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The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
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The Grass is Singing (1950)

by Doris Lessing

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (56)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
A brutal, unsparing tale of colonialism as acted out through interpersonal relationships: not only those between coloniser and colonised, but also the fractal way colonialism infects the relationships between the colonisers. ( )
  eldang | Aug 11, 2019 |
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. ( )
  msjudy | Apr 19, 2019 |
No sé por qué me recordó mucho a Cumbres borrascosas: tal vez el ambiente aislado y tenso, los personajes y sus profundos odios...
Lessing es una autora de primerísima calidad, y esta novela lo demuestra. Los indicios están perfectamente bien colocados y cada leitmotiv es efectivo. El sentimiento de frustración y amargura de los personajes es tan real que no puedes evitar sentirlo con ellos. Además, su forma de manejar las problemáticas raciales del apartheid es impecable, crítica y profunda. ( )
  LeoOrozco | Feb 26, 2019 |
There is so much that is amazingly good about this book. The prose, "effortless" and non-intrusive, the setting, which can never be forgotten and which looms over the protagonists through the bulk of the book, the utterly believable characters, the poverty and gruelling work.

The main point of view character, Mary, reveals beauty and ugliness, always within the framework of her fatally wounded personality. I feel compassion for her even as I am appalled by her attitude and her behaviour. Her torment and her struggles in her own mind ring true.

The only disappointment is the lack of insight into the one important black character. We watch him from without, unlike the others, and although there is some subtlety in how he is drawn, Lessing relies too much on Mary's impressions and on literary stereotypes for the reader to feel that she knows him. [SPOILER: In the end, his motivation is not revealed. The author, who has just for the first time shown us his viewpoint, shrugs off responsibility for greater illumination by saying it is impossible to say what his thoughts were at the end. Even though it was not impossible to say what everyone else's thoughts were. Hmmm.]

A well wrought, effective, affecting story of racism, sexism, and the destruction of human beings from within. ( )
  thesmellofbooks | Aug 31, 2018 |
Doris Lessing's first novel is set in Rhodesia during white colonial rule. The focus is on Mary Turner, wife of Dick Turner, a poor white farmer, as isolation, poverty, and lack of purpose eat away at her and lead to her mental deterioration, and, ultimately, her murder. (Happens in the first pages). This is a searing criticism of colonialism and racism. There is very little plot, and the book moves slowly over 15 years of day-to-day sameness. The heat and the African veldt are vividly portrayed, making the setting a major element in the book. I recognize the importance of this book, and the beauty of the writing. However, I remember liking it much more the first time I read it 30+ years ago.

3 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 23, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doris Lessingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hökby, BertilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hökby, GunvorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nová, SoňaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
It is by the failures and misfits of a
civilization that one can best judge its
weaknesses.
-- Author unknown
In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico, co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain

Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder

-- from The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
with grateful acknowledgements to the
author and to Messrs Faber & Faber
Dedication
To
Mrs GLADYS MAASDORP
of Southern Rhodesia
for whom I feel the greatest
affection and admiration
First words
Mary Turner, wife of Richard Turner, a farmer at Ngesi, was found murdered on the front verandah of their homestead yesterday morning.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061673749, Paperback)

Set in Southern Rhodesia under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is at once a riveting chronicle of human disintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman's struggleagainst a ruthless fate.

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 works its slow poison. Mary's despair progresses until the fateful arrival of Moses, an enigmatic, virile black servant. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses—master and slave—are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion, until their psychic tension explodes with devastating consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:01 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Set in Southern Rhodesia under white rule, Doris Lessing's first novel is at once a riveting chronicle of human disintegration, a beautifully understated social critique, and a brilliant depiction of the quiet horror of one woman's struggleagainst a ruthless fate. 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 works its slow poison. Mary's despair progresses until the fateful arrival of Moses, an enigmatic, virile black servant. Locked in anguish, Mary and Moses--master and slave--are trapped in a web of mounting attraction and repulsion, until their psychic tension explodes with devastating consequences.

» see all 5 descriptions

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