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The Summer Before the Dark

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  1,501 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
A middle-aged woman's search for freedom, this is classic Lessing, here given a stunning new image. Her four children have flown, her husband is otherwise occupied, and after twenty years of being a good wife and mother, Kate Brown is free for a summer of adventure. She plunges into an affair with a younger man, travelling abroad with him, and on her return to England, mee ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published June 17th 2002 by Paladin (first published 1973)
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Before it all slips away from my feeble psychological grasp, before the after-effects start wearing off, let me write it all out. About the summer before the dark.

The first thing that struck me while reading was this - Fuck purple prose. Or red or maroon or magenta prose for that matter. (And I say this in full acknowledgement of the fact that my prose is often closer to purple than any other color.) Screw post-modernism and its deliberate way of being obtuse, obscure, snarky. Screw all that.

Aug 08, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who don't mind the journey through self
Shelves: fiction, fav-authors
The summer before the dark left me wondering what happened the summer after the dark. This seems more like a summer of awakening for Kate, a summer of light and experience, even when she is at her lowest moments.

This is unlike Lessing's other novels I've read and I wonder if this could be a good place to start, if you haven't read a Lessing novel, or if it doesn't fully encapsulate her uniqueness as a writer. I'm not sure. On my book jacket, The Economist lists this as a "masterpiece." I can't
Arka kapağı okuyunca klasik "kocasını terk ederek mutluluğu genç aşığında bulan ve bunun için cezalandırılan kadın" hikayesi okuyacaksınız sanıyorsunuz ama Lessing bu, o kadar basit olur mu? Bir kadının kendini istemeye istemeye zincirlerinden koparma çabasını izliyoruz, kitabı bana göre etkileyici ve gerçekçi yapan da bu. Normalde bu tarz filmler, kitaplar okurken hep şu olur: Kahramanımız çok isteklidir, çok azimlidir, dış engeller bir şekilde alt edilir ve mutlu son. Aslında insanın içindeki ...more
Dec 30, 2007 Libbie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone who often dreams of seals (?)
After drudging through page after page of Mrs. Michael Brown's good hair and bad hair, I ask myself the very same words so often uttered by the beautiful, pot-smoking, dancing waif Maureen: "'what's the point?'"
Jan 02, 2008 Kate rated it liked it
This book is perhaps too character-driven. (Stop dreaming and go get your hair done, you pathetic old bat!) And yet, I was struck by how much I could relate to Kate Brown--the capable wife/mother who reluctantly embarks on the standard issue midlife crisis, and returns to her London suburb only after an exhausting series of salty pan-Euro adventures. Doris Lessing showers her reader with all imaginable foils of Kate Brown--all, that is, except the one I wanted most to meet: the Kate who had lear ...more
May 16, 2012 Callie rated it it was amazing
I deeply admire Doris Lessing. I love that she gives weight to women's lives, thoughts, emotions, opinions, experience. Her novels are treasures in my view.
I have to quote some of what she says about motherhood.

"With three small children, and then four, she had had to fight for qualities that were not even in her vocabulary. Patience. Self discipline, Self control. Self abnegation. Chastity. Adaptability to others--that above all. This always. These virtues, necessary for bringing up a family o
Sofía (Софья)
Дорис Лессинг написала глубокую книгу о смысле жизни. Ага, именно об этом - о том, чего нет :). Так или иначе, в один прекрасный день 45-летняя англичанка из небедной семьи задумалась о смысле своей жизни: дети выросли и заняты своими интересами, муж в постоянных разъездах и с разными любовницами, она домохозяйка. И так ей стало тошно оттого, что она никому из своих близких не нужна, что она решила поискать других, кому бы она могла пригодиться :). Я иронизирую, но иначе я не могу относиться к К ...more
Fenixbird SandS
Jan 23, 2008 Fenixbird SandS rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Great "self talk" Vivid settings
Recommended to Fenixbird by: NY Times Book Review
This is wonderful...She (Kate Brown) is 1/4 Portugese married to a lovely Englishman for many years & now at age 45 finds herself suddenly called into active duty as a bona fide Portugese translator...and into a new lifestyle....At Chapter 2 she is embarking on travel to Istanbul, Turkey....I am already amazed at the clever opportunities that this author uses!

