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The Fifth Child

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  6,553 ratings  ·  719 reviews
Doris Lessing's contemporary gothic horror story--centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human--probes society's unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. While around them crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts ar...more
160 pages
Published (first published 1988)
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Mariel
Apr 07, 2013 Mariel rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody knows
Recommended to Mariel by: everybody understands

She felt rejected by him. They had always loved to lie here feeling a new life, greeting it. She had waited four times for the first little flutters, easily mistaken but then certain; the sensation that was as if a fish mouthed out a bubble; the small responses to her movements, her touch, and even- she was convinced- her thoughts.


But what about me? I've been shot. Go on without me, save yourselves. Ooh aah it hurts, like a spoon or a papercut that irritates your mind into the beyond. Listen,...more
Stela
Apr 03, 2014 Stela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Carmen Irimia
It was this summer that a friend of mine, who’s an English teacher, asked me how I would teach “The Fifth Child”. Since I didn’t know about the book or have it, she sent me a PDF copy and here I am, after an unsettling but fascinating reading, asking myself the same question: what key of lecture could I offer? Because it is, undoubtedly, worth reading. A little masterpiece about the fragility of happiness and the illusion of the security provided by family, as the author herself said in an inter...more
Huda Yahya
الشعور القوي الذي غمرني هو
التعجب من نيل دوريس ليسينج نوبل

فالرواية أقل من عادية
ولم أشعر معها بأي ابداع تقريبا

ليست سيئة نعم
وربما للمؤلفة كتب أهم
ولكنني لست متحفزة للقراءة مججدا لها على الإطلاق


سيطر علي شعور ربما يبدو فكاهيا
شعرتُ بأنني طوال القراءة أجلس أمام شاشة تلفاز
وأشاهد فيلما تليفزيونيا مملا قليلا وقديم
وفيه الترجمة تظهر بالبنط العريض جدا كما هو حال الترجمات منذ عقد من الزمان

باختصار لا أرشحها لأحد
Doralyn
This novel was disturbing on so many levels. It was supposed to have started out with this great couple who had all these wonderful family ideals, until the fifth child came along who was really tough to take (and basically a commentary on society's reaction to such a different child). However, I never saw the couple as having a great marriage. The only testament to any sort of greatness I guess would be their coupled desire to have a lot of children. Simply because their house was constantly fi...more
Thomson Kneeland
This was my introduction to the writing of Doris Lessing; I had high hopes for the book but was sorely disappointed. The writing was pretty unengaging for me, though not poor. The plot was ridiculous in content, though perhaps acceptable as a sort of "unmagical realism"; completely unrealistic and unbelievable, along with two dimensional characters suitable for allegory only. Perhaps the book stands as an indictment of conservative 1950's family values, white picket fences, women staying home to...more
Daisy
Jun 20, 2011 Daisy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: well, I know who I wouldn't recommend it to
Shelves: england, house, autism
"It's crazy," said Dorothy. She was flushed with the hot tea and with all the things she was forcing herself not to say. p. 34

This is fascinating.
Yes this is about a bad seed, the last child in an otherwise happy family. But it also has a lot to do with perception and judgement, how the parents, Harriet and David, see themselves and how others see them and how they think others see them. And how they see others, particularly their fifth child. Who is criticized and how and why? What expectations...more
Donna
Apr 30, 2010 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: book groups
Wow!

This is the first Doris Lessing book I've read and she's a great writer. This is a true "horror" story...not in the classic sense, but in the real sense of a horrible situation that people must confront. It leaves the reader with the thought "what would you do if you found yourself in this situation?". Therefore it is a highly discussable book.

Interesting characters, interesting plot, great writing. What more can a reader ask?

Reread in April 2010 for Maze book discussion. Still thought it w...more
rachel  misfiticus
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ensiform
A middle-class English couple buck the disapproval of both their families and plan to have “at least six” children, buying a huge house and becoming the focus of all holiday gatherings. The fifth child, however, Ben, after a difficult pregnancy, turns out to be some sort of evil throwback, horrifying and sending away the extended family.

This slim novel appears to be making a comment on social selfishness, as well as being a parable for our violent modern times – “the barbarous eighties,” as the...more
Ryl
I read "The Fifth Child" last night. That was so, sooooo disturbing. I'm exhausted today because I got my hands on it at 7:30pm and then I was up til 2 finishing it, but I knew I'd never be able to sleep unless I just finished it. Then I couldn't stop thinking about it, and dreamed about it!

If you haven't read it but have any inclination at all to read it, stop here and don't read the rest of my review. Then read it, and then come back here so we can discuss!!! I'm dying to talk to someone abou...more
Julie
Jun 24, 2007 Julie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: barren men
I believe the only reason Tom feels so strongly in favor of this book is due to the fact he is unable to give birth. As a female, it's terrifying!
Deborah Markus
I reread this the day Doris Lessing died. It's very short, and every sentence packs a heady concentration of power.

