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A Ripple from the Storm

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Martha Quest, the embodied heroine of the Children of Violence series, has been acclaimed as one of the greatest fictional creations in the English language. In a Ripple from the Storm, Doris Lessing charts Martha Quest's personal and political adventures in race-torn British Africa, following Martha through World War II, a grotesque second marriage, and an excursion into Martha Quest, the embodied heroine of the Children of Violence series, has been acclaimed as one of the greatest fictional creations in the English language. In a Ripple from the Storm, Doris Lessing charts Martha Quest's personal and political adventures in race-torn British Africa, following Martha through World War II, a grotesque second marriage, and an excursion into Communism. This wise and starling novel perceptively reveals the paradoxes, passions, and ironies rooted in the life of twentieth-century Anglo-Africa. A Ripple from the Storm is the third novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence sequence of novels, each a masterpiece in its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.


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Martha Quest, the embodied heroine of the Children of Violence series, has been acclaimed as one of the greatest fictional creations in the English language. In a Ripple from the Storm, Doris Lessing charts Martha Quest's personal and political adventures in race-torn British Africa, following Martha through World War II, a grotesque second marriage, and an excursion into Martha Quest, the embodied heroine of the Children of Violence series, has been acclaimed as one of the greatest fictional creations in the English language. In a Ripple from the Storm, Doris Lessing charts Martha Quest's personal and political adventures in race-torn British Africa, following Martha through World War II, a grotesque second marriage, and an excursion into Communism. This wise and starling novel perceptively reveals the paradoxes, passions, and ironies rooted in the life of twentieth-century Anglo-Africa. A Ripple from the Storm is the third novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence sequence of novels, each a masterpiece in its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.

30 review for A Ripple from the Storm

  1. 5 out of 5

    Warwick

    The third of the Children of Violence novels turns its attention directly to the process of political action, something that's been a running theme since the start but which now lurches sluggishly centre-stage. Unfortunately, the idea that leftwing activism can get bogged down in subcommittees, ideological theorising and petty infighting is now so well understood as hardly to need saying, let alone to need the kind of close, unblinking, beat-by-beat analysis that Doris Lessing brings to all her The third of the Children of Violence novels turns its attention directly to the process of political action, something that's been a running theme since the start but which now lurches sluggishly centre-stage. Unfortunately, the idea that leftwing activism can get bogged down in subcommittees, ideological theorising and petty infighting is now so well understood as hardly to need saying, let alone to need the kind of close, unblinking, beat-by-beat analysis that Doris Lessing brings to all her subjects. Typically, Lessing hones in unerringly on the central issue: that political principles, however unimpeachable, can always come into conflict with feelings of basic human empathy. That conflict is dramatised here by having the heroine Martha enter into a disastrous relationship with the cold, analytical Anton, the leader of their local Communist faction. Confusingly, she finds it impossible either to agree or to argue with his ponderous, academic assessments of the best ways to address colonial racism, workers' education, or access to abortion. She felt him to be logically right; she felt him to be inhuman and wrong. There was no way for her to make these two feelings fit together. Anton's interpersonal failings are underscored by how terrible he is in bed. Martha gives him a chance, but, ‘after half a dozen times the honest voice of her femininity remarked that “Anton was hopeless”. Or, to salvage her image of the man: “We are sexually incompatible”’ – the phrase resounding here, in 1958, as a wonderfully newly-minted euphemism. The relationship did not seem improbable to me, if only because she so well explains the feeling, during the war, that ‘personal happiness was irrelevant’ because they were all about to be catapulted into a huge and cataclysmic European revolution. They all of them saw the future as something short and violent. Somewhere just before them was a dark gulf or chasm, into which they must all disappear. A communist is a dead man on leave, she thought. What I did find a struggle to understand, with the benefit of all the cultural hindsight I've grown up with, was how Martha or her clever friends could have fallen for any of the procedural busywork offered by these political groups, which meant it was a sometimes a bit of a slog working through the minutes of all the endless meetings in this book. Then again, political engagement of any kind was vanishingly scarce when I was growing up, so in that sense perhaps they're rather to be admired. Either way, one stays for the piercing exactness of her characterisations. Most writers, describing a wife who is at odds with her husband's career choices, would be content to describe her glances towards him as ‘rueful’ or ‘amused’ – but for Lessing, her eyes rest on him ‘not in irony, for this she would never have allowed herself, but with a certain quality of calm quizzical appraisal’. I mean—! Later, a man trying to intervene in an argument is said to be ‘melancholy with the nobilities of enforced impartiality’, while an attractive colleague's face has ‘the smooth prepared surface of a very pretty girl who feels men's eyes play over her like sunlight’. Phrase by phrase, thought by thought, she always impresses.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Zanna

