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In the title novel, two friends fall in love with each other's teenage sons, and these passions last for years, until the women end them, vowing a respectable old age. In Victoria and the Staveneys, a young woman gives birth to a child of mixed race and struggles with feelings of estrangement as her daughter gets drawn into a world of white privilege. The Reason for It traces the birth, faltering, and decline of an ancient culture, with enlightening modern resonances. A Love Child features a World War II soldier ...
In the title novel, two friends fall in love with each other's teenage sons, and these passions last for years, until the women end them, vowing a respectable old age. In Victoria and the Staveneys, a young woman gives birth to a child of mixed race and struggles with feelings of estrangement as her daughter gets drawn into a world of white privilege. The Reason for It traces the birth, faltering, and decline of an ancient culture, with enlightening modern resonances. A Love Child features a World War II soldier who believes he has fathered a love child during a fleeting wartime romance and cannot be convinced otherwise.
|Victoria and the Staveneys||57|
|The Reason for It||131|
|A Love Child||191|
With four novellas in a single volume, Doris Lessing once again proves that she is unequalled in her ability to capture the truth of the human condition. In the title novella, two women, close friends from childhood, fall in love with each other's teenage sons, and these passions last for years. In Victoria and the Staveneys, a poor black girl finds herself pregnant by the son of a liberal middle-class family. Her daughter grows up, torn between the world of white privilege and that of her mother. The Reason for It, the third novella in the collection, will appeal to fans of Shikasta and Memoirs of a Survivor. It describes the birth, flourishing, and decline of a culture long, long ago, but with many modern echoes. In A Love Child, a soldier in World War II, during the dangerous voyage to India around the cape, falls in love on shore leave, and remains convinced that a love child resulted from the wartime romance.
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About the Author Doris Lessing was born to British parents in Persia in 1919 and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in 1949 and has lived there ever since. She is the author of more than thirty books -- novels, stories, reportage, poems, and plays. Doris Lessing lives in London.
Posted May 27, 2010
I'm still trying to work out how long a piece of writing has to be if it's called a novel. The Grandmothers is a set of four "short novels," according to its cover. But how is that different from four novellas?
The first, and title, story is an intriguing family tale of just 53 pages. Two fathers. Two daughters. Two grandmothers. And two mothers who enter only peripherally into visits to a seaside restaurant. The waitress envies their perfect lives, which maybe aren't as perfect as they seem, and the reader is drawn to view images of past innocence with almost reluctant curiosity. A startling, odd, sad tale, and a fascinating read.
The second story, of Victoria and the Staveneys, is an all-too-real description of a promising life turned around by circumstance, and a vivid depiction of the tolerance, love and affection that accompany expectations. I wanted more for Victoria, and in the end, I guess she got more than she was offered. In the end she wasn't who anyone tried to make her, but maybe she wasn't all she could have made herself either.
The Reason for it is the shortest tale of the four, an odd story of how quickly a culture falls apart. It reads innocently and tragically through the eyes of an elderly man, but it's echoes of modern life can't be entirely accidental.
And finally, A Love Child, at 117 pages, is an amazing depiction of wartime Britain and the life of a man who grows up between the wars. Introduced to communism, he finds poetry. Introduced to sickness, he finds love. Introduced to success, he keeps himself to himself and tries to analyze the reason others care for him. But through it all he misses the truth of how he should care for others. A sad story, but totally engrossing.
So now I still don't know how long a novel has to be. But perhaps if you're a writer of Doris Lessing's caliber it really doesn't matter. I'd certainly recommend the book, and I enjoyed the time spent meeting her characters.
Posted July 21, 2010
No text was provided for this review.