The Summer Before the Dark
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The Summer Before the Dark

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  1,007 ratings  ·  95 reviews
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 brilli...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published April 12th 1973 by Alfred a Knopf (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.

Dec 30, 2007 Libbie rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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?'"
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
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
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...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
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
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...more
Fenixbird SandS
Aug 19, 2008 Fenixbird SandS rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
my first Doris Lessing read. interesting self awareness adventure. she examines our standards for normal in her own unique way.
"She was letting words and phrases as worn as nursery rhymes slide around her tongue: for towards the crucial experiences custom allots certain attitudes, and they are pretty stereotyped... The stereotypes for the public events were more honest than the private ones."
"She had felt as if for all these years of marriage this man had been keeping in reserve some potential that could never find growing room inside the family."
"The young people of the uneducated world, the hungry world, did not have...more
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.
Sharon T
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
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...
Jaclyn Michelle

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...more
What can I say. Some writers tell, others show; Lessing reinvents you.
A real tour-de-force that release all the pain of someone who has forgotten who they are because they have had to change, unconsciously, to suit others. Tops to Doris Lessing, creation of a struggle in which the protagonist continually questions herself and her life. At first the story is smooth and floats from job to family, work to Italy. A relationship and an extended stay leaves Kate Brown wondering and dreaming of seals. In this dream she must find water, but all around her is ice and darkn...more
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...more
Kate Brown is doing a lot of thinking. She is 45 and her family no longer need her. It's summer and the adult children are off having their own adventures, and her husband is working elsewhere.

Kate is offered a job which she reluctantly takes.

She takes a lover..

She gets very sick and leaves her lover..

She returns to London and rents a room in a hippy flat...

and she thinks...

Her journey of self- awareness continues throughout the book.

This was a wonderful read for me as Kate was going places...more
Kate Brown, who lives in the London suburbs, is happily married and the mother of four children. But she has reached a point in her life when she feels extraneous. Invisible,even. As her husband gets ready to leave for a conference in the States, she ponders what her summer will be like. And then an opportunity presents itself that will allow Kate to spread her wings a bit and explore another world. As she leaves for the position as an interpreter, she has no idea what will be unleashed over the...more
Jun 14, 2012 Maria rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like to be led into a story
Recommended to Maria by: Heard about her; Nobel Prize recipient
Shelves: fiction
At first this book grabbed me; it wasn't the events or the characters that were interesting, but the rhythm and the tone. It was a hard rush at first, but then I found myself continuously diving into the book like diving into a cool pool; it woke me up, inspired me to pay attention.

Lessing included little side stories that possibly were included to support the development of the main character, but that would be too cliche. There must have been a reason for those stories to exist within their o...more
this is the 2nd story from lessing for moi. her other story...forget the name...just came to me...The Fifth Child...i marked that as a favorite of mine. it is. it is a good story. i hope this is a good story, too. i'm already prejudiced in favor of it. imagine that.


at home

a woman stood on her back step, arms folded, waiting.

thinking? she would not have said so. she was trying to catch hold of something, or to lay it bare so that she could look and define; for some time now she had been "t
The Golden Notebook was the first Doris Lessing book I read. It is genius. I loved it for the extended dialogues among the thoughtful intelligent characters. I loved the meticulous documentation of the artist's struggle to create. I loved her portrait of a fascinating historical period, the communist community in Britain after World War 2, but before the Cold War really broke out. Lessing created a world. This is the divine nature of writing novels.

I expected something equal to The Golden Notebo...more
"Em O Verão Antes das Trevas, Doris Lessing atinge um dos momentos mais altos da sua carreira, quer pelo rigoroso contorno das figuras, quer pelo desdobramento da intriga, quer pela caracterização das personagens. O Verão Antes das Trevas impõe à nossa admiração uma figura literária de primeira grandeza e traz ao nosso convívio uma escritora de grande plano (Wook)"

Kate Brown é a personagem principal. A história inicia-se no principio do Verão e termina no fim do mesmo e a mudança que ocorre nest...more
I found this book on Ben's grandparents' shelves and, because I liked the Golden Notebook so much, decided to give it a read. It's certainly not a book for everyone, but for me it was exactly the kind of novel I was in the mood for.

There's something about novels written from a feminist perspective in the '60s and '70s are one of my favorite kind of books. And this book, about Mrs. Kate Brown, touches on a number of the themes of second-wave feminism.

Kate is a mother of four approaching middle-...more
Fenixbird SandS
Mar 29, 2009 Fenixbird SandS rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Fenixbird by: NY Times Nobel Prize Review
loved this book. Found used hardcover! 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 Not...more
I decided to give up on this one. It is just too cerebral for me--literally and figuratively. The "action" in the book all takes place in the heroine's head as the woman thinks about her current situation in life and what to make of it. I just don't relate well enough to the character for it to draw me along. If I finished it, it would just be because I should have read something by such a lauded author. I've got too many books on my "to read" list to finish something just because I ought to, no...more
I have mixed feelings about Doris Lessing. When she's on target, she is fantastic. "Memoirs of a Survivor" remains a favorite. This one, though, I dunno. It was engaging enough, a carefully drawn portrait of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with herself & her role as wife and mother. The writing is wonderfully terse, creating striking imagery without wasting words. But the book felt a bit quaint, primarily because, since its publication in the early 70s, we've come a long way, baby, regar...more
Brandon O'Neill
My book club hated this one, but I did not. She took me into the mind of a 45 year old British woman in the early 1970's who was dealing with her children all being away from home and a husband who travels a lot and screws around on her anyways. I will never be in this situation, but the fact that she made me see how it could be is why I found this so effective. Some complained that there was no joy or sense of humor in this book, but she is going through a CRISIS. Those usually aren't the funn...more
Hmm. I both really liked and hated this book. It definitely makes the reader uncomfortable as Kate agonizes over whether her life has been wasted as a wife and mother as she transitions in to "old age." (She's only 45, but this was written in the 70s...nowadays 45 is the new 35.) The characters are caricatures but Lessing manages to make them compelling. The plot twists somewhat unexpectedly, but then stalls for the last one hundred pages or so as the development of the relationship of Maureen a...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?” 2 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.” 2 likes
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