The Fifth Child

The Fifth Child

3.8 23
by Doris Lessing
     
 

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Doris Lessing's contemporary gothic horror story—centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human—probes society's unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. While around them crime and unrest surge,… See more details below

Overview

Doris Lessing's contemporary gothic horror story—centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human—probes society's unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. While around them crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts are certain that their old-fashioned contentment can protect them from the world outside—until the birth of their fifth baby. Gruesomely goblin-like in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong and violent, Ben has nothing innocent or infant-like about him. As he grows older and more terrifying, Harriet finds she cannot love him, David cannot bring himself to touch him, and their four older children are afraid of him. Understanding that he will never be accepted anywhere, Harriet and David are torn between their instincts as parents and their shocked reaction to this fierce and unlovable child whose existence shatters their belief in a benign world.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A smug, conservative couple's fifth child (after four model children) inspires fear and horror. "The implications of this slim, gripping work are ominous,'' wrote PW. Lessing indicts those in authority who refuse to acknowledge responsibility for the violence inherent in mankind. (May)
Library Journal
Mildly eccentric English couple Harriet and David Lovatt are the contented parents of four healthy children. Suddenly, their peace is forever shattered by their fifth child, Ben, a fiercely malevolent goblin-child with a penchant for violence. It is suggested that Ben is a throwback to earlier, precivilized time, that he represents a random settling of neanderthal-like genes that all humans carry. Only Harriet tries to civilize the boy, and he gradually learns to function on a primitive level and even collects a band of similar outcasts about him. Unwanted, they leave their homes to wander England like modern-day troglodytes. Society's complicity with their fate is a reflection of its callousness. Not major Lessing but sensitive and strangely compelling nevertheless. Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
From the Publisher
“A hair-raising tale…as full of twists and shocks as any page turner could desire.” —Time“Terse and chilling…. A witch’s brew of conflicting fears.” —The New York Review of Books“A horror story of maternity and the nightmare of social collapse…. A moral fable of the genre that includes Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.” —The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307777645
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/17/2010
Series:
Vintage International
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
80,566
File size:
2 MB

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