Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Grass is Singing” as Want to Read:
The Grass is Singing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Grass is Singing

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,290 Ratings  ·  603 Reviews
Set in Southern Rhodesia under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is at once a riveting chronicle of human disintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman's struggleagainst a ruthless fate.

Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineff
Paperback, 238 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1950)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Grass is Singing, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Albina Yes and no, it is a very good book and worth a read and is definitely meant as a critique on a colonial patriarchical society. Mostly it is just about…moreYes and no, it is a very good book and worth a read and is definitely meant as a critique on a colonial patriarchical society. Mostly it is just about the deep unhappiness that comes with not being able to live your life on your own terms.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Petra X
Sep 02, 2015 Petra X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed
This book is a stunning exposé of why Zimbabwe has Mugabe and why he, evil as he is, is certainly no worse than that great white hope, Sir Cecil Rhodes. The whites in this book, with one exception, are all devotees of Rhodes and his brand of racism - Rhodesia for the whites, the blacks are suitable for being farm animals as they are all simpleminded thieves, liars and hate the white man. It's the same mindset as slavery really.

The grass is singing cicada songs, songs of blood, songs of freedom -
Nov 24, 2012 Kris rated it really liked it
In her first novel, The Grass is Singing (first published 1950), Doris Lessing begins with a short description of a crime on a farm in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe):

By Special Correspondent
Mary Turner, wife of Richard Turner, a farmer at Ngesi, was found murdered on the front veranda of their homestead yesterday morning. The houseboy, who has been arrested, has confessed to the crime. No motive has been discovered. It is thought he was in search of valuables.

For Lessing, the cri
Bill  Kerwin
Jan 05, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Doris Lessing's first novel has the precision of a fine short story and the depth of a much longer novel. This portrait of the psychologial disintegration of a farmer's wife saddled with an ineffectual husband on a luckless South African farm is precisely realized and and completely convincing.

The last quarter of the novel, however, is weaker than the rest. The character of the black house servant Moses is more of a symbol than a human being, and the ending--meant to be tragic--descends to melo
Feb 07, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2015, africa
The Grass is Singing is a novel of colonialism, human degradation, and an uncomfortable view of the prevailing attitude of a time and place, and yet, to me it was more so a powerful portrait of a crumbling mind.

Mary Turner is a hideous woman; bitter, cruel, entitled. What started out as a woman’s resentment over a boring farm life and a distant marriage soon turned into something deeper and much more unsettling. Sometimes people are broken so early in their life that it’s impossible to ever be
Re-read after about 7 year's break.

One of the unusual things about this, Lessing's first published book, is the extreme omniscient author position she takes. She describes a character's appearance to others, then swoops into her psyche to reveal her thoughts. She describes someone's response to another person's expression and then jumps to his companion's view of him. To emphasise her power even further, she shifts from objective descriptions of the landscape to characters' experiences of it. Ho
Oct 17, 2015 Dem rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars The Grass is singing by Dorris Lessing was a bookclub read.

I found the book an ok read, I liked the setting of the novel and thought the author conveyed an excellent sense of time and place.
The story at the core of this novel is about race and the racist attitudes of society at this time in Southern Rhodesia.
The book is a challenging read and I found the characters quite dislikable and a relentless air of doom and gloom about the plot.

The novel opens with the announcement in a local
Heba Nouraldeen
Jan 28, 2016 Heba Nouraldeen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
وكيف تستقيم الحياة مع وجود حاجز اللون بين البشر ؟؟؟
بدايةً اود الاعتذار عن اضطراري لكتابة "السود" فى مراجعتي لأننى لا أؤمن بوجود الأبيض والأسود كلون للبشرة ليكون سبباً لتميز احدهما وازدراء الأخر
تناولت "دوريس ليسينج" الحضارة البيضاء فى هذة الرواية ببراعة ومصدقية لا حدود لهما ...ومحاولة الحضارة البيضاء الدفاع عن نفسها إبان الحرب العالمية الثانية فى احد المستعمرات البريطانية فى جنوب افريقيا
حيث فكرة إقامة علاقة إنسانية بين البيض والسود تعد تهديداً صريحاً بإنهيار هذة الحضارة والقضاء عليها ...!!!
زواج "
The Grass is Singing is Doris Lessing's first novel, published in 1950. It is a savage and stark indictment of South Africa's apartheid system. It is set in what was formerly Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and concentrates on Rhodesian white culture with its racist and prejudiced attitudes. The system of gross racial injustice dominates both the society and this story.

