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Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
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The Grandmothers: Four Short Novels Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 6, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Intrusion: A Novel
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest by the prolific Lessing is a collection of four novellas that vary considerably in quality, with the best of them, "Victoria and the Staveneys" and "A Love Child," showing her at the top of her very impressive form. They are both at once intimately detailed yet infinitely expansive in their suggestions of a lost world only recoverable by a profoundly observant writer. In "Victoria" a young London black woman of charm and great fortitude survives and transcends the hardest of all assimilations: acceptance by a free-thinking, liberal white family. The shades of racial and social subtext here are evoked with a sure hand that even a Zadie Smith could envy. "A Love Child" powerfully evokes a strange aspect of a familiar time: a terrible ocean voyage, during WWII, by a hapless British regiment sent to the Far East to help protect India against Japanese invasion. James Reid, a young conscript, puts ashore in South Africa in the course of this nightmare voyage and embarks on a liaison that transforms the rest of his life. The detail and almost hallucinatory power with which an era and an ethos are recaptured are Lessing at her best, comparable to Ian McEwan's amazing war scenes in Atonement. The other stories are on a much lower level. The title story is about an odd relationship between two older women and each other's young sons; it is an original idea, but curiously lame in the telling. And "The Reason for It" is one of those peculiar tales in the SF/fantasy genre that Lessing does well enough, but that never seem to be quite her m‚tier. Still, the two prize pieces here are well worth the price.
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From The New Yorker

The subtitle of this collection of stories—"Four Short Novels"—announces their ambition: each unfolds over decades, tracking with dispassionate precision how youthful notions come to define, and even defeat, a life. Two women seal their friendship by seducing each other's teen-age son; an aged counsellor recounts the decay of a mysterious ancient civilization ruled by a handsome but foolish despot; an impoverished black girl bears the child of a middle-class white boy, and is welcomed by his self-consciously liberal family. Lessing's scathing intelligence ranges widely, but her tales tend to wobble under the weight of her ideas. She is at her best in the final story, which extends from England to the outposts of empire in South Africa and India during the Second World War. A British soldier has a brief affair with an officer's wife, and in later years becomes obsessed with the idea that he might have fathered a son, a possibility that appears to him as the key to the life he should have led.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060530103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060530105
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Doris Lessing's compilation of four novellas (called "short novels" in the title) shows Lessing at both her best and worst. Only the last, "Love Child" comes close to showing her sheer power as a writer, and this novella is so artfully written, even as it meanders through a man's life, that it's well worth enduring the others to get to it.
The most annoying of these novellas are "The Grandmothers" and "The Reason For It," the latter because of its allegorical didacticism. In a collection otherwise about impossible love, "The Reason For It" stands out as not belonging, for it concerns the lessons of unearned (and unreasonable) power. "The Grandmothers" fails for a different reason: it is simply too neat, too devoid of true emotion, too hard to accept as something more than an exercise in fiction. Two women, largely indistinguishable except by name, have two sons, also indistinguishable. Each woman, for no believable reason, takes the son of the other as a lover. The two sons grow up, marry indistinguishable women and have between them two indistinguishable daughters. The women are repeatedly described as "pretty" with "brown legs" and their sons are "handsome" and "desirable." At times well-written and other times bland, this novella ends up being only mildly interesting. Especially after recently reading Paul Theroux's THE STRANGER AT THE PALAZZO D'ORO, I wonder why such skilled but aging writers are exploring older women being lovers of younger men when they can't write convincingly about it. At least the novella following "The Grandmothers", "Victoria and the Staveneys," an exploration of love and race, manages to find the emotion in an unusual situation.
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By A Customer on March 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I almost rated this book "5 stars" in spite of the fact that the first novella ("The Grandmothers") is almost unreadable, because "A Love Child" is one of the most moving and beautifully-written things I have ever read. I almost missed it because after I read "The Grandmothers" I nearly put the book away in disappointment.
Buy the book, read "Victoria and the Staveleys" and treat yourself to "A Love Child".
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Format: Hardcover
THE GRANDMOTHERS By Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing is eight-four years old and for more than fifty years has distinguished herself as one of the most intelligent, provocative, influential and courageous writers in English. Her body of work includes novels, novellas, short stories, essays, political treatises, plays, operas, poetry, memoirs and an autobiography. The breadth of her work stretches from life on the veld in South Africa to life on other planets. Her themes center on the relationships between women and men; the painful side of interactions between children and parents; how individuals perceive themselves in society and how they believe society perceives them; how personalities are shaped or shape themselves as a result of the circumstances and experiences of the individual lives they represent; and the way political actions affect the populace and the role the individual needs to employ as a result of the political system under which they live. She believes that most psyches employ extraordinary feats of emotional, social and cultural compartmentalization in order for life to move on.

Lessing has been lauded as a staunch supporter and defender of feminism (she denies categorically this interpretation of her work). She writes about communism; her commitment to it and her later rejection of the entire movement. With no fear of exploration and an insatiable thirst for knowledge, she adopted the Sufi way of life. This "conversion" came after she reviewed a book about it, which inspired her to read everything about this mystical yet pragmatic belief system. To find a coherent path that rejects propaganda, prejudice and ideology was a gift for Lessing. The tenets of the Sufi way of life reinforced her already cemented ways of thinking.
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Format: Paperback
I was rapt by two of the stories in this book, disappointed by one of them (it started out great and then fizzled), and could not even penetrate through the 5th page of the fourth. Some might question making a recommendation on that record, but I'm so very satisfied with the two I loved that it seems like time well spent. Lessing talks about class, which Americans somehow think is off the table for discussion, or foolishly think is irrelevant. Though her subjects here are British, they are nearly or in fact contemporary, and Lessing boldly discusses the truths and nuances and dirty secrets of class in the context of interesting, entirely believable characters. Another point I'd like to make about Lessing's writing is that she is a master of pace. And this collection is a great example. She slows time down to a fountain drip in order to present completely satisfying cross sections. And then she zooms through decades with an incisive sentence or two. Finally, I'll just say the one story of the four that I couldn't climb into was science fiction, and I'm missing that gene, so it's no surprise, and I just moved on.
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