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The Grass is Singing
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April 2019: Other Books > The Grass is Singing - Lessing - 4 stars

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message 1: by Jgrace (last edited Apr 21, 2019 07:28AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jgrace | 1796 comments The Grass is Singing - Lessing
4 stars

“The crises of individuals, like the crises of nations, are not realized until they are over.”

This is Doris Lessing’s debut novel, originally published in 1950. The writing is powerfully evocative in a slow, understated, insidious way. This is South Africa under white rule. It’s disturbing. The novel begins with Mary Turner’s murder. It backtracks to an overview of her personal history before her marriage to Dick Turner. After the marriage, the book continues with the grinding, slow, and inevitable deterioration of a tragic situation.

This story is primarily a stark denouncement of South Africa’s racial exploitation. “What had happened was that the formal pattern of black-and-white, mistress-and-servant, had been broken by the personal relation; and when a white man in Africa by accident looks into the eyes of a native and sees the human being (which it is his chief preoccupation to avoid), his sense of guilt, which he denies, fumes up in resentment and he brings down the whip.” It was difficult and depressing to experience the attitudes of white supremacy expressed by these characters. Lessing gives a pointed description of how European newcomers move quickly from revulsion to complicity, adapting to the unspoken but rigid racial divides.

This is also a feminist novel. Lessing is demonstrating how Mary Turner is trapped within the limits of female expectations. I don’t know if the author expected me to have sympathy for the character or not. I certainly didn’t. I can’t think of a character that I’ve hated this much since Zeena in Ethan Frome.


Idit | 580 comments Glad you liked it. It’s a very strong book

I read it few years ago and then heard her talk (found some random video or speech online. I can’t remember what she said just that I loved her and how much spirit she had


Jgrace | 1796 comments I can't say that I 'liked' it. It's too disturbing. But, the writing is impressive. I would like to read more of her work.


Idit | 580 comments That’s exactly how I came out of reading the book. And then I bought a short stories book of her and haven’t read it yet :)


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