    The third book in Martha Quest's story is best read after the foregoing instalments. Here there is a shift in subject matter; previously Martha's political activities were not a dominant part of her life, and she engaged in them alongside other preoccupations. Here all the action is political activity, and the personal lives of the characters are subsumed in it rather than the reverse. The energies and characters of Martha and everyone else is enmeshed in a political epic taking place at all sca The third book in Martha Quest's story is best read after the foregoing instalments. Here there is a shift in subject matter; previously Martha's political activities were not a dominant part of her life, and she engaged in them alongside other preoccupations. Here all the action is political activity, and the personal lives of the characters are subsumed in it rather than the reverse. The energies and characters of Martha and everyone else is enmeshed in a political epic taking place at all scales, from international to intimate. While Lessing sometimes seems to ridicule the machinations and dogma of political groups or criticise them scathingly, she effectively demonstrates that every level of existence has a political dimension, which is often overlooked by the particular ideological framings at work among the participants. Greek activist Athen's attempts to communicate the all-embracing political framework of Marxism to ingenue Maisie, whose sympathethic indolence might be meant to represent an easily influenced reader, involve humanising politics, softening ideology into an integrated (even living) body of varyingly flexible ethical positions. This humanistic approach is the opposite of ideologue Anton's rigid and dogmatic intellectualism. I remembered reading about dry stone walls and why they are stronger than bricks and mortar: the stones flex with the moving earth, and each tiny shift wedges them more tightly together. Anton's Marxism is accordingly much more robust than Anton's. Martha's character development during this phase seems limited or liminal. She has gained skills but she has not gained a feeling of control, she still discovers herself in action at the whim of invisible forces, thistledown of history. Since Zambesia is fictional its travails need no direct exposition, but the situation is an effective vehicle for the exposure and exploration of reactionary attitudes and the development of radical politics in the context of Apartheid. Lessing brings such a pitch of expertise and passion to the scenario as to give it the veracity of memoir, but the coherence and intensity of plotting took me into depths of awareness and feeling that only fiction touches. Like Martha in A Proper Marriage Jimmy has an encounter with the natural world, after dramatically (but frivolously) 'escaping' from the formidable fence of the RAF camp. This action is a microcosm of the broader situation. While the fence itself is real, Jimmy does not really have to get out of it by squeezing under a loose section in the middle of the night - he makes things difficult for himself, and forces a black man to help him who is terrified of getting into trouble. He 'strains his body' to help Jimmy and receives nothing in return but thanks. Once out, Jimmy experiences elation and wonder at the environment: the strength and sweetness of the grass, the loveliness of the moonlight, but this quickly turns to fear and disgust as insects gather and crawl on his body. The contrast with Martha's transcendent experience is very striking, and perhaps reflects their gendered occupations at the time: Martha is pregnant and preparing for a caregiving period, Jimmy has just reflected that he physically enjoys his work maintaining military aircraft. The terms of his pleasure are actually related to the life-giving of parenthood and social reproduction because he thinks of the 'lazy' steel coming to life under his hands, the 'dead' machine revived by repair. But this action seems, especially with his concession to his friend that 'everything's just machines now' more like the unwholesome reanimation of the dead, a zombie life-giving. Thus, the real life of nature actively repels and rejects him, treating him with threatening hostility like a stray pathogen, where it welcomed Martha with joy. Martha has fever dreams and hallucinations about protecting others, which throw light on the emotional roots of her communism. She also dreams of a huge, ancient, partly dead 'saurian' buried in the Earth like a dinosaur fossil, its eyes covered with dust. She does not feel threatened by this embodiment or creature of the land, rather she feels anguished concern for it. I was unsure about Lessing's intent for this symbol (which could have been an autobiographical recollection) but to me it suggested the buried histories at the foundations of the white nation. Lessing makes a highly gendered critique of social relations that cuts across political groupings: Anton, though dedicated and educated, apparently lacks any empathic ability. His communism is as lifeless and mechanical as Jimmy's military hardware, and Lessing demonstrates this most intensely through his attitude to Maisie's pregnancy, which echoes Mr Maynard's inhuman and ludicrous judgement of a woman defendant in his magistrate's court 'you should have thought of that'. Lessing also gives Martha a particularly satisfying quip in the scene when she is ill and Jimmy is simultaneously admonishing and ministering to her'You bourgeois girls you need a good working class husband to teach you a thing or two. When I see you bourgeois girls I think of my mother and what she had to take from her life, and believe you me you could learn a thing or two from her' 'All of you,' she said 'all of you working class men have this damned sentimental thing about your mothers.' 'Sentimental is it? Let me tell you, it's the working class woman that takes the rap every time.' 'I imagined that was why we wanted to change things.' 