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Good Terrorist

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,757 ratings  ·  148 reviews
A middle class Englishwoman joins a loose-knit group of political vagabonds and finds herself drawn into a situation she never intended.
Audio, 15 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published January 1st 1985)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I was thinking the other day about C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle, a book which I utterly loathe. As I said in my review, you can pardon the uninspired writing or the preachiness. What gets me angry is the subplot with Puzzle the donkey, who fronts the religious coup and, somehow, is whitewashed and receives eternal salvation. Apparently, because his unspeakably evil acts were performed in good faith, everything is fine. The surprising thing is that Lewis lived though WW II, and was writing not t ...more
Deborah Markus
After the Boston Marathon bombing, I had to reread this book. Everything I could say about it within that context -- that it shows the danger of "the cause" trumping morality; that terrorists are frightening not because they're monsters but because they aren't -- sounds trite and obvious. So I won't focus on those points, other than to say that yes, Doris Lessing does them full justice without being the least bit hamhanded.

Many of the Goodreads reviews of this book have mentioned how difficult i
Jennifer (aka EM)
Feb 16, 2009 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: archair lefties who take themselves a little too seriously
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Manny
It's been about 2 weeks now since I've finished The Good Terrorist, and so I'm in that place where I feel most compelled but least capable of writing a review. Since that's never stopped me before, here goes.

I must applaud Lessing for her skill at creating characters, Alice in particular, who are utterly annoying, petulant, stupid, dangerously immature, and appallingly destructive. These characters wrap their fundamental laziness and selfishness in a cloak of ignorant, misguided, sociopathologic
Apr 27, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Unemployed British "revolutionaries"
The story moves very slowly, and things really only start to happen in the final act, yet I was never bored by this book. Doris Lessing's writing is like one of the finer social satirists of the 19th or early 20th century, writing about contemporary events, or at least contemporary for the 1980s, when this book was written. The Good Terrorist is about Alice Mellings, who is, with great and lasting irony, exactly the sort of comfy-making, boo-boo kissing motherly type as her own mother was, even ...more
As a lefty and former squatter this book contains dozens of painful home truths familiar to all of us involved in radical politics. The tiny left group removed from reality. The bragging about violence on protests. The lazy 'vanguard thinkers' who let everyone else do the work. All are present and correct in Lessing's unforgiving assault on a hapless bunch of middle class revolutionaries drifting from squat to squat in an attempt to escape from the real world. Alice, intelligent but consumed by ...more
16/5 - I'm a bit scared to start this because it looks deep and complicated and I'm worried I won't understand it. The plot sounds interesting, but the language could be difficult. A bit like what happened with Blood Meridian. Okay, here I go... To be continued...

18/5 - I'm not a fan of well and truly adult women (she's 36!) behaving like innocent 17-year-olds. For the last 39 pages Alice has behaved like a fool; begging for handouts from her parents (50 pounds), verbally and nearly physically a
Naomi Foyle
I found the staccato, pile-up syntax grating at first, but by the end of the book I was engrossed. That restless, angular, off-putting voice, I soon realised, not only conveys the world, ‘raw and dismal’, through Alice’s eyes, but also Alice and her world through Lessing’s. A Communist who hasn’t read Marx, a hostile daughter who steals from her own family, yet also a driven homemaker and fearless opponent of bureaucratic injustice, Alice’s triumphant judgements of others are simultaneously Less ...more
Apr 07, 2008 Cwinters02 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NO ONE
I hated this damn book. I was forced to read it for class, and now I have to write a fucking 10-page paper on it by Wednesday. Every page was torturous to read. Nothing happened until the very end, and even that sucked. I recommend that you never read this book. There was not one character or plot line worth investing a second of your life on. Thanks for listening.
Justin Mitchell
In my review of Lolita, I talked about my growing aversion to writing that exists for its own sake and not primarily to express information. Doris Lessing is an excellent example of a writer that I feel uses language in the best way possible. The Good Terrorist's prose is clean, lean, vivid, and efficient, presenting us a world thoroughly credible and believable even as it takes place in a section of our society many people are unaware even exists. The milieu is 1980s London, back when squats we ...more
My mother and I have resolved to read prize-winners. Note all of the ambiguities and catch-savers in that sentence. We did not resolve to only read prize-winners, nor did we specify what prizes fell into our category, nor did we specify whether we meant any book from the oeuvre of prize-winning authors or particularly a single prize-winning book. (See, e.g., my very first review on this site, in which I granted only one star to a Golden Dagger Award winner (detective novels get prizes too!)). In ...more
The Good Terrorist is Alice Mellings, a mid-thirties London radical who puts her heart and soul into restoring a derelict home as the base for her group, part of the Communist Centre Union, a small political party of activists in the middle of Thatcherism in Britain, who aspire to join the IRA (or even the Soviets).

