The Sweetest Dream

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Frances Lennox ladles out dinner every night to the motley, exuberant, youthful crew assembled around her hospitable table—her two sons and their friends, girlfriends, ex-friends, and fresh-off-the-street friends. It's the early 1960s and certainly "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Except financial circumstances demand that Frances and her sons live with her proper ex-mother-in-law. And her ex-husband, Comrade Johnny, has just dumped his second wife's problem child at her feet. And ...
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The Sweetest Dream

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Overview

Frances Lennox ladles out dinner every night to the motley, exuberant, youthful crew assembled around her hospitable table—her two sons and their friends, girlfriends, ex-friends, and fresh-off-the-street friends. It's the early 1960s and certainly "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Except financial circumstances demand that Frances and her sons live with her proper ex-mother-in-law. And her ex-husband, Comrade Johnny, has just dumped his second wife's problem child at her feet. And the world's political landscape has suddenly become surreal beyond imagination....

Set against the backdrop of the decade that changed the world forever, The Sweetest Dream is a riveting look from one of the greatest writers of our time at a group of people who dared to dream—and faced the inevitable cleanup afterward.

About the Author:
Doris Lessing is the author of more than 30 books, including novels, stories, reportage, poems, and plays. She lives in London.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
London. The '60s. Frances Lennox, who can support herself precariously in the theater, which she loves, or more securely by journalism, which is mere work to her, is cooking a wonderful dinner for an ill-defined crowd of young people: her two teenage sons, their friends who are estranged from their parents and who have been camping out at the Lennoxes—in some instances for months—and assorted dropouts, waifs and hangers-on. With offhand skill and the merest glint of effort, Doris Lessing sorts out and vividly sums up these characters. Sulky, red-cheeked Rose Trimble, for example, "does not know she is unlikable," and she hates the Lennoxes, despite their kindness, because everything seems so easy for them—both what they have and what they know. Thus Lessing catches the spite or yearning or amorous glance in each exchange around the kitchen table in the opening scene of her latest novel. Not everyone present is kind, or happy, or well-disposed to the rest, yet there is a collective feeling of coziness and fellowship.

Into this setting Lessing drops Frances' estranged husband, a major figure in radical politics whom the family mockingly calls Comrade Johnny. His fervent, unsmiling commitment to the revolution is in inverse proportion to his concern for his family's well-being. He has shown up now, Frances and her sons realize, because "the kitchen would be full of young people, so he could not be greeted by rage, tears, reproaches" for his confession that the money he had recently promised them, like all such money, will never be paid. As this realization sinks in, he helps himself unbidden to food, dazzles the young people with his political authority and makes thereader's blood boil with his insolent selfishness.

No writer, with the possible exception of D.H. Lawrence, is as good as Lessing at fostering rage and loathing where it is deserved. Like a Jane Austen of the barricades, she has an exquisite touch, exploring the mechanisms by which relationships, particularly ones involving political opinions, unfold.

Here Johnny, with magnificent insouciance, confides that he has a favor to ask. His crazy second wife's child, fourteen-year-old Tilly, has been near-suicidal. Since Frances does so well with young people, could Tilly, who has been waiting, half-frozen out in the car all this time, join the household? It is an utterly unreasonable request, but when Frances sees the child, she takes her in: "She was a little bird blown by a storm, and Frances was across the room to her, and had her arms round her.... Meanwhile Johnny, just behind the girl, was saying, 'I think bed is indicated,' and then, generally around the room, ‘I'll be off.' But did not go."

This opening is as nourishing and compact as a seed: Everything is present from which an entire novel can grow. We see each young person develop over decades, nevertheless retaining the essential personality of childhood. We move forward into the present and backward to the 1930s, exploring the life of Johnny's straitlaced mother, Julia, who proves to have surprising sympathy and backbone. And while the sphere of action expands outward, the heart of the novel remains Frances' kitchen table.

In her astonishing career, which spans more than fifty years, Lessing has fearlessly produced works of both great authority and great eccentricity. Her fiction has always been rife with political turmoil, the hostilities arising from intimacy and dependence and the threat of violence. But with this novel, the author seems to relax, as if not only her characters but also she can feel at home in the warm kitchen. Her gifts are intact. She can set a scene, delineate a character and move forward or backward in time to establish or dispose of that character with a superfluity of energy that's positively Dickensian.