'What do you mean?' he said hotly. He was leaning forward, sweat-covered, scarlet-faced[…] She said, in a change of mood, grimly: 'We'll abolish poverty, and give women freedom and then they'll simmer and boil, sacrificing themselves for everyone - like my mother.' She laughed at the look of bewildered anger on his face.' There's no good talking to me about women sacrificing themselves for their families, I've had that one. And I don't want to talk about it either,' she added, as the explosion of his emotion reached his eyes in a hot stare of protest. 'What do you mean, you don't want to talk about it? I'm going to talk you out of this one, believe you me. Women are the salt of the earth. I'm telling you. My mother was the salt of the earth. My dad died when I was ten and she brought up me and my two sisters on what she got by cleaning offices until I went to work and helped her out.' 'Good, then let's arrange things so that women have to work eighteen hours a day and die at fifty, worn out so that you can go on being sentimental about us.'Sympathy remains broadly on the communist side and it is men who I feel swings the balance - the RAF men leave Anton's group because they are frustrated that he refuses to affirm their humanitarian work with people in the 'Coloured' quarter, and following this Athen expresses his warm approval of the group's solution to Maisie's problem:'Comrades, we live in a terrible and ugly time, we live when capitalism is a beast who murders us, starves us, keeps us from the joy of life. As communists we must try to live as if the ugliness was already dead. We must try and live like socialists who care for each other and for people, even while we are hurt all the time by capitalism which is cruel. And so I am happy to hear about these two comrades. That shows we in this room are real communists. I am proud and happy to be with you in this room.'Lessing draws a parallel between Athen and Anton by making them tell similar parables. Anton: "If two communists find themselves together on a desert island, or in a city where no other communists exist, then their duty is to work together, to analyse the situation, to decide on the basis of their analysis what is to be done" and much later Athen: "If two communists find themselves somewhere, let us say suddenly in a strange town, they know they are not just two people, but that they are communism. And they must behave with self-respect because they represent the idea. And if there is even one communist - suppose any one of us finds himself [sic] alone somewhere, or perhaps in prison or sentenced to death, then he must never feel himself alone, except as a man, because as a man he is alone and that is good. But he is a communist and therefore not alone." By speaking about a lone communist, Athen shows how an ideology can remain human, since he affirms the individuality of each person as well as the social self existing in mutuality. Athen's affirmation of Andrew's kindness to Maisie is not undermined by their lack of emotional maturity to sustain their relationship, which becomes apparent in the extraordinary political meeting taking place in the Native location. This theatrical scene is the third episode in a series that began with the black waiter forced to dance in the club and continued in A Proper Marriage with the pageant given by children from the Coloured quarter. Lessing is composing an opera of Apartheid. The scene where Jimmy entered the house where Africans were very softly making music after curfew might be seen as belonging to this cycle, an instrumental interlude perhaps, revealing the life and sweetness daring stubbornly to exist in defiance of the white supremacist state. Lessing also recalls Jimmy's reflection on, or rather emotion about work positively. The animating potential of labour is aligned with desire on the part of black Africans for good jobs and fair pay (reminding us that slavery is not labour). To complicate matters, Marie du Preez admonishes the African men for their treatment of their wives, a piece of misplaced white feminist stage hogging that seems appropriately mocked by the presentation of bouquets. The loaded flowers are echoed by the gesture Mrs Van makes to Martha on hearing of her marriage. Lessing spends time painting this woman's character, building sympathy and contrasting her with Martha, who, with similar background and inclinations, lacks the self-possession to pursue her desires or ideals. Mrs Van, touched by Martha's poltical commitment (she has attended the meeting on her wedding day) cuts roses from her own garden to take to her. I adored her for this poignant gesture of generosity and compassion, but it was lost, deflated, in the enervated atmosphere of Martha's life. Storms batter blooms and scatter petals.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    Approximately, 1984 redone as a colonial-era comedy of manners. As we know from Orwell, it was a bit difficult during World War II to keep track of what you were supposed to think of the Soviet Union. Here, Doris Lessing describes a bunch of very amateurish Communists, who are stuck in what was then Rhodesia, watching the action from the sidelines. At first, they are ostracized for supporting the Soviet Union. But Germany attacks the Russians, Stalin is suddenly our friend, and the Rhodesian Com Approximately, 1984 redone as a colonial-era comedy of manners. As we know from Orwell, it was a bit difficult during World War II to keep track of what you were supposed to think of the Soviet Union. Here, Doris Lessing describes a bunch of very amateurish Communists, who are stuck in what was then Rhodesia, watching the action from the sidelines. At first, they are ostracized for supporting the Soviet Union. But Germany attacks the Russians, Stalin is suddenly our friend, and the Rhodesian Communists are now flavor-of-the-month in their provincial backwater. They enjoy it while it lasts, making sure of course that they have time left over for petty scheming and intriguing. Then the Allies triumph, the Cold War starts, and they're wrong-footed again. It's quite funny in a very understated way. She reused some of the material in The Golden Notebook.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Reads & Reviews

