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The Cleft

2.86  ·  Rating Details ·  2,266 Ratings  ·  331 Reviews
In the last years of his life, a contemplative Roman senator embarks on one last epic endeavor: to retell the history of human creation and reveal the little-known story of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in an Edenic coastal wilderness. The Clefts have neither need nor knowledge of men; childbirth is controlled through the cycles of the moon, and they bea ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published July 31st 2007 by Harper (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter


(Joyeux ébats, 1899 Paul Émile Chabas)

It is my belief that animals are more intelligent than we ever give them credit for.

An ageing Roman senator under Nero's rule embarks on a colossal undertaking, to chronicle the history of humankind's creation. He recounts the obscure epic of the Clefts, an ancient matriarchal community with no knowledge or need of man. In this society, devoid of sexual intrigue, jealousy and petty rivalry, childbirth was regulated by the cycles of the moon and the females
May 05, 2014 Carolina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Now! What is it about all these terrible ratings? Accusations of sexism? Of the text lacking quality/being boring? I can identify so little with previous reviews of this work that I made it a point to write a review for this one.

I had never read Lessing before and when I read the synopsis for this one I knew that it was just meant to be. It is definitely not what I had expected – I had hoped it would be a cleverer version of Herland, maybe. It does share certain similarities with Gilman’s sepa
Seth T.
Aug 19, 2010 Seth T. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Doris Lessing at age 18 so she could see what she would become, lose hope, and never become a writer
Shelves: bookclub
I did not finish this book. In fact I could not. It was my taste as a consumer of books that prohibited me.

Oh sure, I've set aside books before. I've even set aside books with no intention of continuing them in the future. But never with as adamant a certainty that I would never again pick up the book in order to give it a second chance.

Some may question my ability to judge a book based only on a partial reading, which is fair, but trust me: this book is Bad.

Doris Lessing's The Cleft may actuall
Cheyenne Blue
To the Nobel Prize for Literature committee of 2007: what were you smoking?

I read “The Cleft” on a flight from Sydney to San Francisco. One hour into the flight, we encountered turbulence and it didn’t abate for the next couple of hours. The movie (singular, because this was a United-breaks-guitars flight) was crap. I was trapped in my seat by the fasten seatbelts sign, and in any case even the flight crew had hit the deck in crouched position. I was 70 pages into “The Cleft” when the turbulence
Feb 25, 2008 Genevieve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel-author
An interesting alternative view to evolution, but at its heart it was "Men are From Mars Women are from Venus" meets "The Lord of the Flies". A quick read that seems to drive home the differences between the sexes, sometimes annoyingly so. I enjoyed the narrator's viewpoint as a male in the Roman society illustrating, in a much less hit-you-upside-the-head style, that the differences remain. And of course as a modern reader it causes one to consider that if not much changed between Paleolithic a ...more
Apr 20, 2008 Eileen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Review…and a Few Questions

In June, 1992, Doris Lessing wrote an Op-ed for the NY Times entitled, “Questions You Should Never Ask a Writer.” The questions that Lessing especially does not want to hear are, “What is the story really about? What does it mean?” In other words, we must take her stories at face value and see them as just that – works of her imagination, nothing more.

