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The Grass Is Singing

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  10,840 ratings  ·  1,004 reviews

Set in South Africa under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is both a riveting chronicle of human disintegration and a beautifully understated social critique. Mary Turner is a self-confident, independent young woman who becomes the depressed, frustrated wife of an ineffectual, unsuccessful farmer. Little by little the ennui of years on the farm work their slow poiso

Kindle Edition, 260 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Harper Perennial (first published 1950)
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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)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  10,840 ratings  ·  1,004 reviews

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Jun 01, 2011 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
Bill Kerwin
May 16, 2008 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 longer novel. This portrait of the psychological 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 melodram
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The resilient walkers under scorching circumstances
Shelves: read-in-2016
If this novel impresses from the very beginning it is because of the openness in which Lessing plays her cards in the first chapter. The voice of the omniscient narrator glows with the clarity of objective facts that is missing in the rest of the novel, replaced by an increasingly suffocating account of two doomed lives that slowly disintegrate in polarized madness.
The tragic end of Mary Turner, a white woman, in the hands of Moses, her black servant, in a remote, hostile South African hell is r
Bionic Jean
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
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, 2015, fiction
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
Colonialism in southern Africa: both sides left in destruction

Doris Lessing, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature, tells the incredibly haunting story of the disintegration and descent into madness of Mary and her husband Dick Turner, simultaneously revealing the scathing truths of apartheid-ruled life in Rhodesia. This was her first book, published in 1950. What a debut! I'm stunned, I have goosebumps; I'm unfit to do this book justice, to convey the claustrophobic, solitary descen
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“It is by the failures and misfits of a civilization that one can best judge its weaknesses.”
-Author Unknown

****4.5 Stars**** I was shattered with the outcome of this novel. Disturbing. Unflinching. Compulsively readable.

Paul Bryant
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
There should be a few warnings on the cover of this short novel : contains no likeable characters and many descriptions of really disgusting racist behaviour. I can’t remember reading so much intimate detail about the white racist’s seething physical and mental horror at the very presence of a black person before. This is going to upset some readers for sure. Here is a mild passage about that :

She had never come into contact with natives before, as an employer on her own account. Her mother’s se
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 500gbw, feminism
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 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub-reads
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Grass Is Singing, Doris Lessing
The Grass Is Singing is the first novel, published in 1950, by British Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing. The novel begins with a newspaper clipping about the death of Mary Turner, a white woman, killed off by her black servant Moses for money. The news actually acts like an omen for other white people living in that African setting. After looking at the article, people behave as if the murder was very much expected. The bulk of the novel is a flashback
“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.”
― Doris Lessing, The Grass is Singing

Amazing..rating and review to follow.

Sometimes a piece of literature comes along that just leaves you speechless. The Grass is singing is one such book.

So I believe I read this as a kid. It has been on my TBR list for several years and I wish I had read it sooner. After reading it I did n
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”

----F. Scott Fitzgerald

Doris Lessing's, the Nobel Prize winning debut book, The Grass is Singing revolves around a youngish woman who after marrying a South African white farmer, and within a few years, looses herself and becomes a victim to immense loneliness as she realizes her husband's constant failure both in his farm as well as in their shared marital li
Today would have been Doris Lessing’s 100th birthday. I had trouble believing that this novel a) was Lessing’s debut and b) is now nearly 70 years old. It felt both fresh and timeless, and I could see how it has inspired writing about the white experience in Africa ever since, especially a book like Fiona Melrose’s Midwinter, in which an English farmer and his son are haunted by the violent death of the young man’s mother back in Zambia 10 years ago.

For The Grass Is Singing begins with two sly w
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

South Africa

The novel is set in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe in the 1940s. At this time the country was governed according to the rules of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racism in which the white minority was socially, legally, and politically dominant over the black majority.
I had a feeling this was going to be a challenging book for me.

The opening chapter is very difficult to read, begins with a newspaper report about the murder of a white woman by a black man, a servant in her house.
Sep 17, 2007 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 na
Roman Clodia
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a powerful book, especially striking for how early it appears in Lessing's career. Her indictment of apartheid is both analytical and devastating in its unflinching gaze. Mary Turner is a complicated character, completely vile and yet pitiable, too, caught as she is in the shaping pressures of 1950s femininity and South African white supremacy.

The pressures build and Mary's collapse into breakdown also culminates in a moment of searing self-knowledge though, tellingly, she never quite unde
Oct 16, 2008 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
This was a mystery, at least it started out that way with a murder/mystery. As the story unfolded it revealed how and why the murder of a white woman in South Africa had taken place. However the murder was just one aspect of the novel overall. The characters on offer here were difficult to like. It was the countryside that shone here, the descriptions were visual. Some cringe worthy moments reading this due to some of the language used but it fitted the times.....This was a story of loneliness, ...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
Lynne King
I have no doubt that this is a brilliant book but it is not for me.
May 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
This was my first book by the famed Lessing. It focuses on the relationship of a poor couple eeking out a living on a farm in South Africa. When I first started out on this book I was convinced that the story would focus on Apartheid in South Africa. There are different elements of these aspects in the book, but I did not find that race was the main topic. To my surprise the core of the book is about something completely different (from my perspective) in terms of life paths, dreams and expectat ...more
Ruby Granger
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most interesting takes on a protagonist I have seen. You start of loving Mary and wondering why on earth anybody would want to kill her but as the novel progresses you begin to despise her. Mary's racism is truly shocking, especially seeing as Lessing describes it as a separate entity to her individuality (suggesting that it is not an intrinsic part of her but something that has been distilled by her childhood). There is definitely a Freudian approach being explored here and if you're ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Beth Bonini
This is not a ‘haunted house’ story in the usual sense of ghosts or the gothic genre, but it would be a challenge to think of a fictional house more decrepit, or with inhabitants more trapped, miserable and hopeless. Death stalks the pages from the first chapter, but really this book is about a culture so deformed and ugly that it twists and torments the souls of everyone unfortunate enough to be a part of it.

The book is set in Southern Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe) before the fight for independenc
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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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“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.” 48 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.” 40 likes
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