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The Four-Gated City (Children of Violence #5)

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  647 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Dorris Lessing's classic series of autobiographical novels is the fictional counterpart to Under My Skin. In these five novels, first published in the 1950's and 60s, Doris Lessing transformed her fascinating life into fiction, creating her most complex and compelling character, Martha Quest.
ebook, 672 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1969)
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So ends Lessing's Bildungsroman par excellance. This near-700 page breeze block of a book takes Martha from her early 30s to old age, and is set in post-war London. Lessing compelled my attention before even beginning, with a dervish teaching story and a quote from The Edge of the Sea Each of the Parts the book is divided into has one or several such juicy snippets from diverse sources, making me feel that Martha herself, in her habit of reading into a topic to educate herself, is also Doris (al ...more
I originally picked up this series because I had it in my mind somehow that these books were post-apocalyptic or dystopic, and please don't ask me where I got that. But as I read these books I realized that, whoops, that's not right, not right at all. There was a period of adjustment and once I got over the fact that I was completely wrong about that, I just enjoyed the books for what they were.

This fifth book is completely unlike the four that came before it. This isn't to say that this final b
Nov 22, 2008 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are several different schools of thought when it comes to writing about sex. At one end of the spectrum, there's Mamma Mia: Dot, Dot, Dot. Well, at least that satisfactorily ducks the issue altogether. And at the other end, if we insist on staying Swedish, there's IKEA assembly instructions: insert rod A into hole B, making sure that X stays in contact with Y as you do so. This also has its merits, though once again you feel something's missing. In between, there are various types of poeti ...more
May 20, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Four-Gated City closes Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series. It is a marvelous finale to Martha Quest's story. Born after World War I to settlers in South Africa, Martha is the daughter of a veteran who had fought for the British (and never got over it) and a woman whose great love died for the same cause. The child of settlers who are never quite at home in their world and who have settled for less than happiness, Martha spends her life actively addressing the questions of who exactl ...more
Marika Oksa
Jul 07, 2016 Marika Oksa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel
Viimeiset 150 sivua "luin" silmäilemällä - Marthan tarinan päätös on nyt taputeltu minun osaltani. Puuh, olipas kirja ja sarja. Tämän päätösosan aikana ei ilmeisesti olisi pitänyt antaa itselle lupaa lukea välillä kevyempiä kirjoja. Niiden jälkeen oli aina vain vaikeampaa palata Marthan sielun syvyyksiin.
Three whole novels of non-story later (I assume they are non-story considering the nature of several flashback/updates present in this installment), we find Martha Quest newly arrived in London in the 50's as England slowly rebuilds.

700 more pages of non-story and we arrive at the end of the Children of Violence series and in a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are scattered around the globe in huddling terrified poisoned tribes of mutant scavengers and some have adapted by evolution into
Jenn McCollum
Finally, I have read my first Doris Lessing novel. I admit, it may not have been the best one to wet my feet.

The Four-Gated City is the final book of a five-book series called the "Children of Violence." I didn't read the first four but only the last. I felt as if I was doing what I told myself I would never do anymore when I was fifteen: like I was reading the last pages of the novel before beginning it.

Lessing is touted as a major British writer for a reason. I see that clearly. Her explorat
Dec 14, 2013 Janice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-read
Why did it take so long for Doris Lessing to get the Nobel Prize?

I kept asking myself that as I continued through the 710 pages that make up the concluding Volume 5 of the "Children of Violence" series: The Four-Gated City. Although the publisher claims that the five books can be read as stand-alone novels—and it is true that they can—the observant, thoughtful reader will find a greater reward in absorbing them in sequence. Together they make up (as the author wrote in her end-note) a Bildungsro
Mar 18, 2012 A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So finally I finished the Children of Violence series. I should be honest and admit that I was a bit disappointed that it came with no mounting crescendo. In Lessing's defense, this does not come without purpose, as one of her intents throughout the series seem to have been writing a story that would reflect the searching and unfinished quality of real life. None of the previous books are plot driven, nor does Martha ever reach some final, definite understanding of herself and the world around h ...more
There are some vivid and thought provoking parts to this book but after an engaging opening there ceases to be any real storyline to get hold of. Most of the book is centred around Martha and her stay with the a contemporary writer and the relationships between him, his family, friends and Martha. Unforunately save for some occassionally stimulating passages and streams of consciousness this is the least interesting part of the book and is rather dull.

