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The Grass Is Singing: A Novel Paperback – September 16, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0061673740 ISBN-10: 0061673749

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061673749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061673740
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Original and striking...full of those terrifying touches of truth, seldom mentioned but instantly recognised.' New Statesman 'Doris Lessing responds more passionately than most writers to people or situations: often she responds with hate or rancour, but always with passion. In "The Grass is Singing", you can feel the dynamo-like throb of a formidable talent; by its side, most novels of 1950 look like crochet-work.' The Times '"The Grass is Singing" focuses on the blighted life of a woman whose spirit is destroyed by a disastrous marriage and by an environment to which she couldn't respond. More than any other white African writer of her generation, Doris Lessing is aware of the seductive cruelty of colonialism, and is one of our strongest, fiercest voices against injustice, racism and sexual hypocrisy.' Independent on Sunday --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

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.

Lessing was born of British parents in Persia on October 22, 1919, and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in 1949, where she published her first book, The Grass Is Singing, and began her career as a professional writer. In 1962, she broke new ground with her novel The Golden Notebook. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Fifth Child, and her last work Alfred and Emily; stories, reportage, poems, and plays; and several nonfiction works, including books about cats, and two volumes of autobiography, Walking in the Shade and Under My Skin. She died on November 17, 2013. Her portrait hangs in London's National Portrait Gallery.

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Customer Reviews

It has a great writing style and has such unique characters.
This is a book that unravels in your hand and is a literary masterpiece for a first novel.
If you are looking for a story with a happy ending, this is not the book for you.
Pauli Pedersen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on January 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
Doris Lessing's "The Grass is Singing" opens with the death of Mary Turner. How could Mary's life have ended with such a tragic fate? As the reader progresses through the novel, he discovers Mary's insufferable existence, her life destroyed by a disastrous marriage to a farmer, Dick Turner. Mary is forced to live in a rural environment in South Africa for which she is ill-suited. Furthermore, Mary's relationship with her husband rapidly deteriorates as she realises that Dick is unable to manage the farm successfully and they are constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. A truly superb novel, tragic and moving to the very last line. Mrs Lessing's wonderfully captures Africa's majestic beauty, the difficult relationship between the whites and the Natives. The psychological portrait of her heroine is exceptionally intense.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By OppEd on April 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
So I hear Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize in literature, and of course, lemming that I am, I have to read something by her. Did her award affect my reading of this book? Probably. Nonetheless, I found myself literally holding my breath in parts. This certainly wasn't because of the plot--there's not a lot of plot, here, but there really doesn't need to be. The Grass is Singing is a novel about relationships, psychology, and the way the environment permeates them. Our heroine is so human that I hated her and loved her at the same time. The nuances between her and her husband comprised the best literary depiction of marriage that I can remember reading. Ever. I hate to gripe on other people's reviews, but one describe the novel as dull, and although I suspect this attributable the lack of plot, it is not dull. It's nuanced, complex, and eerie. Not dull.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ann Strickland-Clark on January 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Though she is a renowned author, Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, generally thought to be her best work, I found garbled and depressing.
'The Grass is Singing' was written when she was much younger and more stable, but it is still depressing, dealing as it does with the appalling treatment of the blacks by the whites in Africa. The prejudice and cruelty Lessing evokes ring true,as does the characterization of Mary. Personally, I found it impossible to empathise or even sympathise with her, and wasn't exactly upset at her fate. It is Moses one feels sorry for.
Lessing is able to be at once detached and involved in the lives of her protaganists and is only judgemental by implication. The collapse of Dick and Mary's relationship is well delineated and inexorable. Her descriptive powers are impressive - Africa comes through very strongly and one can almost smell the dust and the rain and the blossom. A good read.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Heather Gauthier on January 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
Because of several particular details early on, it was during her "happy years" that I began wondering if the subject of sexual abuse would enter the picture. The first detail was her aversion to intimacies, whether in friendship or love. Her happiness was brought about by everything being in order and in its place. No messes at work, no messes in relationships. Lessing describes her ability to remain detached from deep human contact as "aloofness", but when it came down to physical contact, it was utter "repulsion". Lessing also makes several vague statements about her relationship with her father, such as the fact that after her mother died, he finally left her alone. Also, there is a statement on page 39 that I thought might have been referring to her parents, but it seems intentionally vague.
"She felt sentimental at weddings, but she had a profound distaste for sex; there had been little privacy in her home and there were things she did not care to remember; she had taken good care to forget them years ago."

Mary is also unable to take on the physical appearance of a woman, although she doesn't realize it. In some ways, she is completely detached from her womanhood, almost refusing to acknowledge it (such as her 30th birthday). She feels herself successful because she feels she now fits comfortably and happily into popular society. When she hears her friends speaking badly of her, her "success" is absolutely smashed to pieces right in front of her and she discovers that she is profoundly different than the people around her. Even though she was happy, other saw something terribly wrong with her.

Once she marries, her irrational feelings begin to bloom (as if they've been triggered). Many of her reactions don't fit the crimes.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on November 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
When a colonial woman with a not unconventional upbringing who is not the luckiest person, decides to go for broke and marries as she is getting on, what could happen?
The anatomy of the master servant bond is one of the main themes of this book. Before welfare systems, all cultures had master servant relationships as the rich employed servants. The master servant relationship was stark in colonial Africa. The masters had to know the natives so that they could get work out of them and a certain amount of loyalty but the masters in Africa also had to keep the natives down, almost like animals, so that they could remain the masters and the servants could remain servants.
The natives of course as servants, could also benefit as underdogs as all servants do, being loyal, friendly and pleasing but not above their masters. Mary in the book, starts with preconceptions about her relationship to the Africans, and as things get from bad to worse, she if faced with a mistress servant relationship going horribly wrong.
Her husband is a fool, tied to the land and unable to organise his ambitions or get anything out of his farm. She knows better, but luck is never on their side. One actually has a respect for Mary and her penetrative intelligence, but the book describes how this very human intelligence with its stiff attitudes (she marries when she understands people are sniggering about her behind her back, in any case, women at the time did not have much choice in this), breaks down, collapses utterly.
Harrowing, hot hot weather with the dry beauty of Africa described by a veteran. This is a book that unravels in your hand and is a literary masterpiece for a first novel.
Lessing describes herself as a colonist and is known to be unconventional and vaguely feminist. She displays a keen erudition of the issues, language and sights of her once native Africa - and brings it home.
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