A Proper Marriage (Children of Violence Series #2) [NOOK Book]


An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security.

A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on...

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A Proper Marriage (Children of Violence Series #2)

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An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security.

A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

New Republic
A totally modern work. Martha Quest is, above all, ironically percieved by the author in whose hands irony is an instrument of compassion.
Daily Telegraph
With deceptive simplicity she reveals more about the private depths of mind and soul that perhaps one ought to know.
Milwaukee Journal
This work will rank with the foremost fictional commentaries on events in our century.
Literary Horizons
Very impressive....Portrays modern woman in all her complexity.
Best Seller
One cannot praise the writing too highly...She plays on language as on an instrument with the severe discipline of a professional master.
New Rupublic
A totally modern work. Martha Quest is, above all, ironically percieved by the author in whose hands irony is an instrument of compassion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062047939
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/19/2010
  • Series: Children of Violence Series , #2
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 892,349
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Doris  Lessing
Winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature, Doris Lessing was one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of our time, the recipient of a host of international awards, including the Somerset Maugham Award, the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature, the James Tait Black Prize for best biography, Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize and Prix Catalunya, and the S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature.


"Doris Lessing is the kind of writer who has followers, not just readers," Lesley Hazleton once observed. But the Nobel Prize-winning Lessing, whose classic novel The Golden Notebook was embraced as a feminist icon, has seldom told her followers exactly what they wanted to hear. For much of her career, she has frustrated readers' expectations and thwarted would-be experts on her work, penning everything from traditional narratives to postmodern novels to mystic fables.

Lessing was born in Persia (now Iran) and grew up in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where her father made an unsuccessful attempt to farm maize. Though she loved living on the farm, her family life was often tense and unhappy. Lessing married at the age of 20, but three years later, feeling stifled by colonial life and increasingly distressed by the racism of her society, she joined the Communist Party, "because they were the only people I had ever met who fought the color bar in their lives."

Soon after that, she left her husband and first two children to marry fellow Communist Gottfried Lessing, with whom she had a son. They divorced, and she took her son with her to England, where she published her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, to high acclaim. After several more novels, including the semi-autobiographical series Children of Violence, Lessing wrote The Golden Notebook, a postmodern, fragmentary narrative about a writer's search for identity. The Golden Notebook gained a passionate following in the feminist movement and "left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women," as Elizabeth Hardwick wrote.

To Lessing's dismay, she was frequently cited as a "feminist writer" after that. Yet as Diane Johnson pointed out in a 1978 review of Stories, Lessing "also understands men, politics, social class, striving, religion, loneliness and lust." Johnson added: "Mrs. Lessing is the great realist writer of our time, in the tradition of the major Continental novelists of the 19th century, particularly Stendhal and Balzac, but also Turgenev and Chekhov -- a masculine tradition with which she shares large moral concerns, an earnest and affirmative view of human nature, and a dead-eye for social types."

But Lessing, who once called realist fiction "the highest form of prose writing," soon launched into a science-fiction series, Canopus in Argos: Archives, which baffled many of her fans. Lessing used the term "space fiction" for the series, which recounts human history from the points of view of various extraterrestrial beings. Though Lessing gained some new readers with her Canopus series, her early admirers were relieved when she came back to Earth in The Fifth Child, the story of a monstrous child born to ordinary suburban parents, which Carolyn Kizer deemed "a minor classic." Later novels like Mara and Dann included elements of fantasy and science fiction, but recently, with the publication of The Sweetest Dream, Lessing has returned to domestic fiction in the realist mode, which many critics still see as her best form.

Throughout her life, Lessing has been drawn to systems for improving human experience -- first Marxism, then the psychiatry of R. D. Laing, then Sufi mysticism. But her yearning for a single, transcendent truth coexists with a sharp awareness of the contradictory mix of vanities, passions, and aggressions that make up most human lives. As Margaret Drabble noted, Lessing is "one of the very few novelists who have refused to believe that the world is too complicated to understand."

Good To Know

Lessing's African stories painted a grim picture of white colonialism and the oppression of black Africans, and in 1956, Lessing was declared a prohibited alien in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. In 1995, she was able to visit her daughter and grandchildren in South Africa, where her works are now acclaimed for the same content that was once condemned.

Though she was briefly allied with the Communist Party in Salisbury, Lessing has frequently insisted that the picture of her as a political activist is exaggerated. "I am always being described as having views that I never had in my life," she once told the Guardian. She has, however, been an outspoken critic of the racial politics of South Africa, and she once turned down the chance to become a Dame of the British Empire on the grounds that there is no British Empire.

To demonstrate how difficult it is for new writers to get published, Lessing sent a manuscript to her publishers under the pseudonym Jane Somers. Her British publisher turned it down, as did several other prominent publishers (though her American editor detected the ruse and accepted the book). The Diary of a Good Neighbour was published as the work of Jane Somers, to little fanfare and mixed critical reviews. Lessing followed it with a sequel, If the Old Could..., before revealing her identity as the author of both.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Doris May Tayler (birth name), Jane Somers (pseudonym)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 22, 1919
    2. Place of Birth:
      Persia (now Iran)
    1. Date of Death:
      November 17, 2013
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It was half past four in the afternoon.

