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Doris Lessing

Alfred and Emily

Doris Lessing.
Publisher Harper/QPB  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.75 inches
ISBN 9781607516286
Pages/Publication Date 274/2008
Daedalus Item Code 11481
This item is not available.
"I think my father's rage at the trenches took me over, when I was very young, and has never left me," writes the late Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing in this combined novella and memoir exploring the lives of her parents, each irrevocably damaged by the Great War. In the fictional first half of Alfred and Emily, she imagines the happier lives her parents might have made for themselves had there been no war, a story that begins with their meeting at a village cricket match outside Colchester. What follows is Lessing's piercing examination of their relationship as it actually was through the Great War and the family's move to Africa—and the impact her parents' marriage had on her, a young woman growing up in a strange land.

"In her first major work since receiving the Nobel Prize, Lessing looks back to the enduring mysteries of her parents' lives. 'The First World War did them both in,' she writes. Her father lost a leg and was tormented by untreated post-traumatic stress syndrome. Her mother never got over the suffering of the countless soldiers she nursed in London, or her husband's misery, made worse by the severe diabetes that shortened his life. Haunted by her parents' sacrifices, Lessing imagines alternative lives for Alfred and Emily in a sparkling novella. Laced with the subtlest of observations and the wryest of wit, it's a charming yet cutting story of rapid social change, the resiliency of women, class conflicts, the call to do good, and the confounding dynamics of marriage and parenthood. Lessing then switches to memoir to disclose true-life inspirations for the novella, sharing bristling tales of her family's precarious existence in British colonial Africa and musing over her resourceful mother's kitchen clinic and her contemplative father's fascination with spiders and stars. This unusual marriage of fiction and memoir (and family photographs) results in a book at once spellbinding, rueful, and tragic. And how keenly Lessing decries injustice, wastefulness, and war; how much of her parents' smashed dreams and root-deep sorrows she still harbors."—Booklist (starred review)

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