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The Real Thing: Stories and Sketches

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  265 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
The stories and sketches in this collection penetrate to the heart of human experience with the passion and intelligence readers have come to expect of Doris Lessing. Most of the piece are set in contemporary London, a city the author loves for its variety, its diversity, its transitoriness, the way it connects the life of animals and birds in the parks to the streets. Les ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by HarperCollins (first published 1991)
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(showing 1-30)
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Laura Ayers
Jun 23, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bailed on this book. It was depression by and not at all what I want to read about London. This is the dirty, gritty London. Not for this girl.
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like observing people
Recommended to Leila by: TNBBC
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Waitalie Nat
Io amo Londra. Amo tutto ciò che parla di Londra, che è impregnato dei suoi odori e dei suoi sapori, che ne tesse le lodi in maniera incondizionata, che fa rivivere in me le mille facce e i mille imprevedibili risvolti di una città e dei suoi deliziosi abitanti.
Ergo, il mio cuore piange convulsamente nel realizzare che ho appena associato un giudizio terribilmente negativo (ovvero due, miserrime stelline) al nome di tale città.

Doris Lessing ed io non siamo decisamente partite con il piede gius
Lee Foust
I was hoping for a slightly more cohesive set of texts. I love Dubliners and other such collections that come together to be something greater than the sum of their parts, that construct narrative juxtapositions, frissons, coincidental overlapping, etc. Not much of that here. Seemed rather merely random texts collected out of Lessing's notebooks that all happened to either focus on or merely happen in London having to do with various types of Londoners. The characters might be the best linking m ...more
Dec 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection of short stories, mostly focusing on the experiences of women and their growth and emotions. Some of the stories resonated with me more than others -- the unwed teen mother, the older spinster in the "womb ward", the divorced woman who faced being drawn back into a relationship with her remarried ex-husband. Most of these women pay some sort of price for their decisions to be independent and individual, rather than a part of the go-along-to-get-along world that we live ...more
Joslyn Allen

The short stories collected in Doris Lessing’s “The Real Thing” are stories of dismay and despair. Lessing’s writing is exquisite, full of intimate detail and vibrance that overcomes one of short fiction’s greatest challenges – fleshing out character in short shrift. Each character’s failings and foibles are heartrending and yet easy to identify with, familiar. These are the heartaches of everyday life.

“An elderly man stood with his face to the wire of the
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Debbie and she joked how little people noticed about other people. 6

She kept looking at all those faces and thinking, What would you say if you knew? 12

You bloody well ought to ask some questions... 14

It was as if they had switched themselves off. 19

Derek did not give her the creeps, he was just nothing! Ordinary. Boring. 20

Her husband was already leaning forward to consume his scone in the fussy, urgent way of a man who would always attend to whatever was in front of him, finish it, and then wo
James F
(American edition is titled The Real Thing)
A collection of eighteen short stories and "sketches" -- I suppose the "sketches" are the stories where not as much happens -- all of which take place in London. These are all quite good stories, though perhaps on average not quite as good as some of her earlier collections. They were written over a decade or so, and are all essentially realistic vignettes of ordinary people's lives.

This time last year I read several collections of short stories by the
Sophie Cayeux
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vivid images of the city for Lovers of London
Review on
This is a collection of short stories about London. A quick read. It is a series of pictures, of scenes, of people that one encounters in daily life in this great city. Some stories left a deep emotional impact on me; others were of lesser interest to me. There is Debbie and Julie, about an unmarried girl giving birth in frightening circumstances in the days when this was socially unacceptable to her pare
Jul 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an American married to a Brit, the title story spoke strongly to me. It's mainly a character study of a somewhat fish-out-of-water American woman engaged to an Englishman who is still very emotionally attached to his former wife. However, it was not the plot, but the atmosphere that resonated. To a straightforward (or tactless) American, the English preference for indirect and ambiguous communication can be maddening. Lessing perfectly captures that "outsider" feeling, especially in the pub s ...more
Diane Warrington
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Once upon a time (in 2008/9) I spent a Christmas/New Year sleeping on a mattress on the floor of the lounge in a flat my son and his wife shared with another couple. And not once did I come across the London in this stories: mean, cold, heartless, petty, gross and dirty.
Doris Lessing knows how to use words together, how to control words, how to put the words together for effect and to be both economical and yet figurative with language. It's her subject matter that in places I find repellent. Ju
Dennis Hedrikson
I find it fascinating that an author who could write a five volume masterpiece in her twenties is just as effective with these miniature sketches of her neighborhood in London. These pieces are from the same time I made a number of business trips to London. Some of the stories are among her best, but the title story wasn't interesting...actually it was quite confusing, everyone was divorced and seeing or marrying the others' ex...I know people like that, but Lessing takes their idiotic lives too ...more
Nia Nymue
The entire book is not worth a read if you're looking for a proper collection of short stories. Most of it are just sketches, incomplete and unsatisfying. There may be some parts that those with writer's block may wish to pick up on and develop but on the whole I was quite disappointed. There are some interesting stories like The Mother of the Child in Question, Womb Ward, Principles, The New Café, Romance 1988, The Pit, Two Old Women and a Young One and The Real Thing but even these pale in com ...more
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed her short stories. A passage I liked:

pgs 109 & 110: I hadn’t seen Marie for years. We always got on, if you can call it that, having nothing in common but behaving well. She’s old these days, she’s decided to be an old woman. I’m damned if I will yet. I mean, it’s a lot of effort to let yourself get old, you have to change your clothes, your style, everything, it’s all right for her, she’s got time for all that, she’s never had to work in her life.

Nicole Schrag
The first story of this collection is absolutely riveting, and there were a handful of other really good ones, but then some didn't quite work for me. Not sure how to rate it; would recommend "Debbie and Julie," though.

Overall, the tone of these stories feel nostalgic (like many of their characters) and/or old-fashioned, much older than the late 80s/early 90s. That's not necessarily bad--again, not really sure what to make of the collection as a whole.
Doris Lessing has a way with getting into the soul of women. I often find the way she opens stories to be difficult, but I know that by the end I will be impressed by her insight into the female mind. Every story has me nodding in agreement...yes, yes that't it. That's it. She speaks truth.
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Una mezza delusione rispetto all'altra raccolta "Racconti africani", nonostante la scrittura della Lessing si legga bene.
Troppi racconti, di cui alcuni troppo brevi, quasi come delle "istantanee".
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I happened on this book in the university library and sat down to read it when I should have been doing something else. Lessing is very skilled at writing full-fledged individuals in short stories. I really enjoyed this book.
Melanie  Hilliard
If this is indicative of the rest of her work, I'm not that impressed. Average at best.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No doubt that this author is one of the finest writers to grace the English language. Amazing stories, such as The Pit leave you thinking for days.
I look forward to tackling more of her works!
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really lovely collection of short pieces. Was a pleasure to read on the BART.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Schöne, interessante und mal weniger interessante Beobachtungen und Gedanken in Kurzgeschichten. Schnell und angenehm zu lesen.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Probably a 1.5 star score. Some highlights but overall I got fed up with it as I progressed and willed it to end. Not an exciting read for me.
Laura Schwartz
The first story is fantastic but the rest seem watery in comparison.
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Doris Lessing is a fabulous writer. Adored this collection of short stories and am looking forward to reading more of her work.
rated it it was amazing
Dec 26, 2012
1patstoll Stoll
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful short stories and sketches from the master.
rated it liked it
Jan 22, 2009
rated it really liked it
Jun 06, 2017
rated it really liked it
Feb 01, 2012
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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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