    This one was amusing. The meetings and busywork that appeared to change nothing made me chuckle for awhile, then became tedious. The POV changes allowed other characters to liven up the story as by this time Martha becomes less interesting. Political activism can be a sideshow. Few people are savvy enough to have any lasting impact. On a different note, I've heard that Marxism is capable of gaining fervent followers because it is able to replace that need for religion in society. The Communist p This one was amusing. The meetings and busywork that appeared to change nothing made me chuckle for awhile, then became tedious. The POV changes allowed other characters to liven up the story as by this time Martha becomes less interesting. Political activism can be a sideshow. Few people are savvy enough to have any lasting impact. On a different note, I've heard that Marxism is capable of gaining fervent followers because it is able to replace that need for religion in society. The Communist party that Martha joined indeed operated a bit like a religious cult. It seems that youth, in their twenties, are prone to fanaticism. In the story, as in life, people generally do not live up to youthful idealism. Martha has herself in a pickle, and her support system has changed, which leads one to open the next book....

  5. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    This is the third volume in Doris Lessing's "Children of Violence" series. I believe these novels are considered highly autobiographical and are meant to show a young woman trying to find herself as she moves out of her middle-class South African/English upbringing. The first novel in the series, Martha Quest, shows her breaking away from the family to go live and work in the city. At the end of that one, Martha impulsively marries the first man who asks her. In the second, A Proper Marriage, Mar This is the third volume in Doris Lessing's "Children of Violence" series. I believe these novels are considered highly autobiographical and are meant to show a young woman trying to find herself as she moves out of her middle-class South African/English upbringing. The first novel in the series, Martha Quest, shows her breaking away from the family to go live and work in the city. At the end of that one, Martha impulsively marries the first man who asks her. In the second, A Proper Marriage, Martha has a baby, struggles with expectations for her as a wife and mother, and by the end has left her husband and daughter to throw herself into left wing politics. A Ripple from the Storm opens with a communist party meeting and in fact most of the book is taken up with meetings, squabbles, and party activities, all of which I found not very interesting. That may be because of all the other books I have read from the 1950s about people becoming disillusioned with communism. My interest in A Ripple from the Storm was engaged whenever the story focused on Martha and other women in the story. Each one is moving through their individual ideas about self as they balance relationships with activism while continually running into male patriarchal attitudes. The question or problem of finding love with a man is an old one for women these days but many of Doris Lessing's observations on the subject remain pertinent and she has a unique viewpoint. She digs deeply into the lack of self that women must always deal with when trying to assert themselves as thinking, active members of the human race. This volume ends with Martha in a quandary between two convictions: "One, it was inevitable that everything should have happened in exactly the way it had happened: no one could have behaved differently. Two, that everything that had happened was unreal, grotesque, and irrelevant." She feels overwhelmed with futility and falls asleep. Clearly Doris Lessing did not give in to futility. She won the Nobel prize in 2007 and is still writing novels. So I look forward to what happens next.

