Lorenzo Berardi's Reviews > The Grandmothers

The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing
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's review
Sep 12, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: 2009, south-african, a-my-italian-library
Read in September, 2009

There's definitely something I'm not able to get in the success gained by Doris Lessing.

Am I the only one who find her way of writing plain and, somehow, racist?
One year after having read this one, the only short story I remember of the three forming this book is the first one: "The Grandmothers".

It was not a bad short story, overall. But there was something of unquestionably "Aryan" in it I really couldn't stand.
I mean, Doris, are you from South Africa, right?

Well, so why apparently all of your characters are:
- white
- blonde
- upper class
- well-taught
- snob

Listen, I'm not asking you to write about the poor and disadvantaged black people secluded in some slums and shantytowns of Pretoria or Capetown. You probably not have have the faintest idea on how to portrait these people and it wouldn't be fair cheating.

But still, why on hell these grandmothers and their sons and grandsons
look like American surfers attending Ivy League universities? Why do they live on beautiful Xanadu-like mansions by the sea, hardly aware of anything else apart from PhDs and sun-cream and nasty sex and gossip and elevenses?

What Bret Easton Ellis did in portraying a promiscuous, spoiled and drug addicted generation of youngsters hanging out in Beverly Hills is nothing compared to these All-White and bored South-Africans that Mrs Lessing gave a literary status.
She may look Karen Blixen like Miriam Makeba.

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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Gill I think you had the same problem locating The Grandmothers in a particular country as I did. In a way, I thought that was useful and unsettling, as readers tend to make up their minds/judge before they've even got halfway through a story. I came to the conclusion that The Grandmothers was set in Australia.

As for Lessing's characters being all white and upper class/privileged, maybe that's because writers come across more authentically when they write about what they know. I felt the third story in the collection was a sort of experiment.

By the way, Lessing was born in what was then Persia to British parents and moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when she was quite young. She is not South African. http://www.contemporarywriters.com/au...

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