There are a number of different themes thro
Mar 04, 2017 Colin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ambitious, far-reaching, prophetic and terrifying; but also bloated, rambling and ultimately disappointing.

The four-gated city flirts with several themes but never really decides on one. The main characters are difficult to find any sympathy with: they're supported by myriad crudely sketched extras who come in and out inconsequentially, so that you neither notice nor care that they've been missing for a few hundred pages. Most die - I'm not too concerned.

A lot of the interesting ideas are contai
Sep 21, 2016 brook rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a doubling of the first book in the Children of Violence series. What was enjoyable and engaging over 300-some pages in book 1 became downright tedious through 670. As others have said, Lessing may have realized "this is it!" and just crammed the rest of her life/fictitious-similar-life into the final book. Without making conscious effort, my brain was editing out several pages at a time, sometimes even whole story arcs that would have removed about 15-20 pages of text, to create a more ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Cathal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the last in a sequence of five novels (which can all be read and enjoyed independently of one another), Lessing charts the life of heroine Martha Quest from her arrival in post-WW2 London onwards as she becomes housekeeper, nanny and secretary to an upper class family dealing with their own crises as she tries to find a place for herself in a world careering towards a violent clash. Beginning in the fifties, it recreates the Cold War period, and various political and social movemen ...more
May 13, 2013 Gustavo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ill write a little bit about the other books from the series:

Part 1 - Martha Quest. I read this one way way back in 2008. It tells the story of a young female, Martha, living in a colonized African state in the 30's. It doesn't say much about Africans, very few mentions about them, but mainly about the life in the white part of the country. I have enjoyed it. It's a beautiful book.

Part 2 - A Proper Marriage. At the time I wrote: "Even better than the first one of the "Children of Violence" serie
James F
The final and longest book of the Children of Violence series, twice the length of any of the others and with a very different outlook and "feel", and to some extent a different style of writing. Martha moves to England, and becomes involved with the Colridge family. The novel covers the late fifties (the Witch hunt, less extreme than in the U.S. but still terrible) and the sixties; it's helpful, but not really essential, to have some knowledge of British history/politics in that era. The politi ...more
Sep 28, 2007 Annette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a book that it took me years to read. i was continually reading other books while reading it. one the whole, it is not an extremely interesting book, although it does have a somewhat more interesting content than the previous four books in the series, entitled Children of Violence. The strange thing about it was that when i finally finished it (because i am a tenacious reader, i will finish a book eventually), i read the epilogue. the epilogue seemed completely out of the blue and i felt ...more
Oct 12, 2007 Dave-O rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Doris Lessing has remarkable insight into group dynamics and individual traumas in the aftermath of war. Her observations consistently left me in awe of her eloquence. I was thinking "oh, of course..." in passage after passage which make the most complex ideas seem so obvious.

The story spans decades chronicling Martha Quest's struggle to find her role as an ex-Communist, woman, daughter, lover, survivor, and (as she later discovers) as an empath. Not having read any of the other "Children of Vi
Apr 24, 2016 Riley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved Doris Lessing's sensibilities and her focus on some of the great issues of the 20th century ... feminism, leftish politics and anti-colonialism. That said, this book was just OK. It was way too long, and some of it comes across as too dated. For instance, much of her exploration of psychoanalysis and Freudianism just doesn't resonate, at least to me.