Alice blazes with energy and bursts with conflicts. She passionately declares she HATES the middle-class that serves the “shitty fucking filthy lying cruel hypocritical system”, but
Angela Munro
The Observer wrote about this book that: 'Doris Lessing writes about the parts that other novelists cannot reach', and I would have to agree. Her characterisation is so in-depth and subtle, and written in such plain language that you almost have a deep therapist-like knowledge of the main character. I found myself constantly analysing the characters in order to determine what would happen (or rather what they would allow to happen) next.
Unfortunately for me a group of spoiled, middle class commu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Doris Lessing’s novel The Good Terrorist takes a look at the behind the scene workings of a terrorist or revolutionary group and the human interactions that take place within it. Lessing’s portrayal of the people in the group is realistic and shows these revolutionaries as humans. She demonstrates that the people who take part in these organizations are not all absolute demons but people who are imperfect and make mistakes. Her characters are incredibly complex. Lessing does an incredible job de ...more
“The Good Terrorist” is an interesting read. Doris Lessing’s story is mainly about the group’s dedication to cause of communism and being a terrorist group, but there’s some very interesting character work and themes at play.
The plot revolves around a group of “Communists” who live together in a rundown house and eventually become involved in terrorist actions. After blowing up a hotel and losing one of their own, they become disillusioned with their beliefs and all drift apart.
The characters
Lauren Martin
The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing is a very unique book. Personally I do not know much about the IRA or the other groups Lessing mentioned. I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book for the first time. After I began reading it I could not put it down. It was a quick, easy read that was very interesting. I actually enjoyed reading this novel despite the emotional exhaustion. The entire novel was a rollercoaster of emotions.
The cause of the emotional part of this novel was Alice a
Steven Gonzales
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elissa Adams
“The Good Terrorist”, by Doris Lessing, is a read that is potentially shocking and disappointing if one is looking forward to a book that is full of communism. However, if one is looking for a book that is driven by the intertwining of characters and the relationships of those characters then “The Good Terrorist” is most certainly the right choice.

When first coming into contact with this book, I thought I was going to be put into boredom because I figured the content was going to be all about a
I had never really had any interest—or exposure—to anything related to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), until I read this novel. I was under the impression that the IRA related only to Ireland, so it was somewhat surprising to find this novel based in London. And it was even more surprising to get into the story and realize that Alice—the good terrorist---was, in fact, no real terrorist at all.

The IRA is a very radical group that takes its mission seriously, to the point that it is willing to pl
Spoiler Alert
The Good Terrorist, by Doris Lessing was one of the easier reads compared to what I’ve had to read during the current semester of a college course. Before having to read this I did not know too much information on Doris Lessing, but as I did some background information, I found out how interesting she was. She was a political activist, and very involved in different groups that had a connection with communism. I believe this is what gave her the proper stepping stone to write this
I first read this as a teenager and just started it again... the story of a british radical who is painfully co-dependent with and mothering towards her compatriots. The details of her machinations inside local bureaucracies (both governmental and social) are astounding.
I wish the picture of the hardback cover was available. It's the title spray-painted in perfect cursive onto a brick wall...
This book is centred on character development and group dynamics. Consequently, the plot suffers somewhat - not a great deal actually happens. It builds up to a satisfying ending, but the journey towards it is slow and detailed. None of the characters are particularly likable. This group of 'revolutionaries' are living in a squat; planning their picketting, grafitti and attempts to get involved with established and active political groups. The book is told from the point of view of Alice, the 'G ...more
Doris Lessing has just won the Nobel Prize for literature. Curious, I decided to give this book a try (I don't believe it is the one that won the prize, but it caught my eye).

