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Alfred & Emily

3.18  ·  Rating Details ·  842 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
The first book after Doris' Nobel Prize takes her back to her childhood in Southern Africa and the lives, both fictional and factual, that her parents lead. 'I think my father's rage at the trenches took me over, when I was very young, and has never left me. Do children feel their parents' emotions? Yes, we do, and it is a legacy I could have done without. What is the use ...more
Hardcover, 274 pages
Published August 5th 2008 by Harper (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lara
Aug 24, 2008 Lara rated it liked it
What a strange read!

I must admit that I was a little intimidated to read it. Let's face it: the whole Author Was A 2007 Nobel Laureate thing is a bit overwhelming for a girl whose last couple reads were a YA novel and a poorly written mystery. For the first half, at least, though, the book is downright delightful. I loved it - I was ready to go out and read everything Doris Lessing has ever written. Then, abruptly, the beautiful fiction ends and some seemingly random nonfiction begins. The book
...more
Lizzie
Oct 31, 2012 Lizzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've put off reviewing this one a bit, because I'm not entirely sure what to say. This book was really, really important to me — but this book is wacko, and probably you should read everybody else's reviews of it instead.

It makes very little sense, I will say that much. Objectively, it's a weird read and really fragmented and even inside each of the fragments there is tons of narrative hopping around like it's normal. Doris Lessing won a Nobel Prize ("Oh, Christ"), wrote this book not long after
...more
Zanna
Jan 21, 2014 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, africa, inter-war
It's all about Emily though. Emily is the mystery Lessing wrestles with, turns over and over like a seashell, without finally solving.

The first half, the imagined biography of her parents as if the war never came, is at times as strange and subtly sinister as the speculative, dystopian Memoirs of a Survivor, varying its tone unobtrusively from the stilted distance of real biography to the intimacy of loving concern, to the gossipy energy of anecdote. Unromanticised, yet edifying pictures are dra
...more
Will
Dec 27, 2011 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
What a strange book. It's in two parts: the first novella is based on what she thinks her parents’ life might have been had things been different at the start; it is lightweight and formulaic yet plodding and leaden. They did this. Then they did that. It doesn't seem that Lessing could write anything that trite. Yet her parents' actual biography that follows is totally different – a sensitive and insightful account of two people who were completely unprepared and unsuited for Rhodesian farm life ...more
Luke Johnson
An interesting concept -- part memoir, part fiction, telling the story of her parents both as they were and how they might have been had World War I not happened. The end product is a little disappointing though: Not a very compelling novel and a memoir that, while interesting, doesn't delve deep enough.

I thought there might be more exploration of the gravity of history and fate and how our lives are shaped by forces beyond our control. Echoes of this, perhaps, but not enough to sustain my inter
...more
Odai Alsaeed
شعور رتيب طوال الوقت وبطء الأحداث يحث على البلادة في قراءة النص ....لست آبها من تكون دوريس وجوائزها وكأنها اختارت حواشي الهوامش من قصصها لتؤلف هذا الكتابالذي لم يمتعني أو يضف لي فائدة تذكر...أقل من عادي
Sarah Beth
Jan 08, 2013 Sarah Beth rated it liked it
This book has such an interesting premise - the first half is a fictional novella where Lessing imagines the lives her parents would have lived had WWI not set them on a very different path. In the second half of the book, Lessing writes a memoir that delves into the reality of her parents' largely unhappy lives, destroyed by the Great War.