On the cover of my 1968 printed paperback I found and bought from Bookmans, also The Golden Notebook is also being promoted! I fear th
Mar 27, 2011 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
What can I say. Some writers tell, others show; Lessing reinvents you.
Дорис Лесинг върна разклатената ми в романа вяра. Силно, прецизно слово, изчистено от излишното и оголено до същината на онова, което наричам истински добра литература.
"Лятото преди мрака" печели на два фронта. На първо място е фактът, че по много мъжки начин се влиза в женския свят. А това заслужава адмирации, защото поне на прима виста се намираме в ситуация на матриархат - разполагаме с автор - дама и главна героиня, събрала в себе си почти всички основни характеристики на нежния пол. В случа
Nov 30, 2015 Kaylie rated it really liked it
For a long time, feminism was considered radical. In fact, many people still think it is. (There, I said it). The term’s connotation has been warped due to media, politicians, the patriarchy, societal expectations, the list goes on. Consequently, it’s no wonder that some believe feminism equates to hating men. While some individual feminists may in fact hate men, there is a difference between being a feminist and a misandrist. By definition, a feminist is a person who believes all people, regard ...more
Stephen Durrant
Nov 29, 2008 Stephen Durrant rated it liked it
This is my first foray into Doris Lessing, 2007 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (and it confirmed my suspicion that Margaret Atwood is the one who should have won the award). Well, one is supposed to rate a book according to one's own idiosyncratic taste, especially on a semi-private forum like this. Hence, three stars. I do, however, admire the genius of this book, as well as Lessing's strong feminist message ("feminist" does seem something of an oversimplification for the complexity o ...more
Jul 23, 2016 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Summer Before The Dark is a great critique of femininity, marriage and the family as an institution - and a celebration of ideas of freedom, the self and how to live a previously unlived life. The heroine is forty-five.

Most books both by and about women are coming-of-age tales with ingenue protagonists. Even supposedly feminist novels tend to reinforce the idea that a woman’s life hinges on her youth and desirability. This book is a coming-of-age tale in its own right, except that it’s an ag
Timing is all, and it seems like on first reading I completely missed the richness of the insights recorded in this short book. Skimming through it as a young adult, I could not imagine myself bogged down by such a miasma of self-deception as the narrator slogged her way through in search of her own authentic self.

I certainly was never going to allow myself to be blinkered!

Suffice to say, now that I am the age of the protagonist,I marvel at her courage and i found myself completely engaged by he
Jaclyn Michelle
Mar 16, 2014 Jaclyn Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