Here's one passage that I underlined, which shows that as much as things change, they often stay the same. It could be written as
Candy Wood
Apparently I read this novel, first published 1969, a long time ago--my $1.95 paperback has a few passages marked--but it didn't leave an impression. It has now. It begins as a continuation of the story of Martha Quest in a 1950s London where people and places are constant reminders of World War II. Weeks and even years pass between chapters, and once Martha has settled north of the river in Bloomsbury, in a fictional Radlett Street, the physical London setting is less important than the connect ...more
Coquille Fleur
Sep 24, 2009 Coquille Fleur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Lessing's better books! Beginning in bleak post-WWII London, where Martha lands after finally leaving Africa and ending in a post-apocalyptic pile of letters passed on clandestinely, this book is one hell of a ride. The inner landscape is explored fully and with a personal nature unlike a lot of other Lesssing novels. It's the story of a family, a culture, and a world expressed intelligently and prophetically. From Cold War paranoia to cult paranoia, the pulse of the world is transmitted ...more
May 02, 2010 Dirk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m a big Doris Lessing fan. Most of all The Golden Notebook, but also come to mind The Good Terrorist, Love Again, and Mara and Dan. I find her Canopus series unreadable. I love, her exquisite accounts of the moment-by-moment play of feelings between people, her willingness to write about things people don’t want to write about like her own madness, mothers who don’t like their children, and the oppression of political movements. I sometimes fined that she makes points (or writes similar scenes ...more
Wow, there's a lot going on in this book! It's like reading several books at once. There's post-war Britain, cold war and communism, madness and apocalyptic ponderings.
At the end I was left feeling mostly confused, like I must have missed the part where the author explained the whole thing. After reading the first four books very quickly, this was not the conclusion I was expecting.
I wouldn't say that I'm dissappointed with the book either, it had many interesting ideas and thoughts plus a rath
David Johnson
Jul 01, 2008 David Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the Lessing book I keep going back to; over the 40 year period since I first read it, I have gone back to it maybe 5 times, and each time its somewhat different from my memory of it. Its plodding heavy and somewhat burdensome to read, but its reality accumulates as its read, and its always at some point part of my perceived reality. I love what Lessing has provided me with---a rigor that I would not otherwise have.
Aug 09, 2013 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is superb. The series is incredible. All five novels about Martha are worth a read. If you read other Lessing, you also recognize other themes...even later novels: Mara and Dann, Griot the Snow Dog, The Fifth Child, and Ben In the Real World. Doris Lessing is a goddamn master of a writer.
Sep 10, 2015 ZaRi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So a war begins. Into a peace-time life, comes an announcement, a threat. A bomb drops somewhere, potential traitors are whisked off quietly to prison. And for some time, days, months, a year perhaps, life has a peace-time quality, into which war-like events intrude. But when a war has been going on for a long time, life is all war, every event has the quality of war, nothing of peace remains.
Genevieve Dingle
I first read this book 20 years ago and was I think far more impressed the first time. It seems heavy and unnecessarily detailed. The best parts are the dynamics among the residents of Mark's house, and the descriptions of psychoanalysis and medical treatment for mental illness in the early 1950s
Oct 29, 2015 Aurélie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-english
My favourite reading of the year! So true, so powerful and it still applies to today's society. It made me think a lot about how society has driven each and every character crazy. I didn't read the previous books but I thoroughly recommend this last one of the saga!
Jennifer Rolfe
Feb 09, 2013 Jennifer Rolfe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me to post-war England with its detailed descriptions of life there just after the war. The characters were so alive and Martha's state of mind so clearly written. The cover of the book shows a patchwork design and I thought how appropriate that was for this book. A story quilt.
Feb 25, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started reading this before I realized it was the last book in a series. I couldn't get really into it or interested in the main character. So I've put it on pause until I can read the others in the series. Which may be never.
Very dense novel and not my favorite of the series. The story strays too far away from Martha Quest. The novel's value is in revealing Lessing's perception of history and world events and her predictions for the future, which are our present-day.
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Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Oliv ...more
More about Doris Lessing...

Other Books in the Series

Children of Violence (5 books)
  • Martha Quest
  • A Proper Marriage
  • A Ripple from the Storm
  • Landlocked

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