Having read it, there are a couple of observations:

First: Don't read the back cover. It tells you everything that happens, and nothing about the book. The entire book loses any chance to surprise if you read the back cover summary first.

Second: I can see why Doris Lessing is highly acclaimed.

And third: ... But I don't think
This, my second Doris Lessing book, was certainly an interesting read. It is the story of a group of British communist "revolutionaries" who take over a squat in London with the real focus almost totally on one woman named Alice. Lessing describes Alice in detail through the bevy of contradictory thoughts she has over being a communist, her supposedly bourgeoisie divorced parents, her partner in crime Jasper--a secretly and secretive homosexual man--the two of which share an unhealthy dependence ...more
Øystein Bjaanes
Seems you do judge a book by its cover, or, at least: I do. I have no idea where my wife bought this book (neither does she, by the way), but it's a book club edition from the 80's, and the cover screams "boooring" at me.

But I have resolved to read all works of fiction currently in our living room that I have not previously read. That includes this book.

And I loved it.

I found it to be a very well written look at the inner life of a radical. Now Alice, the protagonist, is probably not your typic
Skimming over some of the reviews below, I feel like I might have sympathised more with the characters in The Good Terrorist, and may have liked the book more as a result.

As an account of a radical subculture in 1980s Britain, I can't say how accurate the book is. I would guess that it is, because in every other way it is relentlessly grounded and realistic. It's a book where the quest of the main character Alice is basically fixing up a house. Digging pits to pour shit into. Repairing the roof,
I persevered with this because (a) Lessing won the Nobel, and (b) GoodReads makes me feel like a failure if I don't finish. I couldn't sympathise with any of the thoroughly dislikable but admittedly well-drawn characters. Its protagonist is the much put-upon Alice, a Marxist revolutionary with no clear motivation for being one, who waits on all the freeloaders in her London squat - oops, commune - her servility eventually leading her into terrorism. The first half of the book plods through her s ...more
Mike Bull
The strength of this novel is how Alice Mellings, a mid-thirties London woman bursting with energy, moves heaven and earth to reclaim a derelict home for her group, the Communist Centre Union, a group of young protestors in Thatcher era Britain.
Although the group has aspirations of affiliation with the IRA or even the Soviets, they are naive while seeing themselves as important.
Alice comes from a middle class home and uses her divorced parents and other relations in any way she can--above board
Quinn Slobodian
A self-consciously political novel in the almost-pedagogical style of Alfred Andersch's Zanzibar or Sartre's Age of Reason, (a style written almost always by former Communist Party members), in which different characters are also intended as types - the blustering zealot, the quiet guard of the revolutionary catechism, the lovers united by the struggle. The whole dynamic is between the everyday and the momentous, about where political actors after 1968 find themselves between planning for the ne ...more
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“This world is run by people who know how to do things. They know how things work. They are *equipped.* Up there, there's a layer of people who run everything. But we -- we're just peasants. We don't understand what's going on, and we can't do anything. ...You, running about playing at revolutions, playing little games, thinking you're important. You're just peasants, you'll never *do* anything.” 6 likes
“Oh, no, I'm not saying she isn't a nut -- she is -- but I've noticed before that sometimes someone like that behaves quite ordinarily with everybody, manages everything, you'd never think she was a nut, but there's just one person, with that person, she's out of control. It makes you wonder,' said Alice.” 3 likes
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