The Pickup is an uncomplicated love story that leaves a tangled set of impressions. Though flawed in several minor ways, it is an extraordinary book that will reverberate with me for some time.
This is my first of Gordimer’s novels and I took great pleasure in her unfussy, almost-poetic, precise use of language. It is the novel of a meticulous craftsperson. A fragment remains with me: “…for the past has no wholeness, it has been etiolated by revised explanations of it, trampled over by hindsight – all their lives”. As Gordimer says later in her narrative, that is “like a sentence, a statement, that seems to have been written [for her] long before [she] came into existence…”
Beyond the love story there are layers that explore liberalism, alienation, poverty and consumerism. For a penetrating appraisal of The Pickup, I’ll divert you to J. M. Coetzee:
Not just an interesting book, in fact, but an astonishing one: it is hard to conceive of a more sympathetic, more intimate introduction to the lives of ordinary Muslims than we are given here, and from the hand of a Jewish writer too.