GENERAL SPOILER ALERT: If you’ve never read The Summer Before the Dark, and would like to discover it with no previous knowledge of the plot, I suggest you stop here. Since it was published in 1973, and because Lessing is a NOBEL PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR, I’m writing with the assumption that I’m the one late to the party (which is usually the case) and many of you lovers of literary fiction have probably either read it already or are super familiar with the pl
Apr 30, 2017 Hoora.Rostami rated it it was ok
به نظر من که کتابی کسل کننده بود که کشش لازم را نداشت. و از وسطای داستان خواندنش را نیمه تمام گذاشتم
This feels a lot like a long form version of what is arguably Lessing's best short story, "To Room Nineteen". Make no mistake, the short story is better. The degeneration of Susan Rawlings is a lot more rapid and powerful than Kate Brown's brief break from reality. The rage is a lot more subdued in The Summer Before the Dark and Lessing is her most poignant and piercing when she's angry. And "To Room Nineteen" has one of the darkest, most bitter endings I've ever read, whereas The Summer Before ...more
Mar 12, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing
Kate Brown is a 45-year-old London housewife and mother of four young adults who finds herself at a loose end. Neither her husband nor her children--all of whom are immersed in their own interests and do not spare her much thought at all--need her. She takes a job with an international civil service organization called Global Foods, the primary purpose of which is to host lavish conferences for well-heeled, jet-setting civil servants who are about as connected to the native workers they represen ...more
ممدوح رزق
ربة المنزل التي تسعى لإنقاذ أحلامها من الضياع والموت بعد أن تحولت إلى مجرد زوجة وأم .. المرأة التي عاشت تجارب مختلفة في كثير من القصص القصيرة والأفلام السينمائية والروايات لعل أجمل هذه التجارب بالنسبة لي حينما كانت هذه المرأة هي ( دورا ) في القصة الرائعة للكاتبة الإيطالية ( أنجلا ديانا دي فرنشيسكا ) : ( لا تجعليهم يجدونك ) ، وأيضا حينما كانت ( فرنشيسكا ) التي جسدتها بعبقرية ( ميريل ستريب ) بصحبة أحد أحب أيقوناتي السينمائية ( كلينت استوود ) في فيلمهما الساحر : ( جسور مقاطعة ماديسون ) وكذلك ( كيت ...more
Sharon T
Feb 17, 2014 Sharon T rated it liked it
While the theme certainly resonated with me, and I found myself littering the book with scraps to mark ideas and observations that connected to my life personally, or were interesting in a feminist-time-capsule kind of way, or that represent some fundamental truth about women's existence in general today, I nonetheless found the book somewhat of a tedious chore. Too much "tell", not enough "show". That said, the novel provides ample food for thought about one's role (in a family, in society), wh ...more
Picked this up because i saw Lessing's name in a list of british sci-fi writers who are under-read in the US. Didn't realize that i was getting a book from before she veered into the genre (didn't realize that there had been a veer). So far, enjoying its subjectivity -- it is less surreal and mysterious than On a Dark Night I Left My Silent House, but i feel like they are closely related.

Living in the head of a woman of another time (mid 20th Century) is alien enough that it might as well be sci
Mar 10, 2008 Liza rated it liked it
After an aborted attempt at the Golden Notebook in my 20s I've kept away from Doris Lessing. When she was awarded the nobel prize I thought I should try her again, and this was all the local bookshop had from her 'oeuvre'. There are some devastatingly accurate chapters on becoming a middle-aged woman, but it lacked structure and meandered (boringly) in the second half.
Jan 08, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing
wowsers... thought provoking indeed this book has so much going on via the narrative that a second read is mandatory.
lessing takes onthe biggest subjects nonchallantly and then hits you straight on with truthfulness that is breathtaking in its simplicity...
Nov 30, 2007 Ed rated it it was ok
Too much thinkin', not enough actin'.
Apr 02, 2009 Zia rated it it was ok
I know its great, but I just didn't get it.
Jun 05, 2012 Erin rated it did not like it
I really did not understand the main character and the 'journey' she was making in this novel. Her choices did not make sense to me.
Nov 02, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got bored and quit after reading the first 100 pages
Mar 19, 2014 Tkash rated it really liked it
my first Doris Lessing read. interesting self awareness adventure. she examines our standards for normal in her own unique way.
Feb 20, 2017 Kirsten rated it liked it
Challenging read, a little depressing at times - Kate's head is so messy, and some of the things she deals with as a middle class woman who has just finished raising kids aren't pleasant. But it's a good read because Kate provides such a great insight on her changing identity.

[Entering the workforce after being a stay at home mum] Was it that for 25 years she had been part of that knot of tension, the family, and had forgotten that ordinary life, life for everyone not in the family, was
Leslie Graff
Jul 03, 2016 Leslie Graff rated it liked it
It’s the story of an upper-middle class 45-year-old woman who has her first summer to herself as her husband goes to America to do medical work while her college-aged and young adult children travel. She first takes a job as a translator which takes her to Turkey as part of an international conference – a somewhat glamorous existence that causes her to buy new clothes and be part of a circle she’s not been in before as the stolid center of her family. But… when the conference ends she goes to Sp ...more
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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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“So very Russian," people around were murmuring. That they did meant this was an audience pretty low down on the scale of sophistication, otherwise they would be saying, "Just like us, isn't it?” 5 likes
“For many thousands of years people had looked at expensive heads of hair and thought of how much food and warmth they represented, so obviously it was a thought of no use at all, so why bother to have it? But thoughts of this sort did go ticking on, useless or not.” 4 likes
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