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Martha Quest: A Novel (Perennial Classics) Paperback – January 23, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A formidable talent." -- -- C. P. Snow

"For sheer poise I don't think there has been a writer to touch her since Jane Austin." -- -- John Wain, Observer

"Stubborn, resilient, wry towards herself, Martha is Doris Lessing's most satisfying and complex characterization. She is a child of her times, of violence, who 'could no more dissociate herself from the violence done by her than a tadpole can live out of water." -- Times (London)

"There are many notable descriptions of adolescent boys and young men in our fiction. There are very few, in the same deep and radical sense, of young women. Mrs. Lessing's study of Martha Quest is one of them." -- New York Times Book Review

"A formidable talent." -- C. P. Snow

"For sheer poise I don't think there has been a writer to touch her since Jane Austin." -- John Wain, Observer

"I read the Children of Violence novels and began to understand how a person could write about the problems of the world in a compelling and beautiful way. And it seemed to me that was the most important thing I could ever do." -- Barbara Kingsolver --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. She wrote more than thirty books—among them the novels Martha Quest, The Golden Notebook, and The Fifth Child. She died in 2013.

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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (January 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006095969X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060959692
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By frumiousb VINE VOICE on June 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We meet Martha Quest as a resentful 15 year old girl, growing up on a farm in Africa. As noted adequately here, this is the first book in her Children of Violence series-- held by many to be Lessings most important body of work (with the exception of _The Golden Notebook_).
I'm one of these Lessing fans from back in the day when _The Golden Notebook_ changed my life, and I haven't read much of her other work. I was impressed by Martha Quest-- it falls in the category of our classic coming-of-age novels, and as such stands well on its own as a novel. Lessing's Martha is at times so frustrating you want to shake her, but I think that's typical for the age of the character portrayed. Martha is all sharp edges-- she can't seem to fit with her parents, the men around her, the people with whom she tries to interact. With the blindness of her age, she's able to acutely feel how hard she has it, without really feeling the struggle of others around her who may have an even more difficult time. By turns infuriating and attractive, it can be painful to read Quest's story precisely because so it's so human as to be disturbingly familiar.
A should-read book.
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i can't quite fathom why this series is not more widely discussed and celebrated, can only be enormously grateful to the bookstore clerk who was so enamored of it she approached me on some instinct as i browsed the woolf section and said, "you have to read lessing's 'children of violence' series"..i read through all five novels and was struck by lessing's extraordinary insight into the mind (and heart) of young women: with martha quest, the literary characterization of the young woman emerged from half-told shadows in full astounding complexity. this alone makes the series significant. add to that lessing's brilliant writing about organizational politics and psychology, landscape, history, etc etc, and this series is truly a masterpiece. read it, pass it on to friends, read it again.
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Doris Lessing remains one of my favorite writers. I first fell in love with her work when I read The Golden Notebook in college, as you do. I'm still slowly working my way through her complete novels.

I really enjoyed Martha Quest, the first book in the Children of Violence. But I was deeply moved by A Proper Marriage. Take the bright young things of a Fitzgerald novel, give them sweat, hangovers and physicality and put them in a troubled country on the eve of a World War. If you can imagine that, then you have a little bit of an idea about A Proper Marriage.

There's something so smart and complicated about the way that Lessing develops Martha in this book. Her disaffection with the excesses of the left lead her into a middle class life, even as her sympathies lie elsewhere. Relationships, war, child-bearing and the colour bar are all woven together into a book that somehow manages to bear the weight of the themes while still givng the reader a very human tale.

Lessing is a simply amazing writer. She works with complex ideas and communicates them without simplifying. Her writing is always lovely and human. A Proper Marriage is one of the best examples of her work. I think that it adds richness if you begin with Martha Quest, but the book can stand on its own right.

Recommended both for fans of Lessing's work and people new to her work.
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The greatest purchase I ever made in my life was when I picked up a copy of 'African Stories' for $1.75 at a used bookstore in Hollywood. The 30 short stories in that book represented some of the most ecstatic writing I had read since Nabokov and Stendhal. To this day it remains my favorite book. The first two parts of 'Children of Violence'--'Martha Quest' and 'A Proper Marriage'--are like an expansion of some of those stories and a comprehensive analysis of everything that can possibly happen within and without the psyche of a young girl becoming a woman in Southern Africa. I'm not exaggerating when I say that almost every page of these two books is a revelation. They're works of genius pure and simple. In fact, no psychologist could've dug this far. Read them or suffer a permanent lack.
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In Doris Lessing's second "Children of Violence" series *A Proper Marriage*, we discover that Martha, in marrying Douglas, becomes even more torn in her quest to attain full stature as a woman. Martha, in this story, not only has to reconcile her self to the causes she believes in, to her marriage with Douglas Knowell, and to motherhood, but also to the townspeople with whom she becomes entwined. Another delight of this novel for me is the way Lessing has Martha look at both individual and group dynamics throughout the story, providing seductively keen insight. Lessing's writing promises tension, suspense, and wonder for the engaged reader. *A Proper Marriage* sequels *Martha Quest* in which many of the delights in the first of the series continue on to the second, including the beautiful way Lessing mirrors Martha's interior life with the exotic and varied African natural and elemental landscape. I would recommed reading *Martha Quest* first in order to more fully appreciate *A Proper Marriage.*
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