  6. 4 out of 5

    El

    Where the second book in the Children of Violence series focused heavily on Martha Quest's young marriage and the birth of her daughter, this third book finds her in an entirely new set of circumstances. (view spoiler)[She left her husband and daughter at the end of the second book in a controversial manner, choosing herself over the confines of her family, unconventional during the 1940s. (hide spoiler)] In this installment Martha's interests lie more in her politics and her beliefs rather than Where the second book in the Children of Violence series focused heavily on Martha Quest's young marriage and the birth of her daughter, this third book finds her in an entirely new set of circumstances. (view spoiler)[She left her husband and daughter at the end of the second book in a controversial manner, choosing herself over the confines of her family, unconventional during the 1940s. (hide spoiler)] In this installment Martha's interests lie more in her politics and her beliefs rather than her family, believing that the quest to find herself can be found in her Communist leanings. I enjoyed the second book more than this one because there was a level of relatability to that part of her story, and seriously, my mind is still reeling from those childbirth scenes. There's really none of that same breathlessness to this story as in the second book, and I'd compare this more to the first book in the series in that aspect as well. I could have used a lot more; I felt Martha's distance from the reader had more to do with the writer than the fact that Martha is going through an especially distant part of her life. I half wonder if Lessing just wasn't into the character in this story. The other characters felt more of caricatures than anything, which is a shame compared to A Proper Marriage in which Stella and Alice, for example, were truly fascinating women and complemented Martha in their own ways so well. In this book, the relationships Martha has are all with various comrades, in and outside of various Communist meetings that lead to very little. Her romantic relationships lack a spark that I cannot determine was intentional for Martha's character development or if Lessing truly was just phoning it in with this book. I didn't dislike the story, but it did not hold my attention as much as A Proper Marriage. Martha can be insufferable at times, particularly in this installment where her mind is so much on her politics.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    Three stars is generous. This is the third book in Lessing's Children of Violence series. Compared to books one and two, it's a farcical ramble, which struggles to find its footing. Martha Quest, the main character in books one and two and the most developed of all the characters in this series so far, fades in and out of this story, as if on life support. The other characters that replace her are far less developed and remain stiff and unmemorable. Failed politics is the main character of this Three stars is generous. This is the third book in Lessing's Children of Violence series. Compared to books one and two, it's a farcical ramble, which struggles to find its footing. Martha Quest, the main character in books one and two and the most developed of all the characters in this series so far, fades in and out of this story, as if on life support. The other characters that replace her are far less developed and remain stiff and unmemorable. Failed politics is the main character of this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tubi(Sera McFly)

    Martha is not the female hero that you may be looking for. These Marta Quest novels should be seen as a woman's search for identity and especially this third volume mostly focuses on confessions of the political history of the 20th century. Martha is not the female hero that you may be looking for. These Marta Quest novels should be seen as a woman's search for identity and especially this third volume mostly focuses on confessions of the political history of the 20th century.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Rolfe

    A Ripple from The Storm is an attempt to describe the psychology of the group organised against society, the psychology of the individual in an individualistic society trying to behave as 'communal man.' By the end of the book it is apparent that the group has failed. The characters in this were so well portrayed. Lessing beautifully analyzed a group of disparate people coming together for a common cause but their different backgrounds, class, experiences made the task impossible. Great! Am re-r A Ripple from The Storm is an attempt to describe the psychology of the group organised against society, the psychology of the individual in an individualistic society trying to behave as 'communal man.' By the end of the book it is apparent that the group has failed. The characters in this were so well portrayed. Lessing beautifully analyzed a group of disparate people coming together for a common cause but their different backgrounds, class, experiences made the task impossible. Great! Am re-reading this after 30 years and enjoying it so much more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gustavo Krieger

    After two magnificient books, the third in the Children of Violence series is very low-down. While the others deal with a broad range of questions, this one is very political-oriented. It deals mostly with the problems of a small communist party on the fictional country of South Rodesia that is, to be frank, not even remotely efficient and from which the character of Martha Quest is just a small part. On the plus side, you have a very rich account of colonization and the communist mind before th After two magnificient books, the third in the Children of Violence series is very low-down. While the others deal with a broad range of questions, this one is very political-oriented. It deals mostly with the problems of a small communist party on the fictional country of South Rodesia that is, to be frank, not even remotely efficient and from which the character of Martha Quest is just a small part. On the plus side, you have a very rich account of colonization and the communist mind before the cold war.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    Ms. Lessing, uh, is intense. I feel somewhat embarrassed I am getting through the Children of Violence series out of order, as I'm getting the impression this is a Big and Important Series that ought to be tackled in the order the author accomplished it (notwithstanding the publisher's disclaimer to the contrary). But seriously: This is a really important author. And what she's written is intense. Ms. Lessing, uh, is intense. I feel somewhat embarrassed I am getting through the Children of Violence series out of order, as I'm getting the impression this is a Big and Important Series that ought to be tackled in the order the author accomplished it (notwithstanding the publisher's disclaimer to the contrary). But seriously: This is a really important author. And what she's written is intense.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

