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Book Tips - Doris Lessing

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007 was awarded to Doris Lessing "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".

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A Proper Marriage

Even better than the first one of the "Children of Violence" series. A wise and beautiful view of many problems - wars, marriage, pregnancy, comunism, colonialism, mother-and-daughter problems, you have them all.
/Gustavo Vazquez, Brazil

Briefing for a Descent into Hell

What if madness is actually an escape from reality? Or what if reality is madder than a fantasy in which we decide to withdraw? And how fair is when a doctor has the power to call someone mad, just because the patient denies what others call reality and decides to remain in an inner world with its imagination, that pushes the boundaries of possible? Why are we called mad if people cannot understand or prove what we are saying? This book was meant to be a criticism to the way doctors were treating mentally ill people in the 60's. Hence Lessing wanted to show that those that we call crazy may as well be intellectuals in the same world that we call reality and whose standards we are using the label madness. In fact, if withdrawing into our imaginary world is tantamount to being crazy, then death is our only escape from a cruel reality. Our descent into hell can be our resignation to reality.
/Raluca Batanoiu, Germany

Mara & Dann

This book is the best road novel I have ever read.
/Erdem Erinas, Turkey

Martha Quest

I have read all her books, she has the power of transporting me inside her stories. This is one of the first books, the story is almost her story. It made me understand a lot of thing about myself and life in that far away country.
/Anna Marcato, Italy
It is my sister's book, I like when it is a serie of books, so you do not have to stop reading a very good book!
/Hedda Ottesen, Sweden

The Cleft

I liked it because the book has a perspective original about the origin the be human, specifically: the women and man's discovery in her world.
/Fatima Chuya, Ecuador
It was such a wonderful book and so amazingly written. Easy to imagine.
/Mariska Joan Schouten, Netherlands
The author explores the origin of human civilization in a most plausible way. Lessing's deft imagination synthesizes fact and ficion and urges the reader to accept the truth about the clefts and the monsters.
/Sangram Keshari Mohanty, India

The Fifth Child

The story is rich in atmosphere and obsessively gripping - you come to consider yourself a witness, even a participant, to the events. To so profoundly affect the reader in such a slim book - 144 pages - is an inspiring accomplishment!
/Kenneth Jones, United States

