Doris Lessing needs no introduction in my site (please refer to the previous entry). I had one other book in mind when I visited the library last week but it was not available. So I have decided to pick another book authored by Doris Lessing. Spoilt by options, I chose a rather short novel (160 pages) – “The Fifth Child” – as well as its sequel “Ben in the World”. The sequel was selected by pure chance.
Reading Doris Lessing reminded me of one of the literature values the famous Italian writer Italo Calvino promoted in his “Six Memos for the Next Millennium” – Quickness. The pace of “The Fifth Child” is extremely fast especially for the first quarter of the book. The two main characters – David and Harriet – fell in love, bought a huge mansion in London, had their first child, then second, then third, then fourth and in the same period, other family characters were introduced to paint a ‘happy’ and ‘cheerful’ environment for the couple who was determined to be happy and had as many children as possible – all within 40 of pages.
Then Harriet was pregnant with the fifth child. And that is when the story turns into a tragedy. This thing that was born has no better word to describe than perhaps, troll or goblin or medieval human being. Doris Lessing’s subtle sensitivity shines through the passages of horror and shock that each character has to bear. The ‘happy’ family was shattered, no longer lived in harmony, and there came the irrational actions of Harriet’s heroic struggle to love her son without reciprocation, against the will of her family. Nobody would understand. I too would not. However, under Doris Lessing’s pen, Harriet’s unconditional, yet difficult, love towards this thing inspires the readers how powerful maternal love can be. The feeling described is so real that, to me, it almost read as a horror story that I could not stop reading.
I have just started reading the sequel “Ben in the World”. So far, it is even better than “The Fifth Child”. If you have the stomach for this kind of novel, you may wish to give it a try.
- The Cleft By Doris Lessing – Drop All That You Know And Start Over
- Mara And Dann By Doris Lessing – An Adventure Of A Sister And A Brother During The Next Ice Age
- Doris Lessing – The Story Of General Dann And Mara’s Daughter, Griot And The Snow Dog
- The Fifth Child By Doris Lessing – Horror Or Tragedy? You Decide
- Ben In The World By Doris Lessing – Sympathetic Love And Desperation Mashed Into One