After finishing “The Cleft,” however, it seems impossible not to ask those questions. On the surface, Lessing’s latest
Jan 21, 2008 Jen rated it it was ok
I should caveat this review by saying that I did not finish this book. While it was an interesting premise (a society entirely comprised of women begins bearing males), its message was very obvious and heavy-handed. It was also very repetitious (the narrators continually define and redefine the terms they use for male and female). I would have enjoyed it much more as a short story as it became wearisome to read, but it did have a lot of interesting suggestions about how groups of people react to ...more
Dec 22, 2008 Ouise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the unusual, story-telling, almost biblical style of this story. You have the feeling that you are sitting near the chimney at a time when tv, radio and the internet did not exist and that you are listening to a story told by a wise elder.
I also liked Doris Lessing's observation of the human nature, the description of women that "are" and men that "do", of women that give and care about life and men that are restless and seek to discover and conquer. The description of this fundamental h
Mar 06, 2013 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected to whip through this book but found that I needed to read it a little slower to absorb what the author was trying to convey. I almost didn’t finish it. Around page 160, I was completely frustrated on how the book was written and decided to read some reviews to help clarify what the author was trying to do. Well, I’m glad I did! It changed my whole attitude. After one review, I realized how brilliant the author was by how realistically portraying how a Roman would have told his story. ...more
An exercise in unreliable narration that fails to rise above the fundamental flaw of being remarkably dull.
Jan 21, 2010 Sammy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-the-okay
Well that was certainly unique. That's probably about the nicest thing I can say about this book. This was my first foray into the writings of Doris Lessing, who I can see has a brilliant skill worthy of all the recognition she's received, so I don't know if this is a typical Lessing book or something completely different.

For me the book was just too hard to follow. I didn't find any connective thread linking everything together, no story arc, no real central conflict, no climax, no central char
Feb 11, 2011 Kimi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm surprised this book has such a low rating on goodreads. maybe i shouldn't be. lessing's idea here, that women came first, and men evolved later, might be shocking or disgusting to some people. this isn't a 'normal' novel in that there aren't characters, per se, that one follows their development (though lessing does give a few names to key players in her narrative). the story is told by a roman historian who is sifting through documents, trying to make a cohesive story of the beginning of hu ...more
Jul 05, 2009 Amy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author takes infanticide, incest, genital mutilation, murder, and rape as a matter-of-fact instinctual course of humanity. I'm sorry, but I just can't continue reading this drivel. Call me a prude if you must. When I saw a picture of a 90-year-old author on the back cover of a nobel-prize-winning novel, I certainly didn't expect such a trashy novel. There is no reason that pre-history novels have to assume that humans started out on this awful course. I like the author's writing style and th ...more
Dec 01, 2008 Arf rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I guess when you are nearly ninety and have won awards including the Nobel Prize and written a couple of dozen novels and other works you can write (and publish) whatever you want. This book begins as though it is a parable, but really it's an odd fantasy. The narrator is a Roman senator assessing and amassing an uncertain "history" that purports to account for origins presumably of the Romans or of humans in general. It begins with a society of parthenogenic females. There are few named charact ...more
Aug 30, 2008 Kate rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm within 80 pages of being done with this book and I just can't bring myself to finish it. The premise sounded so interesting. But the author's generalizations about men and women were almost comical...and I don't think that was her intent. Anyway, I give up!!!

Actually, I was embarrassed to read this as I revere DL and have enjoyed watching her evolve as a writer. This feels like an old with work to me clumsily written and piecemeal speculations. and no, I couldn't bring myself to finish it...oh Doris
Aisha Al-sulaiti
افكار الرواية غريبة وغير متناسقة.
توقعت شي وطلع شي ثاني.
وضعي حالياً: افكر شلون اكتب رفيو :/
Feb 14, 2016 Ali rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Nobel prize winning writer Doris Lessing published an impressive number of novels, short story collections, poetry, plays and works of non-fiction in a writing career spanning nearly sixty years. Her first novel The Grass is Singing (1950) was the only novel of her’s I read prior to The Cleft – and really it couldn’t be more different.