The Golden Notebook

I agree to those who say it isn't a feminist book. But it reflects with such consequence the thoughts and feelings of a woman which was never done by anyone else before. From politics to bad day pains, the different layers of a woman's life all appear – probably this is quite a female thing. I also liked the description of how in the West people were manipulated with anti-communist cold war rhetoric in the '50 – I feel its very much like how we are kept afraid with the terrorist ideology today.
/Sarolta, Hungary
This is one of my favorite book of all times. I got so swept away that I could hardly let go of it, and yet was afraid that once I finish it I would miss it too much and will not be able to find another novel as good to replace it. Why did I get so caught up in this book where nothing much happens and it is mainly about Anna Wulf a writer living in London in a shared house whose life is not adventurous, or not untypical? Well..., because of her character and the way it is portrayed. I believe a person can have multiple identities, yet all somehow consistent. One identity is the social one, one is a sexual one, and one political. And yes, above all it is the self-one, which one lives in the solitary moments, which we most of the time do not even talk about, but maybe confess to ourselves in a personal diary, writing about it. Anna Wulf keeps three personal notebooks, all with different covers, with an involuntary different hand-writing, each one dealing with herself, but from different perspectives: one is her love life, one is her political identity and beliefs, one is her daily life, past in Africa, present in London, social or secluded. All are devoured by deep thoughts that define the character that Doris Lessing crafted so wonderfully. It is not about a self-absorbed person, but it is about a person obsessed with self-analysis, searching into herself to find the strengths to cope with doubts, disappointments, and above all weaknesses. She is mostly seen through her own eyes which makes the reader (or me, at least) sympathize with her even more. Her relationship with Molly, her best friend, her son, or her tenant are used to also portray her in comparison with other different personalities. I have a hunch that Doris Lessing used herself as a model for Anna Wulf. Her belief in socialism and her disappointment when finding out about the crimes of Stalin, during the Khrushchev period, her political activism, her idling as a writer in search for new themes to write about, her devotion to her notebooks during her long hours of solitude in a big empty house where only the tea kettle sounds when the water is boiling. Throughout the novel, Anna's power for self-searching (an ongoing seek with no finality, a fight with means but with no clear end) overwhelmed me. Her power for writing, her productive solitude, her call for love, and yet her clear need for independence, define after all a complex character, but in no way a unique one. My impression is that many women can be Anna Wulf, in all their multiple identities. Anna's strengths are the ones that make her outstanding. She is a mother, but she is independent, she is idling, but she is extremely intellectual, she is weak, but she can be scarily rational. Hence the Golden Notebook is also a feminist book about the power of a woman,
/Raluca Batanoiu, Germany
There are times that you can't express how you feel or times that you feel that the problem is only yours. A 60s book which heat the heart of ' world moving forward??... Women?... Relationship?... Parents?... Politics?...
/Dimitra Moutafi, Greece
It's an interesting amazing book. It made me believe in myself. I have the strength to achieve my simple and things that are great. When I got into trouble, I could nearly hear that she is saying "girl, don't be afraid, you can do it! And you are the only one who can get it ..." Things in the book gave me a world of fantasy but realistic. The love story, the fighting story and so on.
/Zhang Bin Hong, China
According to my point of view, it points out the struggle of a writer. The way in which the author brings the story and her different experience in life is beautifully portrayed in four different colour notebooks.
/P. Vijayalakshmi, Other
This book changed my vision of the world in general, and of my world in particular. After reading it, I went through quite an important psychological transformation and decided to take control of my life, do what I thought was best for me. It was a total revelation. Since then, I stick to the task of reading as many of Mrs Lessing’s books as I can. Her writings are universal but so deeply personal at the same time. Everyone can find their own story and History through her works. 'The Golden Notebook' may not have had a good critic went it was first published because it was too much of an innovation , but nowadays, everyone can appreciate this splitting that is present in everyone of us.
/Mylène, Spain
It is such a powerful book and what amazed me the most was that at the time it was written I hadn't been borne, but I share Anna's (the main character) philosophy in so many ways. It just makes you realize how far women have come in the past decades and how women liberation has enabled me to live in a world where I can claim my place.
/Clara Quevedo, Guatemala
Doris Lessing became a kind of feminist icon after the phenomenal success of 'The Golden Notebook', but it would be grossly unfair to pigeon-hole this great work as just a feminist book. Of course, Lessing has analysed the man-woman relationship predominantly from a woman's point of view with an honesty no writer has dared to show, but this marvellous book has an equally strong political theme to it. It explores with amazing insight the collapse of the Communist ideology and how it wreaked havoc in the lives of committed party workers. Running parallel to the political angle is the theme of "disintegration" or the cracking up of the mind of an individual and the struggle for order. Above all, it's a novel which breaks new ground in terms of its originality of structure. The four notebooks the protagonist keeps to record her emotional and political life is a one of a kind technique which had never been employed by any writer before. A must-read for anyone even remotely interested in books!
/Nisha, Kuwait

The Good Terrorist

It signifies both mentally and emotionally the struggle of socially sensitive people to define themselves in a system that does not include them, as their beliefs and lifestyle tend to get reconsidered by both the society and their "co-believers". This struggle sometimes devastates their whole existence and makes them rather incapable of distinguishing where and under which circumstances an effort to achieve certain goals about the common good becomes dangerous and tarnishes the action of similar moves.
/A. K., Greece

