i can't quite fathom why this series is not more widely discussed and celebrated, can only be enormously grateful to the bookstore clerk who was so enamored of it she approached me on some instinct as i browsed the woolf section and said, "you have to read lessing's 'children of violence' series"..i read through all five novels and was struck by lessing's extraordinary insight into the mind (and heart) of young women: with martha quest, the literary characterization of the young woman emerged from half-told shadows in full astounding complexity. this alone makes the series significant. add to that lessing's brilliant writing about organizational politics and psychology, landscape, history, etc etc, and this series is truly a masterpiece. read it, pass it on to friends, read it again.
We meet Martha Quest as a resentful 15 year old girl, growing up on a farm in Africa. As noted adequately here, this is the first book in her Children of Violence series-- held by many to be Lessings most important body of work (with the exception of _The Golden Notebook_). I'm one of these Lessing fans from back in the day when _The Golden Notebook_ changed my life, and I haven't read much of her other work. I was impressed by Martha Quest-- it falls in the category of our classic coming-of-age novels, and as such stands well on its own as a novel. Lessing's Martha is at times so frustrating you want to shake her, but I think that's typical for the age of the character portrayed. Martha is all sharp edges-- she can't seem to fit with her parents, the men around her, the people with whom she tries to interact. With the blindness of her age, she's able to acutely feel how hard she has it, without really feeling the struggle of others around her who may have an even more difficult...
Doris Lessing remains one of my favorite writers. I first fell in love with her work when I read The Golden Notebook in college, as you do. I'm still slowly working my way through her complete novels.
I really enjoyed Martha Quest, the first book in the Children of Violence. But I was deeply moved by A Proper Marriage. Take the bright young things of a Fitzgerald novel, give them sweat, hangovers and physicality and put them in a troubled country on the eve of a World War. If you can imagine that, then you have a little bit of an idea about A Proper Marriage.
There's something so smart and complicated about the way that Lessing develops Martha in this book. Her disaffection with the excesses of the left lead her into a middle class life, even as her sympathies lie elsewhere. Relationships, war, child-bearing and the colour bar are all woven together into a book that somehow manages to bear the weight of the themes while still givng the reader a very human...
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