The story pours out in a torrent, encapsulating the whole turbulent era, yet Lessing never sacrifices the particularity of individual experience. When Julia turns to her aged gentleman friend, she thinks the two of them are as coolly insubstantial as the "shadows a bare branch lays on the earth, a thin and empty tracery, no warmth of flesh anywhere." From this close, personal focus, we pull back to the kind of observation Frances makes thinking of Johnny, a question that could be posed to the entire decade: "How could people unable to organise their own lives, who lived in permanent disarray, build anything worthwhile?" And occasionally Lessing pulls us back even further to make the most general assessment of human nature, noting that "perhaps one's fate is just one's temperament, invisibly attracting people and events. There are people who use ... a certain passivity towards life, watching to see what will arrive on their plate, or drop in their lap, or stare them in the face ... allowing the thing to develop, show itself."

Both the author's companionable, heartfelt tone and the sweep of lives impinging on one another are irresistibly alluring. The book summons us to continue reading; we follow it faithfully and, at the end, discover that it does not conclude neatly, although Lessing certainly has the skill to make a neat bow of the separate strands of narrative if she chooses. With a new generation joining the old around the kitchen table, it simply breaks off, its vitality still at full flood, like a broad river suddenly disappearing underground. Only when it is past do we realize that this has been one of Lessing's most generous works.
—Penelope Mesic

Publishers Weekly
HIn lieu of writing volume three of her autobiography ("because of possible hurt to vulnerable people"), the grand dame of English letters delves into the 1960s and beyond, where she left off in her second volume of memoirs, Walking in the Shade. The result is a shimmering, solidly wrought, deeply felt portrait of a divorced "earth" mother and her passel of teenage live-ins. Frances Lennox and her two adolescent sons, Andrew and Colin, and their motley friends have taken over the bottom floors of a rambling house in Hampstead, London. The house is owned by Frances's well-heeled German-born ex-mother-in-law, Julia, who tolerates Frances's slovenly presence out of guilt for past neglect and a shared aversion for Julia's son, Johnny Lennox, deadbeat dad and flamboyant, unregenerate Communist. Frances's first love is the theater, but she must support "the kids," and so she works as a journalist for a left-wing newspaper. Over the roiling years that begin with news of President Kennedy's assassination, a mutable assortment of young habituEs gather around Frances's kitchen table, and Comrade Johnny makes cameo appearances, ever espousing Marxist propaganda to the rapt young dropouts. Johnny is a brilliantly galling character, who pushes both Julia and Frances to the brink of despair (and true affection for each other). Lessing clearly relishes the recalcitrant '60s, yet she follows her characters through the women's movement of the '70s and a lengthy final digression in '90s Africa. Lessing's sage, level gaze is everywhere brought to bear, though she occasionally falls into clucking, I-told-you-so hindsight, especially on the subject of the failed Communist dream. While the last section lacks the intimate presence of long-suffering Frances, the novel is weightily molded by Lessing's rich life experience and comes to a momentous conclusion. (Feb. 10) Forecast: A must for Lessing fans, this book carries echoes of much of her previous work, both novels and memoirs. New readers may well be attracted by her brisk, discerning view of the '60s and '70s. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Lessing leaves sf behind. It is the early Sixties, and Frances Lennox happily serves big meals to her teenaged sons, their friends, and whoever else happens to wander in off the street. But her "sweetest dream" is about to go sour. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The dream of a perfect society is the ironic center of Lessing's absorbing new novel: her 24th, published in her 82nd year.
Book Magazine
“Irresistibly alluring … [THE SWEETEST DREAM is] one of Lessing’s most generous works.”
London Times Literary Supplement
“Lessing’s most engrossing novel in many years.”
The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
“[Lessing’s] acute political and artistic awareness makes her vision of our time rich and almost always freshly perceptive.”
Financial Times [London]
“[THE SWEETEST DREAM] is a beautifully made book.”
Evening Standard
“A great story with a Dickensian cast of memorable characters”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780002261616
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2001
  • Pages: 478

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.

Biography

"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



An early evening in autumn, and the street below was a scene of small yellow lights that suggested intimacy, and people already bundled up for winter. Behind her the room was filling with a chilly dark, but nothing could dismay her: she was floating, as high as a summer cloud, as happy as a child who had just learned to walk. The reason for this uncharacteristic lightness of heart was a telegram from her former husband, Johnny Lennox — Comrade Johnny — three days ago. SIGNED CONTRACT FOR FIDEL FILM ALL ARREARS AND CURRENT PAYMENT TO YOU SUNDAY. Today was Sunday. The 'all arrears' had been due, she knew, to something like the fever of elation she was feeling now: there was no question of his paying 'all' which by now must amount to so much money she no longer bothered to keep an account. But he surely must be expecting a really big sum to sound so confident. Here a little breeze — apprehension? — did reach her. Confidence was his — no, she must not say stock-in-trade, even if she had often in her life felt that, but could she remember him ever being outfaced by circumstances, even discomfited?