The Grandmothers

Happiness for a woman is not when she is all young and beautiful. It is not when she becomes a wife and neither when she becomes a mother. Those are rather insecure times, and these are social-related fulfillments and not necessarily her inner ones. Happiness for a woman is when she grows out of what others expect from her, because she gets to know herself. It is age that gives wisdom to a woman. And not in the least independence. Maybe she will not have then her best looks, but her self-confidence will give energy and beauty that will make her feel stronger. A woman is happy when she is liberated from what others want from her, because now she can pursue what she wants for herself. She can then explore unknown territories, she can lead a life the way she wants to, enjoying herself the way she could never do before, her body, her needs, her lust coming forth while she is cherishing giving in to all that, yet never losing control of herself. This is the story of Roz and Lil, friends since early childhood, getting married at about the same time, having two sons and then being left on their own, one a divorcee, the other, a widow. Their sons are growing into beautiful men, while their mothers now feel more beautiful than they were decades ago, because now they beam with confidence, experience and the wisdom of life. And now they are free to act. The boys are attracted to them, while they are attracted to their youth. So they will cave in. It is a coming-of-age experience from which they will both learn. Women will get to be the teachers, the loved ones in a way that does not demand to act like a wife and give the adequate caring, whilst the boys will learn how to make love to a woman, how to break away from shyness and get beyond male needs, exploring a woman's body in all its beauty.
/Raluca Batanoiu, Germany
Because she talks about the reality of Africa, the reality about sentiments, the relationship inter Europe and Africa.
/Adriana Mastalli Sosa, Uruguay
Doris presents a pretty complex intimate situation with such a delicate and prejudice-free approach that the reader is compelled to avoid judgements and try different perspectives. Supreme!
/Sheila Maceira, Brazil

The Grass is Singing

Psychological depth of the characters.
/Maria Teresa, Italy
It was fascinating to follow Mary on her way to insanity.
/Tina SR, Sweden
I found the book engaging, especially in regards to life in Africa and the interesting sociological implications of the peoples and the economics strivings of the times and area.
/Dixrek Powell, United States
It explores very deep emotions between a husband and wife.
/A.J. Porter, United Kingdom
It deals with the racial and gender issues in a profound way!
/Pei-Yin Lin, United Kingdom
It depicts the racism between blacks and whites, especially the psyche of whites dominance over blacks. For example, Mary sees herself as a racist and have the right to maltreat Moses, a black man and a laborer. Unfortunately , she soon realized blacks and whites must live with love, neglecting the ignoramus of dominance, embracing the sense of brotherhood. It depicts a deep value to eliminate the slavery blacks were subjected. A good novel it is.
/Ikhenoba, Joseph, Nigeria
The book juxtaposes assumed reality with crass reality.
/Keshab Anand Pegu, India
This book puts me in a vivid description of a district of Rhodesia's [South Africa] economy, beauty, along with an aberrant psyche of an educated, panicky, neurotic, feminist, selfish, never satisfied, idiotic, mid-30s women (Mrs Mary Turner) with eccentric behaviour, who was brought up in a white colonial system in a female-dominated family. She usually derived by her mother's shadow - a woman indifferent to her husband's existence, who used him for money to run her family - and in her pre-marriage time led a meaningless comfortable club life from her secretarial job. When she had to face economic, and environmental struggles, poverty (according to her) in that district of Rhodesia, as she married 'Dick' – a poverty laden, hard-working, considerate, soft to her, dependent on her, farmer - she could not adjust to married life. Mrs Mary Turner never considered the poor natives as human beings, or people who have to eat, take rest or sleep, and she expected much as their mistress. She appeared to me to be seductively cruel to her husband 'Dick', as well as to native African servant boys; poor people, who earn with hardship. Mrs Mary Turner seemed to me representative of women from a pseudo post-colonial system, who often lack judgment, consideration, sense and humanity. She led her life under stupid guidance and decisions affecting the life of Dick. All were probably for her sexual obsessions and fantasy. In my opinion, Doris Lessing through this novel 'The Grass is Singing' raised her voice against colonial civilization, society, education and culture, against feminism, injustice, racism and the sexual hypocrisy of upper and upper-middle class educated society. I myself consider this feminism/colonialism practice a dangerous determinant and factors for a family economics and structural persistence, for a society, for a state, for a nation. It is also dangerous for the persons himself/herself knowingly or unknowingly and for his/her surroundings. Colonialism hence must be abandoned. Among Bengalese economically independent so called 'pseudo cultured' married women, characters such as Mary Turner are not rare. In my opinion 'The Grass is Singing' thus crosses the barriers of lands, of countries.
/Professor Pranab Kumar, India

The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog

It is a grim take on our future and made me aware of what might happen to society if we don't stop violating the environment. It highlights the changes of society in a world of constant climate change and how easily civilization turns to barbarism.
/Katherina Ushachov, Germany

This Was the Old Chief's Country

It's true and human, as well as all other books written by my favourite writer Doris Lessing. The world would be a better place to live in if there were more people and more writers like her.
/Marija Čulić, Croatia
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