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

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  559 ratings  ·  37 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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Coquille Fleur
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
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
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
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
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
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
This book I have read only once, about 30 years ago, but I recall being absorbed in it, without loving every page.
David Johnson
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.
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.
Jennifer Rolfe
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.
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
Folks interested in the formation of 60s liberation themes Cld find no better guide guide than Doris Lessing. This magnificent five volume series traces the path from WWII to the collapse of progressive optimism in the 70's. Lessing changed many young readers lives, including this one.
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.
Anna Sophia
Amazing, I don't know if there are words to describe this book, its almost like a roller coaster through one human beings mind in a lifetime of self discovery the book covers so much historically its just fascinating and wonderful.
I read FGC many years ago in a marathon attachment to the Martha Quest series, Dune after a break-up, and the memoirs of Anais Nin. This alongside Goddard, Fellini, and Bergman meant that I was happier than a pig in mud.
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.
I think I need to re-read this.
I don't think I have ever succeeded in reading all of one of Lessing's books, although I have tried a few times. This one was a book club choice. Wonder what it would be like to return to one today.
Cary Dane
i wish this series would have ended at the fourth book and skipped the third. but whatever, even with the drop off of those two this series is still amazing (definitely) and important (probably).
Denise M.
Children of Violence Series - #5
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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 (Children of Violence, #1)
  • A Proper Marriage (Children of Violence, #2)
  • A Ripple from the Storm (Children of Violence, #3)
  • Landlocked (Children of Violence, #4)
The Golden Notebook The Fifth Child The Grass is Singing The Good Terrorist Martha Quest (Children of Violence, #1)

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