On a desk behind her two letters lay side by side, like a lesson in life's improbable but so frequent dramatic juxtapositions. One offered her a part in a play. Frances Lennox was a minor, steady, reliable actress, and had never been asked for anything more. This part was in a brilliant new play, a two-hander, and the male part would be taken by Tony Wilde who until now had seemed so far above her she would never have had the ambition to think of her name and his side byside on a poster. And he had asked for her to be offered the part. Two years ago they had been in the same play, she as usual in a serviceable smaller role. At the end of a short run — the play had not been a success — she had heard on the closing night as they tripped back and forth taking curtain calls, 'Well done, that was very good.' Smiles from Olympus, she had thought that, while knowing he had shown signs of being interested in her. But now she had been watching herself burst into all kinds of feverish dreams, not exactly taking herself by surprise, since she knew only too well how battened down she was, how well under control was her erotic self, but she could not prevent herself imagining her talent for fun (she supposed she still had it?) even for reckless enjoyment, being given room, while at the same time showing what she could do on the stage, if given a chance. But she would not be earning much money, in a small theatre, with a play that was a gamble. Without that telegram from Johnny she could not have afforded to say yes.

The other letter offered her a niche as Agony Aunt (name still to be chosen) on The Defender, well paid, and safe. This would be a continuation of the other strand of her professional life as a freelance journalist, which is where she earned money.

She had been writing on all kinds of subjects for years. At first she had tried her wings in local papers and broadsheets, any place that would pay her a little money. Then she found she was doing research for serious articles, and they were in the national newspapers. She had a name for solid balanced articles that often shone an unexpected and original light on a current scene.

She would do it well. What else had her experience fitted her for, if not to cast a cool eye on the problems of others? But saying yes to that work would have no pleasure in it, no feeling she would be trying new wings. Rather, she would have to steady her shoulders with the inner stiffening of resolve that is like a suppressed yawn.

How weary she was of all the problems, the bruised souls, the waifsand strays, how delightful it would be to say, 'Right, you can look after yourselves for a bit, I am going to be in the theatre every evening and most of the day too.' (Here was another little cold nudge: have you taken leave of your senses? Yes, and she was loving every minute.)

The top of a tree still in its summer leaf, but a bit ragged now, was glistening: light from two storeys up, from the old woman's rooms, had snatched it from dark into lively movement, almost green: colour was implied. Julia was in, then. Readmitting her mother-in-law — her ex-mother-in-law — to her mind brought a familiar apprehension, because of the weight of disapproval sifting down through the house to reach her, but there was something else she had only recently become aware of Julia had had to go to hospital, could have died, and Frances had to acknowledge at last how much she relied on her. Suppose there was no Julia, what would she do, what would they all do?

Meanwhile, everyone referred to her as the old woman, she too until recently. Not Andrew, though. And she had noticed that Colin had begun to call her Julia. The three rooms above hers, over where she stood now, below Julia's, were inhabited by Andrew the elder son, and Colin the younger, her and Johnny Lennox's sons.

She had three rooms, bedroom and study and another, always needed for someone staying the night, and she had heard Rose Trimble say, 'What does she need three rooms for, she's just selfish.'

No one said, Why does Julia need four rooms? The house was hers. This rackety over-full house, people coming and going, sleeping on floors, bringing friends whose names she often did not know, had at its top an alien zone, which was all order, where the...

The Sweetest Dream. Copyright © by Doris Lessing. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Chapter One



An early evening in autumn, and the street below was a scene of small yellow lights that suggested intimacy, and people already bundled up for winter. Behind her the room was filling with a chilly dark, but nothing could dismay her: she was floating, as high as a summer cloud, as happy as a child who had just learned to walk. The reason for this uncharacteristic lightness of heart was a telegram from her former husband, Johnny Lennox -- Comrade Johnny -- three days ago. SIGNED CONTRACT FOR FIDEL FILM ALL ARREARS AND CURRENT PAYMENT TO YOU SUNDAY. Today was Sunday. The 'all arrears' had been due, she knew, to something like the fever of elation she was feeling now: there was no question of his paying 'all' which by now must amount to so much money she no longer bothered to keep an account. But he surely must be expecting a really big sum to sound so confident. Here a little breeze -- apprehension? -- did reach her. Confidence was his -- no, she must not say stock-in-trade, even if she had often in her life felt that, but could she remember him ever being outfaced by circumstances, even discomfited?

