notion of the other and of the solutions life demands for different circumstances.

A novel of great power and concision, psychological surprises and unexpected developments, The Pickup is a story of the world of emigration and immigration, where love can survive only if stripped of all certainties outside itself.


Clustered predators round a kill.


I hated The Pickup. I really did. The Pickup was irritating and pretentious.

STRUCTURE: Gordimer doesn’t number her chapters. This niggled but only a little. The chapters are not as long as Day by A L Kennedy so it was less of an issue. I found the narration and tone Gordimer uses in The Pickup a little weird. The narrator is very distant from the characters. Gordimer failed to create any sense of emotion or connection with the events of characters. The Pickup read like someone was just reporting Julie and Abdu’s relationship. There was no feeling in the whole thing. The viewpoint moves about almost constantly so half the time I had no clue what the hell was going on or what character was involved. The Pickup was long winded and every word felt drawn out to a ridiculous extent. I felt I had read something 500 or 600 pages long. I was left with the impression Gordimer was saying to the reader Ha! I’m sooooo much smarter than you. The Pickup smacked of a smug writer wanting to show their superiority. Gordimer doesn’t use speech marks like a normal writers but -. What’s up with that? The Pickup is full of run-on sentences that got on my nerves.

PLACE: The world Gordimer creates in The Pickup is not believable. I got no sense of where anything happening took place. There was no flavor or color. The city where Julie and Abdul meet could have been anywhere. Nothing stood out. The village where they went to live with Abdul’s family was bland. Gordimer makes a big deal about the village being unnamed and mysterious then drops a clue that reveals they are in Morocco if you look it up in google. What’s up with that?

CHARACTERISATION: The characters in The Pickup were awful. Julie is the biggest pain in the ass I had ever had the displeasure to read about. She is irritating and insufferable. I wanted to give her a good slap. Every decision she makes is another way for her to do what everyone does not want her to do. None of her choices are real. She’s like a teenage brat rebelling against her parents only she’s too old for that kind of crap. Her friends at The LA Café are just as bad. They act like they are morally superior to everyone else. Their airs and pretensions got on my nerves. Abdul isn’t much better. The characters are never flesh out and are painfully one dimensional.

PLOT: Gordimer couldn’t even manage to make this believable. A quote on the front-cover states a bittersweet ROMEO AND JULIET for our cynical age. Julie and Abdu’s relationship is never realistic. Why would Abdu fall for someone who is such a brat? I found it totally ludicrous that she married him and went with to the village where he was born when his via was rejected. The Pickup could have been a good modern love story but Gordimer fails to fully engage her readers. I didn’t believe they were really in love. I got the impression Julie was using him to thumb her nose at her wealthy parents and show she is completely rejecting their way of life. I also got the impression Abdu was using her to find a way around his illegal immigrant status. I just didn’t buy any of it. I felt Gordimer was using The Pickup to put across her own agenda about various issues including upper-middle-class, culture clash and Islamic feminism. It’s not cool when a writer does that.




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