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The Summer Before the Dark Mass Market Paperback – March 12, 1983

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A splendid and serious novel that reminds one once again of just how much the fictive imagination can order and enrich experience." --National Observer"Lessing's prose has the nervous intensity and quick, impressionistic lightness of some of D. H. Lawrence's later work. We are caught up in a rush of strong feeling." --Walter Clemons, Newsweek"[A] masterpiece...probably the best book she has written." --The Economist

From the Inside Flap

As the summer begins, Kate Brown -- attractive, intelligent, forty five, happily enough married, with a house in the London suburbs and three grown children -- has no reason to expect anything will change. But when the summer ends, the woman she was -- living behind a protective camouflage of feminine charm and caring -- no longer exists. This novel. Doris Lessing's brilliant excursion into the terrifying stretch of time between youth and old age, is her journey: from London to Turkey to Spain, from husband to lover to madness: on the road to a frightening new independence and a confrontation with self that lets her, finally, come truly of age.

"A splendid and serious novel that reminds one once again of just how much the fictive imagination can order and enrich experience." ? National Observer

"Lessing's prose has the nervous intensity and quick, impressionistic lightness of some of D. H. Lawrence's later work. We are caught up in a rush of strong feeling."? Walter Clemons, Newsweek

"(A) masterpiece...probably the best book she has written." ? ?
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (March 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394710959
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394710952
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,988,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was going to attempt "The Golden Notebook" as an introduction to Doris Lessing but lost my nerve when I saw how voluminous it was. The Contemporary Reading List recommended "The Summer Before The Dark" as an alternative and I wasn't disappointed. The novel starts off promisingly with a vividly drawn portrait of a 45 year-old middle class Englishwoman (Kate Brown) at the crossroads of her life. Realising that she has devoted most of her adult life to her husband (Michael) and children without a thought for herself, she sets out tentatively on a journey of self discovery when decides she doesn't like whom she sees in the mirror. She throws herself into a temporary job translating for a global food conference, which leads to an affair with a younger man (Jeffery) and culminates in a startling confrontation with herself when she gets to know a young girl (Maureen) whom she shares temporary accomodation with while her family is away. Maureen may not know what she wants to be (she has proposals from suitors of all persuasion) but what she does know is that she doesn't want to end up like Kate and her own mother. While her good friend, the selfish and amoral Mary, isn't a role model, she has always retained that sense of self that has gone missing from Kate's life. A large part of Lessing's prose consists of internal monologue, words and responses from Kate's mind and soul, all tremulously spoken. The recurring dream sequence with the "seal" is deeply poignant and symbolic of Kate's search for her own identity. The novel is a wonderful example of feminist literature exploring issues that will have eternal relevance for women all over the world. Lessing's beautifully written prose often leaves me breathless. Read it !
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
"You are young, and then you are middle-aged, but it is hard to tell the moment of passage from one state to the next. Then you are old, but you hardly know when it happened." Thus Lessing opens her novel, announcing that her character, Kate Brown will be the exception. Lessing has created a character who bridges the midlife transition in a single summer, from typical upper-middle-class British housewifery to corporate executive to older-woman-younger-man romance to denouncing the hair color that masks her age. By the end of Kate's summer, she is not entirely certain who she is, but quite clear who she is not. Lessing is recognized as one of the important writers in the English language, and the body of literature on midlife women is enriched by her genius and wisdom.
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By A Customer on April 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Kate, a middleclass London housewife on the cusp of midlife, becomes ungrounded and goes in search of her life's purpose. The strange things she encounters while traveling through Europe -- a bizzare tryst with a much younger man, an impoverished villa in nowhere Spain -- an then back again to London suck you with such subtleness, you won't know you've been charmed. Lessing expertly threads Kate's journey with a recurring dream and gives the characters that aid Kate's discovery a surreal edge that's surprisingly convincing. You won't stop reading, and what this book says about the point of a woman's life will blow you away.
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Format: Paperback
I hate to give a less than glowing review of any of Lessing's work, but this book is not one of her best. At best she can be transformative to read, I'm thinking of The Four-Gated City, The Sweetest Dream, The Golden Notebook, The Good Terrorist, Love Again. She has written some stellar books. Here, she is full of brilliant ideas, but they aren't fully integrated into the novel, so it is a little clunky to read, story hung with politically astute insights. Also, it's a little bit dated, such as, the protagonist is 45, which was considered quite a bit older in the 60s and 70s than we consider it now that the "Baby Boomers" are well over 45. There is a recurring dream in the book that could have been edited completely out, or at least made not as intrusive. It didn't add enough to justify how much of it there was.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As I post this review, I have read three of Lessing's novels from three different time periods in her career. This is one of her later works and it contains the strong feminine perspectives, dialogues, analysis, and commentary that is associated with Lessing. One could say that these are the trademark writing styles of Lessing. It is an interesting novel about a married woman who is having a mid-life crisis.

Doris Lessing (1919 - ) is the 2007 Nobel Prize winner in literature. She has a score of novels and many other works. Her complex novel The Golden Notebook (1957), her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950), and The Summer Before The Dark (1973) are considered to be her representative works. I read those three.

Having read The Grass is Singing (1950), her very first novel, I found that the present novel is far more complex, but not as complex as The Golden Notebook. The Golden Notebook is a story within a story and it is 600 pages long. The present novel is more conventional and shorter, just 240 pages. Also, the Golden Notebook has a score of characters while the present book has one strong protagonist.

Without giving away the plot, Lessing describes the personality of the female protagonist - a middle aged married woman - who is living in Britain and is still relatively young at 45 but has found herself left with an inattentive husband and grown up children.

How does she deal with that situation and what is the outcome? That is what the novel is about. The "Dark" in Summer Before the Dark, refers to the period of turmoil (physical and mental) that she undergoes. It is about her new career and her new friends, both male and female. Lessing gives mostly female dialogue and perspectives.
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