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The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
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The Fifth Child (original 1988; edition 1989)

by Doris Lessing (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,109715,681 (3.59)167
A self-satisfied couple intent on raising a happy family is shocked by the birth of an abnormal and brutal fifth child.
Member:jennamozingo
Title:The Fifth Child
Authors:Doris Lessing (Author)
Info:Vintage (1989), Edition: Reprint, 144 pages
Collections:Favorites
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (1988)

  1. 60
    We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver (christiguc, humppabeibi)
    christiguc: Both are books that explore the nature vs. nurture question in disturbing situations.
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» See also 167 mentions

English (62)  French (3)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
Doris Lessing è il mio approdo letterario preferito dopo tanto girovagare per diversi mari letterari. Questo libro, crudo e realista, pone domande esistenziali e lascia al lettore l'onere di trovare le proprie risposte.
Una famiglia felice fortemente voluta e l'inatteso arrivo del quinto figlio che sembra un marziano.
Le dinamiche cambiano di fronte al diverso, cambiano le prospettive, vengono messi alla prova i principi morali dei membri della numerosa famiglia.
Spietato e profondo, di lettura agevole e veloce, mi ha lasciato con molte cose su cui riflettere.
Grazie Sig.ra Lessing, come sempre è stato un piacere! ( )
  LauraLaLunga | Feb 15, 2021 |
Skinny Book! Despite the small size this book is packed with issues and moral dilemmas. Harriet and David Lovatt meet at an office party in London in the 60s, but they are old-fashioned and traditional unlike all their contemporaries. They are kindred spirits who want to get married and have a big family, which they do in short order, with 4 kids in 6 years. Their big house in a village 2 hours from London is the center of extended family gatherings and they feel they have created a hub of counter-cultural values, warmth and love, even though many family members feel they are in over their heads financially and emotionally (they rely on David's father to help them make ends meet and Harriet's mother for help with the children) Then Harriet gets pregnant with the 5th child. From the start this pregnancy is different - the fetus is very active and strong and Harriet feels as if it is warring with her from the inside. In 8 months of pain, sleeplessness and distress, she comes to think of it as "the enemy." When Ben is born a month early, he is 11 pounds and strong and hungry. He looks like a "goblin" with yellow-green eyes and a sloping forehead. He grows quickly, doesn't respond to loving care and puts an immediate damper on the family vibe of love and happiness. Visitors no longer come because he creeps them out and by age 2 is a danger to other small children and animals. Harriet and her mother are worn out, the other children are alienated and Harriet is faced with an awful 'Sophie's choice' of Ben or the rest of her family. The ending is inconclusive which frustrates some, but this doesn't appear to be traditional novel trajectory anyway. Instead if presents great themes to discuss like "otherness," motherhood, family dynamics, society & acceptance, and reproductive rights if you are brave. Lessing is a superior writer (Nobel prize) and this book should rise to classic status. ( )
  CarrieWuj | Oct 24, 2020 |
The Fifth Child is a book I've meant to read for quite awhile, and I now look forward to its sequel. This is the unsettling story of David and Harriet, who marry and move into a large house, with expectations to fill it with many children. They have four children in quick succession, and experience the normal joys and challenges of parenthood. Their fifth child, Ben, is born after a very difficult pregnancy. He is very large with the look of a troll, and is immediately aggressive and angry. Ben's four siblings are initially excited to welcome a new baby, but as he grows, so does their instinctive fear of him. The normally-bustling household soon empties of family and friends as people eventually withdraw after being around this feral child.

Harriet does her best to assimilate Ben into the family, but soon the children disperse as they grow older. In effect, she has sacrificed her happy home life, and is saddled with heartbreak, guilt and regret over the loss of her perfect future. Doris Lessing writes skillfully about a life turned upside down by the arrival of a child for whom there are no answers. ( )
1 vote pdebolt | Oct 1, 2020 |
Read 2019. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 14, 2020 |
Luke, Helen, Jane und Paul sind die vier reizenden Sprößlinge der Familie Lovatt. Da tritt unverhofft noch ein Nachzügler in ihr idyllisches Leben, und mit ihm wird alles anders … „Das fünfte Kind“, erschienen 1988, ist der packende Psychothriller über eine Familie, deren trautes Heim sich schlagartig in die Hölle auf Erden verwandelt.
  Fredo68 | May 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doris Lessingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dudzinski, AndrzejCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peake, MervynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EvaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Heyne (8126)
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Harriet and David met each other at an office party neither had particularly wanted to go to, and both knew at once that this was what they had been waiting for.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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A self-satisfied couple intent on raising a happy family is shocked by the birth of an abnormal and brutal fifth child.

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In the unconstrained atmosphere of England in the late 1960s, Harriet and David Lovatt defy the "greedy and selfish" spirit of the times with their version of tradition and normalcy: a large family, all the expected pleasures of a rich and responsible home life, children growing, Harriet tending, David providing. Even as the day's events take a dark turn - an ominous surge in crime, unemployment, unrest - the Lovatts cling to their belief that an obstinacy guarded contentedness will preserve them from the world outside. Until the birth of their fifth child.
Harriet and David are stricken with astonishment at their new infant. Almost gruesome in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong, demanding and violent, Ben has nothing infant-like about him, nothing innocent or unsullied - nothing normal by society's standards. Harriet and David understand immediately that he will never be accepted in their world. And Harriet finds she cannot love him. David cannot bring himself to touch him. The four older children are quickly afraid of him. Family and friends who once gravitated to the Lovatts' begin to stay away.
Now, in this house, where there had been nothing but kindness, warmth, and comfort, ther is restraint, wariness, and anxiety. Harriet and David are torn - as they would never have believed possible - between their instincts as parents and their shocked reaction to this fierce and unlovable baby. Their vision of the world as a simple and benign place is desperately threatened by the mere existence of one of their own children. AS the novel unfolds in spare and startling scenes, we are drawn deep into the life of the Lovatt family, and are witness to the terrifying confusion of emotion that becomes their daily fare as they cope with Ben - and with their own response to him - through his childhood and adolescence....

But Doris Lessing is giving us, as well, a larger picture. The story of the Lovatts' extraordinary circumstance becomes a vivid reflection of society's unwillingness to confront - and its eventual complicity in its own most brutal aspects.
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