The novel is told in flashback. At the beginning of chapter one there is a brief news report of the murder of a white woman plu
Sep 17, 2007 Giovanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sandra
I wouldn't say that I enjoyed this book (because how can you enjoy the telling of the slow but constant decomposition of a woman and her psyche) but I do have to say that it was an engrossing read. Although I could not identify with the characters and rejected their weaknesses and frailties, I could not put the book down. The author creates a wonderful psychological vortex in the hot and arid lands of the African bush and she is not afraid to take it to its ultimate conclusion. The book is also ...more
Parthiban Sekar
"It is by the failures and misfits of a civilization that one can best judge its weakness"

Was it civilization which led to colonization or was it the other way? Trying to find answer for this question would like trying to answer the ever puzzling question "Which came first: chicken or the egg? I am sure that there are apparently acceptable answers for the latter but not the former. Because civilization and colonization are confederates encroaching on the foreign lands, enslaving the nat
Oct 26, 2008 Georgia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-reads
Not the good time read of the year. In this book it's almost impossible to not pity and despise all of the characters. Set in Rhodesia, this is Doris Lessing's first novel and she pulls from her experience growing up in Africa.

Page 1. Mary Turner has been murdered on the farm where she and her husband Dick live. That's about as pleasant as the book gets. So be warned. Lessing goes back from this gruesome scene to explain how Mary left her pleasant single life working in the city and ended up mis
This book grows on you. While I was reading it, it disturbed me. It has a strong emotional impact. What disturbed me was that the story is told. There is an omniscient narrator who explains everything, what happens and why each character makes the choices they make. We are told how they feel and why they do particular things. How as a reader do you react if you think other reasons could be the cause of a particular choice? I wasn’t quite sure if I believed what I was being told, so rather than a ...more
A remarkable book, given that it was first published in 1950 during a much different era than the current one in Africa. For me it is an extension, if you will, of similar racial prejudice and hardships experienced by the Jamaicans who migrated to England after the Second World War as described in "Small Island", written by Andrea Levy, as well as so many other authors reporting similar kind of circumstances. Their books, however, were based on historical events, where as Lessing's book was rele ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My brother-in-law loves to spend his weekend drinking with his buddies. They drink and swap tales. My mother, sister, wife, our househelps and a lot of women I know all have their favorite soap operas, movies, gossips and daily topics for discussion. A brother of mine is a voracious reader; the other, addicted to historical trivia. All these are just varied ways to satisfy the great human need for stories.

Great story, this novel with a title taken from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," that part wh
Jun 09, 2014 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
"The Grass Is Singing" was Doris Lessing's first novel, published in 1950 when she was thirty years old, had moved from Southern Rhodesia to London and had had 3 children by two husbands. Lessing wasn't born in Africa -- she came with her British parents as a young child from Persia -- but her early novels were based on her years on her family's struggling farm and as a young wife and mother in colonial Africa with its rigid constraints based on race, class and gender.

While “The Grass Is Singin
Oct 01, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
VideoRecensione: ne parlo al minuto (6:00)
Aug 06, 2014 Paola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobel, 2014, africa, apartheid
So many things go on in this novel, the unravelling of a marriage doomed from the start in apartheid South Africa* showing us how two people can cooperate gently and effortlessly in causing each other's misery. The natives all around are a necessary nuisance and a handy outlet for despairing frustration.

Lessing captures with great skill the many facets of the personalities of average individuals, from the protagonists Mary and Dick Turner, to the embodiment of South African white farming society
Feb 02, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very powerful book that deals with racism in South Africa during apartheid. What impressed me about the novel is that she is able to convey the inherent fear and hatred that existed between whites and blacks in such a way that shows how subconscious their feelings were. The whites were self-righteous in their belief that the natives were subhuman and good for only serving the whites. They were offended if natives spoke English to them—many believing they shouldn’t be educated. The book ...more
While the title sounds rather lyrical the story is anything but that. This is the story of Mary and Richard Turner, who farm the land in South Africa in the forties when apartheid is the rule. Mary is an intelligent woman who makes a a fateful choice in Richard for her husband. Living with Richard, who is ineffectual and unsuited to the life of farming, soon leads Mary to depression. She grows progressively bitter and takes her frustration out on the black servants that help run the farm. In spi ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Sep 03, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: LibraryThing: Best African Books
I read this in one sitting--not so much because it's short--although it's a relatively short novel--but I found it nigh un-putdownable, which is a bit odd, because this novel has several aspects I'd ordinarily find off-putting. It's on an ugly subject--racism, with characters impossible to like but I found oddly compelling, and it's very interior--with pages, even chapters--where you'll find very little to no dialogue.

This is set in what was Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) around World War II.
Feb 18, 2010 Ally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-classics
The Grass is Singing is a pretty grim book but for all its soul-destroying intensity it is surprisingly gripping and - dare I say it - an easy read. That says a lot about Doris Lessing's abilities as a writer.