While I was intrigued by the creative premise of this book, I was frustrated by the stilted and distanced feel to the narrative in the novella section. The o
...more
Linda
Dec 14, 2008 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book a strong four, because of the entire concept. In the first half of the book the author sets up a story of two people whose paths cross as children and whose lives continue to cross throughout adulthood, but each in their own separate realm. Each person has the early background, the persona of the author's own parents. In the second half of the book the life story of Doris Lessing’s parents is actually revealed; and how differently their lives have played out, in Lessing’s feelin ...more
Bobbi
Jul 31, 2011 Bobbi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, nonfiction
This was a very odd book. The first part tells the story of how Doris Lessing's lives could have been if WWI hadn't happened. Not very interesting. The second half of the books tells the true story of her parents; her father lost a leg in the war, they lived in Persia and Rhodesia and eventually moved back to England. A lot more interesting than the first story, but as a whole the book was very disappointing.
Hermien
Sep 02, 2016 Hermien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 stars for the first half, the fictitious story of Doris' parents if WWI hadn't happened. The second part is the real story of her relationship with her parents and part of her growing up in Rhodesia. That was 5 stars for me, especially as I read and loved almost all the books Doris did when she was young.
Vicky "phenkos"
I rather enjoyed the first part of the book. I found the idea of re-inventing the lives of one's parents interesting and relatively well executed. I therefore had high hopes for the second part, where, I thought, the truth would be revealed, the actual lives compared with the real ones and a conclusion reached. I did not yet know what that conclusion might be, and that roused my interest. Would it be that Emily and Alfred were not, after all, victims of circumstances but had in fact brought thei ...more
Sarah
Apr 08, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
8/4 - I don't really know which shelf to put this on genre-wise. It's almost historical fiction, but it's not because almost none of it actually happened, it's Lessing's idea of how her parent's lives might have gone if WWI never happened (I liked the inclusion of the political landscape after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand didn't happen). So if it's a fantasy life for Alfred and Emily does that mean it goes on the fantasy shelf? Well, that's not really right either, because then it wou ...more
Bryon Butler
Jul 31, 2014 Bryon Butler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During this 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, a summer project has been to read war related books/novels. One of the most intriguing must be Doris Lessing’s Alfred and Emily. Born in 1919, Lessing writes a book, published in 2008, that recounts poignantly the pain of growing up with parents who were traumatized by “The War to End all Wars.” Through her father’s wooden leg and the life-long impact of trench warfare, to her mother’s tales of trying to nurse hundreds of young men a ...more
Callie
Jun 07, 2014 Callie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine you go visit your grandmother who happens to have lived an extraordinarily rich life and is possessed of a brilliant mind and she starts free associating, talking to you about some of her earliest memories, making observations about history, war, literature and a variety of topics, that's what you get in the second half of this book. Which half I preferred. First half is a story of what might have been, the story of Lessing's parents if they hadn't had their lives shattered by WWI. I tho ...more
Mattia Pascal
Feb 29, 2016 Mattia Pascal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Doris Lessing'in Nobel'in ertesinde Türkçe'de yayımlanmış romanı.

Lessing bu romanında anne ve babasını, 1. Dünya Savaşı'nın kalıntıları üzerinde ararken "savaş olmasaydı" olasılığından hareketle de romanın diğer yarısında anne ve babasının hayatını "hayal ettiği biçimde" örüyor.

Roman, savaşın anne ve babasının hayatında açmış olduğu onmayan yaraların keşke hiç açılmamış olmasına dair hüzünlü bi' temenni ile başlıyor. "onlarla Büyük Savaş'ı hiç yaşamamışlar gibi karşılaşsaydı, her ikisi de onl
...more
Rachelfm
It's an appealing exercise...imagining away the events that led your parents to completely screw up your life. I had read the context for this book some time ago...essentially the author won her Nobel Prize in part on the eloquent vitriol which is essentially the most durable legacy from her mother. Both of Doris Lessing's parents were irreparably damaged by WWI; trying to settle a farm in Africa didn't ameliorate their pain. WWI looms so large over Lessing's childhood that in her eighties, she ...more
Claude
Feb 17, 2015 Claude rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable read. I liked the second part, which is written in the first person better than the first part, which is a novella based on Doris Lessing's parents' life. At times, it got me lost. Great writing though and what a fascinating life.
Passive Apathetic
Feb 15, 2016 Passive Apathetic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lessing ne zaman çocukluğunu anlatsa, sus pus olup çıtımı çıkartmadan dinliyorum.
Leila Jaafari
I had to read this for a history of violence class (a survey course of 19th century British literature). The first half that was England sans World War I bored me. The second half based on Lessing's real life wasn't much better.
Kilroy
Dec 17, 2016 Kilroy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Annemle babam tamamen farklı tarzlarıyla
Dikkate değer insanlardı.
Babası Emily'yi resmen kapıdışarı ederken "eşiğimi bir de aşındırma" demişti.
Bayan Lane'e göre Emily ve kızı Daisy hemşireliğe başladıklarında kaldıkları odada iki paçoz hizmetçiye benziyorlardı.
Emily'nin istese bir konser piyanisti olabileceği söylenirdi.
Yazarın anne babası için kurguladığı ilk bölümün sonunda:
ALFRED TAYLER öldüğünde çok yaşlı bir adamdı zaten uzun ömürlülüğüyle tanınan bir aileden geliyordu
EMILY McVEAGH Bir takı
...more
Leon
Oct 15, 2009 Leon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed

Is it a novel, that is, fiction? Is it non-fiction, a twin biography of her parents? In fact Alfred & Emily is both. It is kept in the fiction shelves, among other true works of that genre, in the National Library (KL); the librarians presume it to be this. The first half of the book reads just like fiction. It tells the story of one Alfred and another of Emily. Unlike in real life, when they were Lessing’s parents, these two met at a cricket match, but later married other people instead. At
...more
Sandi Hutcheson
Lessing, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, combines fiction and memoir in this book as she examines the effects of World War I on her parents. The first half of the book is a novella that imagines the life her parents might have had if World War I had never happened. The second half is a memoir outlining the damage the war inflicted on each of her parents and, by extension, her. Her father lost a leg in the war and suffered what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. Her moth ...more
Belle
Jun 19, 2016 Belle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I make a point of never abandoning a book once I've made a start on it but sjoe this book tested me. I had to stop at one point for a week and in that time I read three other books before I could come back to this one.
It's in two parts; the first part is fiction and is the author's account of her parent's lives in England had the First World War not taken place. The second part is a sketchy account of her family's life and struggles in what is now Zimbabwe from 1925-1945 ish.
I was very much loo
...more
Faith Justice
Sep 03, 2010 Faith Justice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: given-away
"That war, the Great War, the war that would end all war, squatted over my childhood. The trenches ere as present to me as anything I actually saw around me. And here I still am, trying to get our from under the monstrous legacy, trying to get free.

"If I could meet Alfred Tayler and Emily McVeagh now, as I have written them, as they might have been had the Great War not happened, I hope they would approve the lives I have given them. -- Doris Lessing from Alfred and Emily

This was a very strange
...more
Susan
Sep 19, 2016 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Library)
Mara
Jan 26, 2011 Mara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bello, incisivo ed originale, come tutti i libri di Doris Lessing.
E’un romanzo sulla vita dei suoi genitori, composto da due parti distinte : nella prima l'autrice racconta una delle loro possibili vite se la prima guerra mondiale non li avesse colpiti. Una sliding doors letteraria: cosa sarebbe successo se avessero vissuto vite autonome e senza l’ esperienza della guerra? Che persone sarebbero diventate? La seconda parte, invece, narra la reale storia dei due protagonisti.
E’ molto interessan
...more
Shonna Froebel
Dec 11, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book on Lessing's parents, Alfred Taylor and Emily McVeagh. The first part of the book is a fictional life of the two, where Lessing gives them different happier, yet not perfect lives. This is followed by an explanation where she explains what influenced her choices for the fictional lives. The last part consists of a number of chapters discussing Alfred and Emily's real lives and Doris' experience of them.
Alfred had wanted to be a farmer, but lost a leg in the first World
...more
Jo Barton
Dec 15, 2010 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this 2008 memoir Doris Lessing has combined the narrative into two novellas. The first half of the story opens in 1902, and is a fictional reimagining of the lives of her mother and father, Alfred Tayler and Emily McVeagh. This story is told from the point of view that these two people did not marry each other and thus pursued a totally imagined life, one in which the 1914-18 war did not take place. The second half of the narrative gives the reader the truthful account, and describes the life ...more
Khlood
Jan 11, 2013 Khlood rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
دوريس ليسينج الحائزة على جائزة نوبل للآداب 2007 تحكي في هذه الرواية سيرتها الذاتية في إطار العائلة الأب ألفريد والأم إيميلي والأخ هاري، الجزء الأول من الكتاب أعتقد أن دوريس كتبت فيه حول حياة أخرى خيالية تتمنى لو عاشها والداها لو لم تندلع الحرب آنذاك، والجزء الثاني كان ماحدث في الواقع في إحدى مزارع مستعمرة روديسيا"زيمبابوي حاليًا" بعد أن انتقلا إليها من كرمنشاه في بلاد فارس.
كتبت عن والدها ألفريد الفلاح الإنجليزي والجندي بالساق الخشبية بعد أن فقد ساقه خلال الحرب العالمية، وهذا ما أضفى طابع أدب الح
...more
Sally Tarbox
"The Great War, the war that would end all war, squatted over my childhood.", January 31, 2015

This review is from: Alfred and Emily (Paperback)
Doris Lessing, brought up on an African farm, in what seems quite a tough lifestyle, reminisces on her parents.
Both were British: her mother went against her father's plans for her to go to university, becoming a nurse instead. And her sporty, outdoors father was wrecked in the Great War. Their thoughts of a money-making farm in Rhodesia were doomed to fa
...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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