David Lurie is a professor of communications who is a self centered man going through midlife crisis. He believes he is at the comfortable place in his life. He is a self proclaimed romantic, and he also teaches romance literature. He has, however, been in quite a number of failed relationships, with three past divorces and a relationship with a sex worker and one of his students, Melanie. David forces himself on Melanie and makes love to her on numerous occasions not minding what effects it would have on her. He only seeks to satisfy his own urges. When Melanie reports him to the school board, he faces disgrace in front of his peers and the community. He feels the urge to leave the community and hides out in the country with his daughter.
We see David changing into a more compassionate man as he tries to rekindle his relationship with his daughter, who is raped by strangers, and left pregnant. He volunteers at an animal clinic where he takes care of unwanted dogs. He communicates with the dogs, and here he gains a new perspective of life. He also becomes more compassionate to them, and his daughter.
There are significant lessons that readers can learnt from this book. Coetzee gives a virtuoso hope of change and redemption. He brings this out in his characters that have gone through and have faced many atrocities. David Lurie appears as a changed man when he hits rock bottom, and when he faces shame after accusations of sexual sins. He appears to be more compassionate at the end as he tries to rekindle his relationship with his daughter. The issue of land ownership by the black South Africans is also evident as he shows it in Petrus who manages to own piece of land. This shows that even when things look hopeless there can be hope when individuals fight for what they believe in.
Lucy chooses to stay in the farm because she loves the land and the old ‘landliche’ way of life. Despite the memories of the incident of rape and violence and the killing of her dogs, she insists on staying in the farm. Her choices are her own, despite her father’s protests. She says that he would not understand her reasons for making the choices that she makes.