Two young women were loitering down the pavement in the shade of the sunblinds that screened the shop windows. The grey canvas of the blinds was thick, yet the sun, apparently checked, filled the long arcade with a yellow glare. It was impossible to look outwards towards the sunfilled street, and unpleasant to look in towards the mingling reflections in the window glass. They walked, therefore, with lowered gaze as if concerned about their feet. Their faces were strained and tired. One was talking indefatigably, the other unresponsive, and -- it was clear -not so much from listlessness as from a stubborn opposition. There was something about the couple which suggested guardian and ward.

At last one exclaimed, with irritated cheerfulness, Natty, if you don't get a move on, we'll be late for the doctor.'

'But, Stella, you've just said we had half an hour to fill in,' said Martha as promptly as if she had been waiting for just this point of fact to arise, so that she might argue it out to its conclusions. Stella glanced sharply at her, but before she could speak Martha continued, deepening the humorous protest, because the resentment was so strong, 'It was you who seemed to think I couldn't get through another day of married life without seeing the doctor, not me. Why you had to fix an appointment for this afternoon I can't think.' She laughed, to soften the complaint.

'It's not easy to get an appointment right away with Dr Stem. You're lucky I could arrange it for you.'

But Martha refused to be grateful. She raised her eyebrows, appeared about to argue -- and shruggedirritably.

Stella gave Martha another sharp look, tightened her lips with calculated forbearance, then exclaimed, 'That's a pretty dress there. We might as well window-shop, to fill in the time.' She went to the window; Martha lagged behind.

Stella tried to arrange herself in a position where she might see through the glass surface of reflections: a stretch of yellow-grained canvas, a grey pillar, swimming patches of breaking colour that followed each other across the window after the passers-by. The dresses displayed inside, however, remained invisible, and Stella fell to enjoying her own reflection. At once her look of shrewd good nature vanished. Her image confronted her as a dark beauty, slenderly round, immobilized by a voluptuous hauteur. Complete. Or, at least, complete until the arrival of the sexual partner her attitude implied; when she would turn on him slow, waking eyes, appear indignant, and walk away -- not without throwing him a long, ambiguous look over her shoulder. From Stella one expected these pure unmixed responses. But from her own image she had glanced towards Martha's; at once she became animated by a reformer's zeal.

From the glass Martha was looking back anxiously, as if she did not like what she saw but was determined to face it honestly. Planted on sturdy brown legs was a plump schoolgirl's body. Heavy masses of lightish hair surrounded a broad pale face. The dark eyes were stubbornly worried, the mouth set.

'What I can't understand,' said Martha, with that defensive humour which meant she was prepared to criticize herself, even accept criticism from others, provided it was not followed by advice -- 'what I can't understand is why I'm thin as a bone one month and as fat as a pig the next. You say you've got dresses you wore when you were sixteen. Well, this is the last of mine I can get on.' She laughed unhappily, trying to smooth down crumpled blue linen over her hips.

'The trouble with you is you're tired,' announced Stella. 'After all, we've none of us slept for weeks.' This sophisticated achievement put new vigour into her. She turned on Martha with determination. 'You should take yourself in hand, that's all it is. That hair style doesn't suit you -- if you can call it a hair style. If you had it cut properly, it might curl. Have you ever had it cut properly -- ?'

'But Stella,' Martha broke in, with a wail of laughter, 'it needs washing, it's untidy, it's. . .'

She clutched her hair with both hands and moved back a step as Stella moved to lay her hands on it in order to show how it should be arranged. So violent and desperate was her defence that Stella stopped, and exclaimed with an exasperated laugh, 'Well, if you don't want me to show you!'

In Martha's mind was the picture of how she had indubitably been, not more than three months ago, that picture which had been described, not only by herself but by others, as a slim blonde. Looking incredulously towards her reflection, she saw that fat schoolgirl, and shut her eyes in despair. She opened them at once as she felt Stella's hand on her arm. She shook it off.

'You must take yourself in hand. I'll take you to have your hair cut now.'

'No,' said Martha vigorously.

Checked, Stella turned back towards her own reflection. And again it arranged itself obediently. Between the languidly enticing beauty who was Stella before her glass and the energetic housewife who longed to take Martha in hand there was no connection; they were not even sisters.

Martha, sardonically watching Stella in her frozen pose, thought that she would not recognize herself if she caught a glimpse of herself walking down a street, or -- a phrase which she saw no reason not to use, even to his face -managing her husband.

Stella saw her look, turning abruptly, and said with annoyance that they would go that moment to the hairdresser.

'There isn't time,' appealed Martha desperately.

'Nonsense,' said Stella, She took Martha's hand in her own, and began tugging her along the pavement: an attractive matron whose sensuality of face and body had vanished entirely under the pressure of the greater pleasures of good management.

A Proper Marriage. Copyright © by Doris M. Lessing. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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