On a desk behind her two letters lay side by side, like a lesson in life's improbable but so frequent dramatic juxtapositions. One offered her a part in a play. Frances Lennox was a minor, steady, reliable actress, and had never been asked for anything more. This part was in a brilliant new play, a two-hander, and the male part would be taken by Tony Wilde who until now had seemed so far above her she would never have had the ambition to think of her name and his side by side on a poster. And he had asked for her to beoffered the part. Two years ago they had been in the same play, she as usual in a serviceable smaller role. At the end of a short run -- the play had not been a success -- she had heard on the closing night as they tripped back and forth taking curtain calls, 'Well done, that was very good.' Smiles from Olympus, she had thought that, while knowing he had shown signs of being interested in her. But now she had been watching herself burst into all kinds of feverish dreams, not exactly taking herself by surprise, since she knew only too well how battened down she was, how well under control was her erotic self, but she could not prevent herself imagining her talent for fun (she supposed she still had it?) even for reckless enjoyment, being given room, while at the same time showing what she could do on the stage, if given a chance. But she would not be earning much money, in a small theatre, with a play that was a gamble. Without that telegram from Johnny she could not have afforded to say yes.

The other letter offered her a niche as Agony Aunt (name still to be chosen) on The Defender, well paid, and safe. This would be a continuation of the other strand of her professional life as a freelance journalist, which is where she earned money.

She had been writing on all kinds of subjects for years. At first she had tried her wings in local papers and broadsheets, any place that would pay her a little money. Then she found she was doing research for serious articles, and they were in the national newspapers. She had a name for solid balanced articles that often shone an unexpected and original light on a current scene.

She would do it well. What else had her experience fitted her for, if not to cast a cool eye on the problems of others? But saying yes to that work would have no pleasure in it, no feeling she would be trying new wings. Rather, she would have to steady her shoulders with the inner stiffening of resolve that is like a suppressed yawn.

How weary she was of all the problems, the bruised souls, the waifsand strays, how delightful it would be to say, 'Right, you can look after yourselves for a bit, I am going to be in the theatre every evening and most of the day too.' (Here was another little cold nudge: have you taken leave of your senses? Yes, and she was loving every minute.)

The top of a tree still in its summer leaf, but a bit ragged now, was glistening: light from two storeys up, from the old woman's rooms, had snatched it from dark into lively movement, almost green: colour was implied. Julia was in, then. Readmitting her mother-in-law -- her ex-mother-in-law -- to her mind brought a familiar apprehension, because of the weight of disapproval sifting down through the house to reach her, but there was something else she had only recently become aware of Julia had had to go to hospital, could have died, and Frances had to acknowledge at last how much she relied on her. Suppose there was no Julia, what would she do, what would they all do?

Meanwhile, everyone referred to her as the old woman, she too until recently. Not Andrew, though. And she had noticed that Colin had begun to call her Julia. The three rooms above hers, over where she stood now, below Julia's, were inhabited by Andrew the elder son, and Colin the younger, her and Johnny Lennox's sons.

She had three rooms, bedroom and study and another, always needed for someone staying the night, and she had heard Rose Trimble say, 'What does she need three rooms for, she's just selfish.'

No one said, Why does Julia need four rooms? The house was hers. This rackety over-full house, people coming and going, sleeping on floors, bringing friends whose names she often did not know, had at its top an alien zone, which was all order, where the...

The Sweetest Dream. Copyright © by Doris Lessing. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

