(Australian Book Review, 2003-10) Goldsworthy, Kerryn
Something like a double helix of dialectical thinking winds its graceful way through these ‘eight lessons’. Ideas and theories about the nature of human (and other) life and how to live it, about the workings and the relative merits of logic, reason, belief and faith, are sketched, rehearsed, debated and set in opposition to each other throughout these eight episodes in the life of J.M. Coetzee’s heroine. "Elizabeth Costello" is in no way the sort of novel it’s possible to read on the bus. And if you have no interest in animals, or no tolerance for the convolutions of philosophical discourse, or a preference for intricacies of plot and character as the cornerstones of fiction, then it will be a source of ongoing frustration. But otherwise, the scope and lure of its arguments and the elegance of their framing and expression are hypnotic and, in the end, irresistible.