Diary of a Bad Year

An ageing male writer has been asked to contribute to Strong Opinions, a book of essays by six eminent thinkers from around the world. A chance encounter with a sexy female neighbour, Anya, leads to the writer offering her a job as a typist. Anya soon becomes curiously involved in his work, and affectionately dubs him the Senor. When her ambitious boyfriend, Alan, realises that she has a soft spot for the old man, he starts to spy on the Senor and hatches a plot to take advantage of him. J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year introduces the reader to a highly imaginative way of reading. The three strands of the novel are set in parallel sections of text on each page, running on for multiple pages with apparently no consideration for the reader’s ability to keep up. And yet, each section is so distinctive in voice and so deceptively well paced that it soon becomes second nature to flick backwards and forwards through the book, reading fragments of first this section and then the other. This is a perfectly pitched novel that is at once a fascinating work of non-fiction and an uncompromising glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary lives.