An IntroductionThis multigenerational story of the Lennox family spans most of the twentieth century and has its fulcrum in London during the 1960s, that turbulent and contradictory decade. The youth of that time, shattering old bonds and demanding new freedoms, were viewed by many of their elders not as romantic idealists, but as deeply damaged people. Julia, the Lennox clan matriarch and a victim herself of World War II, knows why. "You can't have two dreadful wars and then say 'That's it, and now everything will go back to normal.' They're screwed up, our children, they are the children of war." The aloof, well-to-do Julia and her daughter-in-law, the beleaguered Frances, fight together on behalf of "the kids" and their omnipresent band of dysfunctional friends. Earth Mother Frances's self-sacrifice and passivity are put to the test repeatedly by her ex-husband, 'Comrade' Johnny, the maddening figure whose ceaseless political agenda threatens to tear the Lennox family apart. Here is a memorable picture of a character only recently departed from our scene. "The revolution comes before personal matters" is Johnny's dictum, as he deposits discarded wives and forsaken children in the accommodating house whose emotional center is always the extendable kitchen table, that essential prop of the '60s. The friends of the family who occupy this table spend their evenings eating, boasting about their shoplifting, and debating the violent ideologies of their time -- blithely unaware that their politics and beliefs will involve them more fully in the world. The latter portion of The Sweetest Dream recounts the experiences of Sylvia, Johnny's daughter by his secondwife, in an African village dying of AIDS. Her fortitude in confronting the quintessential plague of the 1980s brings this story full-circle and engages it in some of the most profound issues of our era. This novel reflects our recent history like a many-faceted mirror, and it is full of people not easily forgotten, each -- for worse or for better, directly or indirectly -- made by war.Discussion Questions
  • How would you characterize the relationship between Julia and Frances Lennox? Were there any elements of their living arrangements that surprised you? How did you react when Sylvia came to stay in the Lennox house? Were Julia and Frances's reactions to her arrival typical in any way?
  • When Julia discusses the children's problems with Frances, she argues: "It's a good expression, that: screwed up. I know why they are...They're all war children, that is why. Two terrible wars and this is the result." (138) To what extent do you agree with her analysis? Do you think Julia has a special bias when it comes to the effects of war?
  • What role does Comrade Johnny play in the course of the book? Did you understand his political agenda? What were your impressions of his relationships with his children, Colin and Andrew; his wives, Phyllida and Frances, and his mother? How was his personality articulated?
  • What did you think of the hodgepodge of characters assembled around the Lennox kitchen table? In what ways are their complaints typical of teenagers? Did they express any adult concerns that you found noteworthy? Discuss your thoughts on Sophie's relationships with Andrew, Roland, and Colin.
  • During her liaison with Harold Holman, Frances confronts his idealistic vision of her former husband, Johnny: "And so they lay side by side, and if he was letting go dreams, such dreams, such sweet sweet dreams, she was thinking, Obviously I'm a very selfish person, just as Johnny always said." (120) To what do you think the title, The Sweetest Dream refers? Does this scene offer any clues?
  • How would you describe the scene that takes place at the dinner celebrating the publication of Colin's book? Are the actions and reactions of Frances, Johnny, Colin, and Andrew what you expected, based on their defined roles in the family?
  • Rose Trimble, the former Lennox houseguest turned journalist, attacks Colin, Julia, and Silvia in the course of her career, accusing them of Nazi affiliations. How does this turn of events affect Julia? How does it affect Silvia? Is Rose's behavior anticipated by her treatment of the Lennox family when she lives with them?
  • What did you think of Sylvia's transformation from a fragile, needy young girl to a courageous doctor in Zimlia? Are there aspects of her work that you found especially interesting, in light of her childhood? What are they? About the Author: Doris Lessing was born in Persia (now Iran) in 1919 to British parents. In 1925, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Lessing was enrolled in a convent school and, later, an all-girls high school, from which she dropped out at age 13, ending her formal education. At the age of 19, Lessing married and later gave birth to two children. She left her family in order to pursue her own career and interests, and found herself drawn to the Left Book Club, a Communist group. Shortly after she joined the Communist Party, she married Gottfried Lessing; they married and had a son. By 1949, Lessing was living in London with her son and had published The Grass is Singing, launching her career as a professional writer. During the postwar years, Lessing became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist movement, which she left in 1954. Over the years, Lessing has attempted to accommodate what she admires in novels of the 19th century -- their "climate of ethical judgment" -- to the demands of 20th-century ideas about consciousness and time. After writing the Children of Violence series (1952-1959), Lessing broke new ground with The Golden Notebook (1962), a daring narrative experiment in which the multiple selves of a contemporary woman are rendered in profound detail. Lessing has also written several works of nonfiction, including Under My Skin: Volume One of My Autobiography, to 1949 and Walking in the Shade: 1949 to 1962.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2002

    Novel-writing in classic splendid form.

    This is novel-writing in classic, splendid form, with around-the-kitchen-table accessibility. In The Sweetest Dream the author, with 30 some books to her name, creates an irresistible force, objectively exploring the confusion of swinging London?s post WWII children as they boogie through the night in the 60s, and exhausted, drift into pot-sweetened dreams before awakening a decade later to clean up the social mess left behind. Author Doris Lessing is 82. She demonstrates how the decade was a different experience for men than for women. Lessings grasp of the issues and her political thrust proves remarkable. Frances Lennox cannot say no. An Earth Mother, she supports an extended family that includes drop-ins, and drop-outs, while her ex-husband, a leech, avoids family responsibility as he pursues an intellectual journey trying to save the world. A journalist, Frances tolerates too much. Through her and Lessing?s other well-crafted characters we see the themes that disturb the author. Action sweeps forward to Africa, and back to the life of Frances?s mother-in-law?s in the 1930s. The Sweetest Dream is opposite to the concept of The American Dream. Doris Lessing unearths the vacuity of our dreams that, sad to say, end up mocking us. David F. Eustace

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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