    Martha Quest, the heroine of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series, continues to be a casualty of circumstances as she lets life happen to her. Her relationship with her parents and absurd relationship with her husband point to her failure to choose from a strong heart what she should do and how she should love. She does not appreciate that her life is hers to make. How can she after so many years of her mother's emotional abuse and belittling ways? She defines herself according to her mot Martha Quest, the heroine of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series, continues to be a casualty of circumstances as she lets life happen to her. Her relationship with her parents and absurd relationship with her husband point to her failure to choose from a strong heart what she should do and how she should love. She does not appreciate that her life is hers to make. How can she after so many years of her mother's emotional abuse and belittling ways? She defines herself according to her mother's limitations but does not realize it. I read on hope she will shed the yoke, stand up, and live.

  13. 5 out of 5

    A

    Huh, just noticed I never wrote a review for this book. Which is funny, because I've been so good at reviewing everything this year. I agree with Manny there that it is one of the best books of the series. "A Proper Marriage" and "Landlocked" feel almost transitional compared to the other three. The most memorable portion for me is the scene with the sick British pilot who wanders off-base and goes mad in the brush. Otherwise, this one is very much dominated by communism and Martha's awful secon Huh, just noticed I never wrote a review for this book. Which is funny, because I've been so good at reviewing everything this year. I agree with Manny there that it is one of the best books of the series. "A Proper Marriage" and "Landlocked" feel almost transitional compared to the other three. The most memorable portion for me is the scene with the sick British pilot who wanders off-base and goes mad in the brush. Otherwise, this one is very much dominated by communism and Martha's awful second marriage.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura Conrad

    This is the one that really makes me reread the series -- it's so good about marxist politics. This is the one that really makes me reread the series -- it's so good about marxist politics.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Vel Veeter

    This is the third book in the Doris Lessing series “The Children of Violence” which are her semi-autobiographical novels about Martha Quest, initially a young woman living on a farm in Rhodesia who confronts her mostly unambitious family and seeks to run away in the first book, he marries and confronts her immediate regret about conforming to patriarchal culture of young marriage in the second book, and who now finds herself in the midst of a political and intellectual awakening among the Commun This is the third book in the Doris Lessing series “The Children of Violence” which are her semi-autobiographical novels about Martha Quest, initially a young woman living on a farm in Rhodesia who confronts her mostly unambitious family and seeks to run away in the first book, he marries and confronts her immediate regret about conforming to patriarchal culture of young marriage in the second book, and who now finds herself in the midst of a political and intellectual awakening among the Communist intelligentsia of South Africa before WWII here in the third book. She’s beginning to wonder at this point whether she’s finally landed at her life’s station in terms of intelligence, meaning, purpose, love, happiness, and mission. And I hate to say it, Martha, but you’ve still got growing to do. Like a lot of books that came out post-WWII, a lot of the Communist writers from the 30s and 40s find themselves reckoning with unfettered Stalinism after the war. Martha is little different. She realizes of course here that Communism is equally as patriarchal as Capitalism, only of a different flavor, and maybe there’s not yet the thing that she needs in her life at this stage. What interesting for this novel and for me as a reader is seeing where we go from here given that Lessing already wrote what feels like culminating book on her youth in The Golden Notebook, but there’s two more novels in this series, both written after The Golden Notebook. It will be interesting to see how those books interact with that book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    Each part of Doris Lessing's series focussing on the life of Martha Quest is itself a brilliant study of conflict, feminism and political idealism around the time of World War II. Based in a fictional British colony bordering South Africa and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, the story's strengths are mostly in the brilliant, deep characters, and how their private motivations and public personas compete and complement one another. This is the third in the series, and so is something of a crux in the story, a tu Each part of Doris Lessing's series focussing on the life of Martha Quest is itself a brilliant study of conflict, feminism and political idealism around the time of World War II. Based in a fictional British colony bordering South Africa and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, the story's strengths are mostly in the brilliant, deep characters, and how their private motivations and public personas compete and complement one another. This is the third in the series, and so is something of a crux in the story, a turning point for Martha Quest who is battling her past as a middle-class housewife-to-be and her perceived future in a communist utopia. The protagonist here struggles with how ideals clash with personal life, and with the hypocrisy of supposedly liberal politics that exclude women, "the natives" and other non-white working class people from a perceived idealistic future. Much of this book takes place at meetings and is told through snapshots with an acute political understanding. With Lessing's near-perfect prose and compelling storytelling, this is again a brilliant chapter in a wonderful series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christa

