Study Guide

Disgrace Tough-o-Meter

By J.M. Coetzee


(7) Snow Line

What you get out of reading Disgrace is sort of what you put into it. On one hand, Coetzee's style of writing is usually pretty to the point, and the novel itself is so gripping and emotionally charged that you can gobble the whole thing up in one sitting if you just want to read for plot and character. The thing that makes this book a bit on the tougher side, like many of Coetzee's books, is that he is such a scholarly writer – that is to say, our buddy J.M. has read a lot of books and seen a lot of paintings in his lifetime. He even has a Ph.D. in Linguistics. This wealth of knowledge definitely shows in the many references and allusions he makes to novels, poetry, history, art, and mythology. Sometimes he leaves us scratching our heads and running to look these references up just to figure out what image he's trying to convey. Between that and all the historical references to Apartheid that you may or may not be familiar with, trying to read Disgrace thoroughly and understanding every word can be tricky. That said, with a bit of background knowledge, we're totally confident that you can take this book to task.