This is not a murder mystery – despite what the first chapter would have us believe. The murder is a tool to display wider white supremacist attitudes. The story of Mary provides a backdrop against which Lessing provides a subtle but powerful social scrutiny of society under Apartheid. All
Feb 04, 2014 Pink rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, africa, race, kindle
I liked this book a lot, even more so realising it was Lessing's first novel written back in 1950. I found her writing very evocative, being able to picture the African landscapes and detailed characters in my head. I flew through this short book in little over a day, as I was captivated by the story and wanted to find out what happened. Yet somewhere towards the end, the story ran out of steam for me and kind of drifted off from all the detail that I'd previously loved. While this book won't be ...more
This book was Lessings' debut novel and a ballsy book with which to start a career. Depressing? yes. Unexpected? usually. Intriguing? hell yeah. Beware the hidden consequences of welding power over 'inferior' people, it's a miserable existence.

I find books about racism/xenophobia told from the 'master' POV very interesting. It's one of the reasons I like Faulkner so much.
De nuevo, retomaré mi pleito con las cuartas de forros, con los reseñadores complacientes y con los críticos a los que el hecho de que una persona haya ganado, en algún momento de su vida, un premio de los grandes —en este caso, el Príncipe de Asturias y el Nobel—, les lleva a sacralizar la totalidad de su obra, lo que, por decir lo menos, tiende a situar en un mismo plano los trabajos excepcionales y los medianos.

Canta la hierba es un trabajo mediano de Doris Lessing. Una novela bien ambientada
Jul 13, 2012 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing read, if not wholly depressing, as one watches a woman's psyche unravel amidst the solitary, barren farm life of pre-Apartheid South Africa.

Without much to endear a reader to her, one cannot help but feel for this woman's slow descent into quiet, apathetic madness. (view spoiler)

Read in less than a day, it bears out Ms. L
This was a really strange book, for me. I don't even know what to say about it. The two-star rating is a bit misleading, I guess; it's not that the book was just OK, since it was extremely well written. It's more that it was just so...strange. So unrelentingly dark. So unrelatable, and yet somehow uncomfortably familiar -- the characters' racism and insecurities and slowly developing insanity. I think Ms. Lessing is an incredible writer, but reading this, her first novel, made me so uncomfortabl ...more
Oct 25, 2015 Kimbofo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Grass is Singing, originally published in 1950, was Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing‘s debut novel. It brims with tension and shimmers with insight into race relations, colonialism, marriage and rural life in what was then Southern Rhodesia.

This astonishingly confident book opens in unconventional, some might say brash, style, in the form of a newspaper story by a “special correspondent”:

Mary Turner, wife of Richard Turner, a farmer at Ngesi, was found murdered on the front verandah
Marco Tamborrino
“She can’t be mad. She doesn’t behave as if she were. She behaves simply as if she lives in a world of her own, where other people’s standard don’t count. She has forgotten what her own people are like. But then, what is madness, but a refuge, a retreating from the world?”

The Grass is Singing è il primo romanzo in assoluto di Doris Lessing, e sono felice di aver iniziato da questo per conoscere una scrittrice così importante. La mia docente di letteratura inglese contemporanea ce l’ha proposto
Nov 12, 2012 Blake rated it really liked it
In viewing the personal as intensely political the gaze can sink into reduction. Writing under this view of acts potentially flattens the personal vocabulary across political tongue and the personal is abolished. Whereas The Golden Notebook later balanced on this pin deftly, The Grass Is Singing is content to land in the space of persons and let the other in.
Feb 26, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The description for this novel states "Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer." Mary may have been self-confident and independent to a degree, but she was living in an unsustainable state of arrested development. And thus began her march to tragedy, as she felt pressured (in her 30s) to marry, and lacking the attentions of a suitable man "in town," accepted the proposal of Dick Turner, the "ineffe ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Guardian Newspape...: The Grass is Singing 2 12 Apr 01, 2015 04:03PM  
What type of relationship between Moses and Mary? 8 56 Sep 13, 2014 10:57AM  
500 Great Books B...: The Grass is Singing - Doris Lessing - James 2 14 Aug 06, 2014 01:37AM  
All About Books: The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing (Shirley, Jean and Pink) 78 46 Feb 16, 2014 10:54AM  
Mary and Moses 4 85 May 02, 2013 02:29PM  
SOcial setting 1 23 Jun 16, 2008 02:18AM  
  • July's People
  • A Dry White Season
  • The Heart of Redness
  • A Question of Power
  • The Stone Virgins
  • David's Story
  • In the Heart of the Country
  • Desert
  • Petals of Blood
  • Nervous Conditions
  • God's Bits of Wood
  • North of South: An African Journey
  • AMA
  • One Man's Bible
  • The Enigma of Arrival: A Novel in Five Sections
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
More about Doris Lessing...

Share This Book

“Loneliness, she thought, was craving for other people's company. But she did not know that loneliness can be an unnoticed cramping of the spirit for lack of companionship.” 39 likes
“If she had been left alone she would have gone on, in her own way, enjoying herself thoroughly, until people found one day that she had turned imperceptibly into one of those women who have become old without ever having been middle aged: a little withered, a little acid, hard as nails, sentimentally kindhearted, and addicted to religion or small dogs.” 32 likes
More quotes…