    I do love Doris Lessing’s writing, but found it hard to get through the futility that, while it seems to suffuse all of her novels I’ve read to philosophically interesting ends, reached a level of second-hand anxiety that forced me to take a break in the middle. Coming back to it, though, I was renewed in my appreciation for her ability to build interestingly flawed characters in a complex and problematic societal setting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rod Hunt

    After a gap of more than 20 years I have returned to the Children of Violence series. I enjoyed the relentless meetings, situational analysis and party discipline immensely. Martha remains annoying but Lessing bluntly presents numerous conflicts she must negotiate. Can’t wait to read Landlocked next.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Not as good as the first two, but the next one Landlocked is back on form.

  20. 4 out of 5

    James F

    The third book of the Children of Violence series. This book focuses on politics; the protagonist is part of a small communist group which grandiloquently calls itself the Communist Party of Zambesia. Lessing understands the absurdity of this group, on two levels: first, as the participants themselves understand, but try hard to ignore, the absurdity of a small group of middle-class whites forming a communist party in a country where the working class is entirely black, and where whites have no The third book of the Children of Violence series. This book focuses on politics; the protagonist is part of a small communist group which grandiloquently calls itself the Communist Party of Zambesia. Lessing understands the absurdity of this group, on two levels: first, as the participants themselves understand, but try hard to ignore, the absurdity of a small group of middle-class whites forming a communist party in a country where the working class is entirely black, and where whites have no way of meeting blacks on common ground; and secondly, as the participants do not understand, Stalinism has already undermined the ideals which they are devoting themselves to. (I leave aside the character of Solly, the self-described "Trotskyist", who acts the way the Stalinists expect a "Trotskyite" to behave, and very much unlike actual Trotskyists. Perhaps Lessing is trying to describe someone whose ideas of Trotskyism come from the Stalinists, but I suspect she actually considers her description to be realistic.) Nevertheless, she is sympathetic to their attempts, and this is one reason why I think this novel is very good; she presents very well the psychology and dynamics of small groups of radicals in opposition to their own society, as well as describing very well the actual political situation in Africa at that time. My only criticism is that by overemphasizing the personal, psychological aspects she somewhat slights the ideas that motivate the characters. Even though I don't wholly share her political views, I think this is one of the best political novels I have read. The feminist aspects are of course her strongest point.

  21. 4 out of 5

    kate

    I'm holding off on rating any more books from the Children of VIolence series until I've finished all five, that way I can judge the project as a whole. Overall, I'm a huge Lessing fan and was impressed by the first two installments, but this one doesn't stand so well on its own; it reads as more of an appendix to the second book (A Proper Marriage), and perhaps Lessing would have been better off incorporating the commentary she seems to be making about (white) leftist politics in colonial south I'm holding off on rating any more books from the Children of VIolence series until I've finished all five, that way I can judge the project as a whole. Overall, I'm a huge Lessing fan and was impressed by the first two installments, but this one doesn't stand so well on its own; it reads as more of an appendix to the second book (A Proper Marriage), and perhaps Lessing would have been better off incorporating the commentary she seems to be making about (white) leftist politics in colonial southern Africa into the other novels. Martha's second marriage also seems like an unnecessary addition to the series arc, considering the (much more critical) attention that book two gives to the topic. That said, credit where credit is due: this may well be the only book in the series that lags like an uncalled-for pit-stop, and it's worth pushing through it if what friends and colleagues say about The Four-Gated City is at all accurate. It's also the shortest of the five novels (I think), so you don't have to put up with it for *too* long. And let's all take a moment to remember a badass lady of letters -- 94 is a ripe old age, though I can't help but wish she could have kept writing forever.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gina Schwartz

    This is a prize winning novel but yet still I did not like it. Maybe I missed something. Should I re-read?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn Duffort

