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The Cleft by Doris Lessing

The Cleft (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Doris Lessing

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5422518,513 (2.81)53
Title:The Cleft
Authors:Doris Lessing
Info:Harper-perennial (2008), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Library book, Read but unowned
Tags:read 2012

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The Cleft by Doris Lessing (2007)


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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A very unfortunate choice for a first book to read by Lessing. The premise of the book was promising--a retelling of the human origin narrative positing that women were once the only gender and exploring what happens when apparent genetic anomalies--men--begin to be born. This has a lot of potential. However, the book was incredibly unsatisfying and even offensive. Its totally essentialist and heteronormative views on gender reduce what could have been an interesting meditation on the relations between the sexes to an awkward and tedious farce.

It is also incredibly repetitive (possibly to echo the structure of the myths/epics it is inspired by, but nothing else in the rhythm of the prose seems to call back to that form, so it just ends up feeling like boring repetition). Reading it seemed to make the time go more slowly, an unpleasant sensation.

I hate to say it, but this book has totally turned me off of the desire to read any further works by this well-regarded author. It was that bad. ( )
  sansmerci | Dec 28, 2015 |
This is the first Doris Lessing novel that I have read; I had read her obituary notices and she seemed to be just the sort of author that I might enjoy but, this was not much of a tale.

The story is of a time when the proto human race was all female. Strange babies start to be born (boys) and the tale takes us through the opposition to change and how the sexes came to an understanding. The clever part, is that the story is told by a Roman historian. This gives the story a remove so that he can be all knowledgeable, but we from his future, can see that his belief that his views are wise, are as dated to us, as the new humans views were to him - or,indeed, as our views will seem to a future generation.

The idea was clever, but the thought that early versions of human kind were less inquisitive than ours does not ring true. There was also a surprising amount of gender stereotyping: men were rash, women nagged.

It is true that, on the whole, I tend to read factual books, but when I do read a novel, I either want to be entertained by a cracking yarn, or complete the final page with the idea that I know myself, or my fellow man, better. I could not say either in this case. Being stubborn, I shall try more of Doris Lessing's work before consigning her to a poor author (in my humble opinion!) ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jan 21, 2014 |
A fable of the first women and the first men who came after them. An exploration of the essence of relationships between men and women. An imagined history or mythology of a time before history, as told by a Roman who himself imgagines his civilisation to be the apex of human achievement. Quietly and clearly told. ( )
  questbird | Oct 7, 2013 |
This is not so much a novel as a fantasy wrapped around a theory. The theory is that humans came from the sea and started off by reproducing parthogenetically. Here, a Roman historian describes the quirks of early humanity, based on old written documents which are a transcription of still older oral histories.

The story is that women started giving birth to men, and, considering them deformed, put them out to die. Some of the men survived and then began rescuing the new male babies. After a lot of social upheaval, the men and women got together, and the human race switched over to sexual reproduction. Meanwhile, this tale explains most of the tensions between modern women and men.

Who knows - maybe it did happen that way? Kind of unlikely though. My feeling is that Lessing whipped this book off one daydreamy afternoon, which is about how long it takes to read it.
( )
  astrologerjenny | Apr 24, 2013 |
i was really disappointed in this book. i had high expectations based on the idea of the story, but i wish i wish i wish ... a lot of things. i wish the story was better. i wish she hadn't fallen back on gender stereotyping and gender roles. i wish i liked her style better. i wish someone like marge piercy had written this story instead...

"I have always found it entertaining that females are worshipped as goddesses, while in ordinary life they are kept secondary and thought inferior."

"I often think ... that each individual present has been born to a female, and if ever there was a common fate or destiny, then this must be it. The women standing here ... were all mothers, and every male there had been dandled, fussed over, fed, cleaned, slapped, kissed, taught by a female ... and this is such a heavy and persuasive history that I am amazed we don't remember it more often."

...weeks later, i just wanted to add that this book has come up in conversation a number of times, so that says something positive about it. i do like what she says about how history is written/remembered by those that shape it and have the power to do so. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
It is incomplete; it is deeply arbitrary; and I see in it little but a reworking of a tiresome science-fiction cliché - a hive of mindless females is awakened and elevated (to the low degree of which the female is capable) by the wondrous shock of masculinity.
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Book description
An old Roman senator, contemplative at his late stage of life, embarks on what will likely be his last endeavour:the retelling of the story of human creation. He recounts the history of the Clefts, an ancient community of women living in a coastal wilderness, confined within the valley of an overshadowing mountain. The Clefts have no need nor knowledge of men - childbirth is controlled, like the tides that lap around their feet, through the cycles of the moon, and they bear only female children. But with the unheralded birth of a strange, new child - a boy - the harmony of their sexless community is suddenly thrown into jeopardy.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060834870, Paperback)

From Doris Lessing, "one of the most important writers of the past hundred years" (Times of London), comes a brilliant, darkly provocative alternative history of humankind’s beginnings.

In the last years of his life, a Roman senator embarks on one final epic endeavor, a retelling of the history of human creation. The story he relates is the little-known saga of the Clefts, an ancient community of women with no knowledge of nor need for men. Childbirth was controlled through the cycles of the moon, and only female offspring were born—until the unanticipated event that jeopardized the harmony of their close-knit society: the strange, unheralded birth of a boy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:07 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In an ancient society solely populated by women whose childbirth cycles are controlled by the moon, community harmony is thrown into jeopardy by the unheralded birth of a boy, whose existence brings into awareness the role of gender in virtually every aspect of daily life.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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