The Cleft was picked by one of my two book groups as our February read – I don’t think I realised what I was getting into. So The Cleft is many things but for me i
Aaron Gallardo
Aug 20, 2015 Aaron Gallardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aún no leo El cuaderno dorado, pero sí partes de la famosa reseña de Vargas Llosa, que, me parece, hablaba del feminismo en la obra de Lessing. Sin embargo, tanto en El quinto hijo como en El sueño más dulce, la autora toma una actitud más incólume y descriptiva, como si su intención fuese que generemos juicios propios. En La grieta, más bien, ronda un feminismo (adrede) macabro y ambivalente, al dar valores estereoTÍPICOS tanto a las mujeres como a los hombres: las unas son ostráceas y cuidados ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Suzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am thoroughly surprised by the other reviews of this book. I thought I had made a bad choice when I read some of them but I loved this book, well, I loved the clever, witty gender politics that ran all the way through it just underneath the story. I couldn't help thinking all the way through that Lessing was poking fun at "the battle of the sexes" while making some very pertinient points about our patriarchal society. I loved the ironic twist that a man was re-writing history but with a kind o ...more
Laura Vaughan
Mar 31, 2015 Laura Vaughan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What some people have found disturbing and difficult to read, I have found interesting and engaging. Lessing's The Cleft offers the reader an almost non-fiction account of an alternative creation story.
Some reviewers on here have argued against lack of characters or direction, but that is precisely the point. It is meant to be read as an historical account. It is the narrator's story (a Roman historian) that becomes the fictionalised character - and whilst I don't find him that interesting, he
Sep 02, 2014 Wendy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I assumed that my first encounter with Doris Lessing, especially given this interesting gender thought experiment, would be much more enjoyable. Instead, I wound up skimming the last half of the book. I'd be happy to try some of her other work, but this particular novel was a big miss for me. I liked the premise - a Roman historian telling of beginnings, a time when there were only females, and what transpired when the first male 'monster' was unexpectedly born. But the execution was incredibly ...more
Martin Clark
I expected to find some insights or thoughts of the nature of and differences between men and women, but if there were any I missed them. Nor was the content thought provoking. Starting from the premise that the first humans were women and it was a while before men appeared, you might expect some alternative world view, but instead there was only a run of dull anecdotes suggesting over and over that women are by nature nags and men are foolish. There was no story to speak of and the writing styl ...more
Jul 29, 2008 Marjanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was ok, but it really didn't do anything for me. Essentially it is a creation story where women are the original humans and can spontaneously conceive, until baby boys start being born. Anyhow, I think the story is supposed to be revolutionary, but it really wasn't. It has a 'Lord of the Flies' feel, but not nearly as good a read. This is the first novel I have ever read by Ms. Lessing. I hope her other books are good, because she won a Nobel for her writing. Personally, this book woul ...more
Jun 02, 2008 Kartix rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I actually liked the premis of the book but as I was reading it, I found it hard for me to finish.

Basically, the book is about the world which the first sex was female and others than that are freaks. Told by a historian from the Roman empire, this book become so boring I barely finish it.

I have no experience reading Doris Lessing and this was not an impressive first encounter. I would like to read her short stories though, even if it turns out to be a boring, it will not last long.
Hermione Laake
This is a stimulating read, although it should be shorter, and lost me at the end. It is a novel book, and Dorris is King or Queen of the novel in its truest sense. This is a fantastic book for an adolescent or anyone with a sense of wonder about their sex.
Melanie Page
Told in the style of oral tradition with a mix of Roman historian.
Dec 11, 2016 Patricio rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Decepción, me tardé mucho más de lo esperado en acabarlo porque al final es muy lento en mi opinión, le sobran páginas.

Cuando lo compré no tenía idea de nada, captó mi atención la premisa, y me fui feliz a mi casa con él, lo empecé a leer y todo iba bien, después decido revisar en Goodreads qué calificación tiene y todo eso y me llevó la sorpresa de que tiene una calificación más baja que el promedio de los libros en este sitio, a decir verdad pensé que estaba mal valorado por los usuarios, ya q
Monica Emerich
I had a difficult time rating this book. First, it's a Lessing classic, with her knifepoint-sharp prose and astonishing deftness at plotting without an entire brass section announcing an "event." Still, as much as I adore her writing, the subject just didn't leave me enthralled and the images were a tad too haunting for my taste.
Hande Karabatak Binns
A very difficult book to read but it is refreshing to see the writer challenging all the "norms"...
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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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“The tale must be rehearsed–and we may amuse ourselves imagining how these must have been, often, acrimonious, or at least in dispute. Whose version of events is going to be committed to memory by the Memories?” 2 likes
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