This is the novel that introduced me to Lessing. I was lucky enough to be working in a bookstore when it was released; I read a review and immediately used my employee's discount to buy a copy. I think I read it all in one sitting that day, too.

The premise is simple: A man and a woman fall in love because each sees in the other a rejection of the shallow, worldly, sex-is-entertainm...more
Fenixbird SandS
Oct 14, 2007 Fenixbird SandS marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fenixbird by: NY TIMES
By recent Nobel literature prizewinner Doris Lessing...about Ms. Lessing, "Ms. Lessing, who turns 88 this month [09/08?], never finished high school and largely educated herself through voracious reading. She has written dozens of books of fiction, as well as plays, nonfiction and two volumes of autobiography. She is the 11th woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.....[further quoting NY Times reporters Motoko Rich & Sarah Lyall] "Ms. Lessing’s strongest legacy may be that she inspired a...more
Didi
This book freaked me out. I've never read a Doris Lessing book before and I'm almost sure that this one is out of the ordinary compared to what she usually writes. It's short but packed with lots of ideas concerning family, mother-children relationships, husband -wife relationships, societal expectations, etc. All done with a touch of gothic horror to slide it right down. Well worth the read. Now I'm intrigued to read other titles from Lessing. Although I'm afraid tackling would be a better choi...more
Stephen
This book will speak to all who have looked at certain misfits or delinquents and wondered if there might really be genetic throwbacks among us, modern-day Neanderthals so to speak. A very conventional English couple of the 1960's marries, moves into a large suburban house and proceeds to fulfill their happy ambition of producing one child after another. All goes swimmingly, or almost so, until the birth of the fifth child, who is quite literally a little monster. Their happiness shattered, the...more
The Wee Hen
Much like Lionel Shriver's "We Need To Talk About Kevin" this book is an excellent method of birth control. This old hen has never hatched a chick and after reading these two books I would, frankly, be terrified to even try.
Harriet and David are a rather stolid, prudish, old-before-their-time couple who insist on spewing child after child into the world despite the fact that they are financially unable to care for all of them. They wind up depending on David's father's money and Harriet's mother...more
Valerie
What an extraordinary book. First it starts quite ironically by this couple who believes that they can be happy and have this big family, in a giant house, having to work so much to make the dream live. Then Harriet has 5 children in 6 years, and this fifth one will be different, but no one agrees to name the difference, Ben is like the "call of the wild", he is like Nature dangerous, strong, he does not care of what is going on he's in his own world, he's nor good nor bad, he's a force of survi...more
Katharine
This was a fine book. I'd been reading so much about Doris Lessing, went to the library and of the 5 or 6 books there, chose this one.
Not going to mention plot, that is everywhere, but the writing style was great. Lessing wrote non-stop, with no chapters or white space so I read it that way and finished it in one morning.
Enjoyed her writing, enjoyed my wondering what was going to happen and why. Enjoyed the many comments here by others who read it.

Going to read more Lessing -- like her intellige...more
Anasylvia
“I hated writing it,'' said Doris Lessing. ''It was sweating blood. I was very glad when it was done. It was an upsetting thing to write - obviously, it goes very deep into me somewhere.'' -Doris Lessing

Meet Ben.
description

“He was a squat, burly little figure, with a big head, the yellow stubble of his course hair growing from the double crown of his head into the point low on his heavy narrow forehead. He had a flattish flaring nose that turned up. His moth was fleshy and curly. His eyes were like lumps...more
Ahmed
هذا هو أول عمل أقرأه لدوريس ليسنج:
عمل اجتماعى رفيع يحكى ببساطه عن طفل (طفرة) فى وسط أسرته .
يصور لنا العمل مدى المعاناة التى تعانيها جميع الأطراف من (الأب والأم ) وباقى أفراد الأسرة.
رغم أن العمل عن المجتمع الإنجليزى إلا أنه يجوز عليه قياس باقى مجتمعات العالم.
عمق نفسى واضح ودراية بمفاهييم التربيه المختلفه مع واقعيه فى تناول العمل
فى المجمل عمل جيد .
Lavinia
The book was compared to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which really gets on my nerves. Why on earth do we have to do that? Publicity? I do that sometimes myself (i.e. comparing books), but on a personal note. I’m not a publisher / critic and my opinions don’t go on book blurbs or magazines. I wish publishers found an interesting / original / catchy thing to say about the book itself in order to sell it rather than just compare it to a classic or whatever best-seller is handy.