    I picked this up from the Bicherbus - the local book mobile here in Luxembourg. I've read about everything on their two English shelves! Unfortunately I found out after starting it that it's the third in a 5 book series. Oh, well, I read it anyway. It takes place in South Africa during WWII. It's about a group of young communists and their ideals and activities. I seem to be stumbling onto a lot of books lately that deal with the topic of communism in one form or another. It was interesting to s I picked this up from the Bicherbus - the local book mobile here in Luxembourg. I've read about everything on their two English shelves! Unfortunately I found out after starting it that it's the third in a 5 book series. Oh, well, I read it anyway. It takes place in South Africa during WWII. It's about a group of young communists and their ideals and activities. I seem to be stumbling onto a lot of books lately that deal with the topic of communism in one form or another. It was interesting to see communism from the inside of their group. But I'll be honest when I say I don't understand how people can get caught up in the ideal of communism when in fact it takes away your identity and your agency. How can something be so good when you no longer have the agency to make your own decisions because the Party ALWAYS comes first. That is just not the Savior's way. Agency is essential to our experience here on Earth. I'll have to keep my eye out for the other books in this series.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda Howe Steiger

    And now comes Martha's flirtation with (communist) party activism. She tries, she really does. But she still doesn't figure out who she really is. Not a happy person, and I can feel myself wanting to take a break (as did Lessing when she was writing this series). And now comes Martha's flirtation with (communist) party activism. She tries, she really does. But she still doesn't figure out who she really is. Not a happy person, and I can feel myself wanting to take a break (as did Lessing when she was writing this series).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Moxie Marlinspike

    After seeing the clip of Doris Lessing greeting reporters who informer her that she'd just won the Nobel Prize, I decided that I had to read something by her. It could be that I didn't get this because it's mid-way through a series, but otherwise this is perhaps the most boring novel I've ever tried to read. The bulk of the text is spent describing the intricacies and dull details of a Communist group in South Africa play-acting at revolution during WWII. It's really really slow. After seeing the clip of Doris Lessing greeting reporters who informer her that she'd just won the Nobel Prize, I decided that I had to read something by her. It could be that I didn't get this because it's mid-way through a series, but otherwise this is perhaps the most boring novel I've ever tried to read. The bulk of the text is spent describing the intricacies and dull details of a Communist group in South Africa play-acting at revolution during WWII. It's really really slow.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Saj

    The book focuses mostly on Marha's participation in the local communist movement, which is a rather funny mixture of passionate devotion and lack of direction. Martha's personal journey is interesting in her attempt to be the "perfect communist" without any weaknesses. This is a common goal to her whole communist group and as the social situation around them changes, their personal feeling begin to surfice more and more whether they want them or not. The book focuses mostly on Marha's participation in the local communist movement, which is a rather funny mixture of passionate devotion and lack of direction. Martha's personal journey is interesting in her attempt to be the "perfect communist" without any weaknesses. This is a common goal to her whole communist group and as the social situation around them changes, their personal feeling begin to surfice more and more whether they want them or not.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Keith Rose

    Martha gets involved in the all consuming world of the local Communist Party. The meeting scenes and the manoeuvering sound like reportage. I was struck by their millenial fervour - they all think that revolution will spread round the world in the wake of the second world war and therefore there's no point planning more than a few years ahead. Yet they're as ignorant of the local African population as they are of actual conditions under Stalin. Martha gets involved in the all consuming world of the local Communist Party. The meeting scenes and the manoeuvering sound like reportage. I was struck by their millenial fervour - they all think that revolution will spread round the world in the wake of the second world war and therefore there's no point planning more than a few years ahead. Yet they're as ignorant of the local African population as they are of actual conditions under Stalin.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    I've got to admit I plodded through this just because I'd made a commitment to the series and the characters. A great personal reminder of how childishly impatient I used to get with SDS committee meetings. I've got to admit I plodded through this just because I'd made a commitment to the series and the characters. A great personal reminder of how childishly impatient I used to get with SDS committee meetings.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cary

    It hurts to give this 3, but the drop off was apparent. There are maybe 20 pages of the magic that made every page of the first two so special. I only care about Martha and Maisie's problems! Also, these white people! It hurts to give this 3, but the drop off was apparent. There are maybe 20 pages of the magic that made every page of the first two so special. I only care about Martha and Maisie's problems! Also, these white people!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nathanial

    The ongoing saga of Martha Quest and her comrades in Southern Africa circa 1945. Marriage, interracial politics in a colonial small town, and intergenerational family life all at issue. Lessing's a master at describing non-verbal communication. The ongoing saga of Martha Quest and her comrades in Southern Africa circa 1945. Marriage, interracial politics in a colonial small town, and intergenerational family life all at issue. Lessing's a master at describing non-verbal communication.

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