The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing : A Book Review

Since Goodreads, the world’s largest book club site , honed my appetite for reading books, particularly gave me the ideas of  what books I should read, I have been  updated with the  famous  and acclaimed literary writers , not only with the classic but also with the contemporary writers-I have the  list of 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well as  the magazine, TIME’s 100 Best Novels since 1925, and now I want to include the Most Banned Books- I tend to be getting more familiar with the authors ‘ names ;and at the same time, I search for them in the Wikipedia. I can know them more when I read  and hear them in the news. One of the writers known to me now is Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing is considered as one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of the second half of the twentieth century. She is mostly known for her novel The Golden Notebook– the novel , not to mention her other books, that has  been  elusive at my stomping ground. If I lucked out to spot it there, I would definitely, without balking, make a grab for it and fork off at any cost. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to have found it.

dorrisThis is the collection of  Lessing’s  four novellas:

The Grandmothers ( Rating: 3/ 5 stars )

 “ Lunacy is one of the great invisible wheels that keep  worlds turning .”

-Dorris Lessing, The Grandmothers-

This is the story of two mothers, Rozeanne and Liliane, bestfriends since high school, become neighbors upon their marriage. Their  friendship will remain solid despite their family lives  crumble: Rozeana will divorce her husband whereas Liliane’s husband dies of a car accident. But the real center of the story that  readers will definitely find repulsive on account of conventional belief in our  society   is that Rozeana is  infatuated with Liliane’s son, and so is Liliane with Rozeana’s son.

If I were  such a deep-seated moralist, I would give it 1 star  out of 5 stars to express how disgusted I could be. To demonstrate my dismay more, I would  scream bloody murder by setting this book  on fire or  by singling it out on social media that Doris Lessing is such an immoral writer.   How dare  Doris Lessing write such a story educating  people that irrational infatuation with someone whose age gap is beyond your sexual needs? Ridiculously reactionary   I could be. But in the name of literary value, Lessing intends to write out such situation  which could really exist beyond our customs. In fact, the lesson behind the story is that life could be complicated when your moral choice is out of the sanity.

Victoria and The Staveneys ( Rating:  4 / 5 stars )

 “I If I say I am going to eat you all up, you must not take it as more than  a legitimate expression of my sincere devotion.”

-Doris Lessing, Victoria and The Staveneys-

A big challenge for a writer  is how to make  a very simple  concept of the story he/she has thought explode into  a pyrotechnic  novel- a novel that is so impressive that the author is almost put on a pedestal.  So writers could have their own alternative styles; it could be chronological, in a way that the  story  goes from the beginning to the ending; manipulating, in a way that the plots are jumbled until  you get lost the track; symbolic , in a way that the novel appears to be enigmatic, deciphering that you  are at your wits ’end, and many, many more. The examples of the novels – as far as I observe from the books I have  already – which styles are chronological are the classics  such as Charles Dickens’ and Leo Tolstoy’s’,  manipulating; Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin ( 4 stars ), symbolic; Martin Amis’s The Information ( 5 stars ). In other case, there are some writers whom I find genius, for not that  can they  write with the styles above, but  with the way that appears simple, but others are not very much used to , they put into their thoughts a story, as though writing is a piece of pie for them. So far , I have known one  good example of those writers, Toni Morrison. And  Doris Lessing has proven me that she could  be as good as Toni Morrison upon reading this novel. I was dumbfounded.

The concept of the story is  very common among us readers.  A black and orphaned woman gives birth to two children with different men. Her first child  is of a rich white man while the other one of a black man. In the end, she will find her first child slowly  absorbed in the world of white privilege until she becomes estranged from her.  As you know , a common situation on TV dramas, such situation exists in reality, but this novella impressed me , for the writing finesse of Doris Lessing  made it fantastic. She divided the story into different time and place with beautiful plots  and settings- a style I  bet my boots  only she has. Furthermore, she wrote it with beautiful sentences- sentences which are so light and meditating to read.

The Reason For It (  Rating 4/ 5 stars )

“ Tell it. Call The Cities together and tell it . Then it will be in all their minds and cannot disappear.”

Doris Lessing, The Reason For It

Among  four, this is quite deeper and more enigmatic and  philosophical which  requires higher level of critical thinking and a little background in history   to connect with what Doris Lessing is trying to drive at.

Simply  put, the story is about a member of Twelve, tells  of   the history of his civilization and of how  his said civilization is slowly disintegrated after choosing the  son of Queen Destra, DeRod as her successor and who turns out to  lead the barbarous  life . After much reflection, the narrator comes to the conclusion that DeRod should not much be  attached to the blame, for he is an idiot . Thus,  he , DeRod, does not know  what he is doing.

In the context of  literary analysis, the theme is probably about Barbarism and Civility: People tend to be simpletons  when they lead the life of barbarity, but when they embrace the life of Civilization, life becomes rational as the title puts it, “ The Reason For It”

Once again, I read  in awe, not even able to put my jaws back , of the writing styles as Doris Lessing  did in Victoria and The Staveneys.  Dear me! I could have even almost tossed it in the air.

A Love Child ( Rating : 3/ 5 stars )

“ I’m not living my own life. It’s not my real life. I shouldn’t be living the way I do.”

Doris Lessing, A Love Child

James, a young British soldier,  gets drafted and dispatched to South Africa and India during World War II. There in South Africa, he has a love affair with  a British woman, Daphene, She gets pregnant , but James never knows  it until he receives a  letter in reply to his first letter to Daphene expressing  how he  misses her. After twenty years, he flies to South Africa to look for his son; however, he ends up merely with   his picture he will keep, but remain incomplete and stagnant.

Comparatively, this is the heftiest among four. I could feel  not only the abject misery of the soldiers  but also the burden the protagonist keeps to himself. Perhaps, Lessing’s beautiful craft of writing conveyed her target feelings in the sentences. I have nothing to say more.

Indeed, Doris Lessing is one of the most celebrated writers in this century. There is something in her books, in her writing styles of which  only she  bears all the  hallmarks, at which some readers might not get, so they would  end up finding  this boring. I may  have  compared her with  Toni Morison, but Doris Lessing is Doris Lessing whereas Toni Morison is Toni Morison. I wonder if I can still find this so-called “only-the-writing-style-she-has “  in her The Golden Notebook.

Upon reading it, I have  shattered all my  illusions that , “ Writing  at any cost is not impossible. “ Eureka! ^^

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