Back to the book. Tho...more
Arash Radmanesh
لسینگ از نویسندگان معدودی است که در طول دوران نویسندگی اش هرگز به یک سبک و اسلوب خاص بسنده نکرده و همواره درصدد آزمودن ژانرهای گوناگون یوده است؛ و جالب اینکه او تقریبن در همه ی این آزمون ها موفق بوده و در هریک از ژانرهای مختلفی که کار کرده،آثار مهم و قابل توجهی برجای گذاشته است.
این کتاب، "فرزند پنجم" به نوعی اولین تجربه ی مهم لسینگ در ژانر وحشت است. رمان مزبور داستان زن و شوهری را روایت می کند که پس از آشنایی و ازدواج،تصمیم می گیرند خوشبختی را به معنای عام آن در زندگی خود به منسه ظهور برسانند.خ...more
Josh
Jun 23, 2008 Josh rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket
I picked up this book completely randomly at the epicly awesome Green Apple Books in San Francisco. Anytime I do that, and think that maybe I'm finding some lost literary gem that I can then pass off to my friends and enemies alike, I am inevitably disappointed, or at least underwhelmed.
This was a short read (about 130 pgs), and I read it all in one travel day. So that was good. It has no chapter or even page breaks, so it all lends itself to that. Reviews on the book jacket call it a horror bo...more
Beverly
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Lipko
What a book! What a story! What a writer!

David and Harriett are unique individuals and different from their work group and their peers.

In their minds, finding each other equated to a perfect match.

Living a life of upper middle class in the countryside of England, they purchase a huge house, unaffordable even by their standards.

I couldn't relate to David and Harriett and the author did a great job at portraying them as selfish and self absorbed individuals who, together as a team, double the narc...more
Emma
When I first read this I didn't really understand what made it so brilliant. It was only later, when I thought back to how I felt reading the book that I realised what an amazing piece it is. While I was reading about the early years, before Ben's birth, i shared the joy of the family with their large group of friends and children all playing together in some kind of idyllic lifestyle. With the arrival of Ben, the fifth child, that all changes. Even the pregnancy was different, the morning sickn...more
NG
أكثر كلمة تكررت باستمرار على طول الرواية هي "الإدانة".. يليها "الاتهام" والذنب"...
كان هذا غريباً بالنظر إلى مسار الأحداث الذي يبدو قدرياً، غير متوقعاً.. فالزوجان المحبان، اللذان انجبا طفلًا خامساً دمر أسرتهما وطموحهما، لم يكن أحداً قادراً على تخيل هذا المصير، وحتماً لم يكن هذا بأمر يمكن لأي من أبطال الرواية التحكم فيه..
لكن فكرة الإدانة فرضت نفسها بقوة منذ بداية الرواية على البطلين، منذ قررا أن يعيشا حياتهما بالشكل الذي اختاراه لأنفسهما، وهو شكل الأسرة الكبيرة والأطفال الكثيرة، وهو شكل غير معتاد...more
Jennifer
Overview
The Fifth Child is the story of David and Harriet Lovatt -- a young couple who meet, realize they have common values and goals, marry and decide to start a family -- a family with lots of children. They purchase a giant house they can barely afford and begin having children -- one right after another. Their life is full and busy and full of happiness -- their extended family regularly stays for long visits at Christmas and Easter. David and Harriet are living their dream, until Harriet g...more
Adam
This is the first bizarre, disturbing, and haunting book in a bizarre, disturbing, and haunting series by Doris Lessing, all of which chronicle the life and times of "Ben", the fifth child in a family utterly unlike him. Truthfully, he's utterly unlike anyone else at all, as Ben seems to almost be a bestial throwback to some sort of pre-fully-human ancestor, a person who doesn't quite fit that descriptive very well in the eyes of this world.
This book describes the relationships and interactions...more
RoOhi
خیلی خوب بود به نظرم فقط آخرش یه جورایی ناتموم موند که خب احتمالن تو ادامه‌‌ش (بن در جهان) ملوم بشه
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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
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“While she strode rapidly through the ward to the door at the other end, she was able to see that every bed or cot held an infant or a small child in whom the human template had been wrenched out of pattern, sometimes horribly, sometimes slightly. A baby like a comma, great lolling head on a stalk of a body... then something like a stick insect, enormous bulging eyes among stiff fragilities that were limbs... a small girl all blurred, her flesh guttering and melting - a doll with chalky swollen limbs, its eyes wide and blank, like blue ponds, and its mouth open, showing a swollen little tongue. A lanky boy was skewed, one half of his body sliding from the other. A child seemed at first glance normal, but then Harriet saw there was no back to its head; it was all face, which seemed to scream at her.” 3 likes
“We are being punished, that’s all.” “What for?” he demanded, already on guard because there was a tone in her voice he hated. “For presuming. For thinking we could be happy. Happy because we decided we would be.” 1 likes
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