A sequel to one of Lessing’s most celebrated novels, The Fifth Child.
Many will recall the powerful impact The Fifth Child, Doris Lessing’s 1988 novel, made on publication. Its account of idyllic marital and parental bliss irredeemably shattered by the arrival of the feral fifth child of the Lovatts made for unnerving and compulsive reading. That child, Ben, now grown to legal maturity, and is the central character of this sequel, which picks up the fable at the end of the childhood where the first book ended and takes our primal, misunderstood, maladjusted teenager out into the world…
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Described as "one of the world's great living writers', Doris Lessing's fiction continues to compel, and surprise, her readers. In the context of Lessing's writing career, the tale of Ben, in the World, the sequel to Lessing's powerful The Fifth Child (1988), is a long, and complex, one. It goes back (at least) to 1957, and the appearance of her short story, "The eye of God in paradise" (included in The Habit of Loving). That story includes the description of a child, "a desperate, wild, suffering little creature", who bites if you get close to him. That child haunts both Mary Parrish (the protagonist of the story) and, it seems, Doris Lessing. She returns to him in The Fifth Child, a short novel dedicated to the problem of how to tell the difference of "Ben": the fifth child born to an idyllic middle-class family. Who, or what, is Ben? Beast, goblin, throwback, alien, or a "normal healthy fine baby"? Wrestling with that question--the ethical difficulty posed by the appearance of difference at the heart of "normal" life-- The Fifth Child allows for a hesitation in knowing what, or how, to think about Ben. Ben, in the World pursues the theme, but with far more certainty. Now eighteen, but looking thirty-five, Ben is estranged from his family, forced to find his way in a basically hostile world: "And Ben left: he had no home in this world." By now, Lessing knows him well; the narrative voice constantly intervenes to direct the reader's response to Ben, to the people who surround him and his (sometimes unlikely) experiences in Europe and South America. The misery, and alienation, of Ben's life remains Lessing's preoccupation, offset only by the friendship of the odd individuals she depicts so skilfully--and, finally, the waywardness of Ben's quest to find people like himself. Vicky LebeauReview:
‘A wonderful novel, flawless as a black pearl’
‘Outstanding… A tour de force that poses stark questions about modern-day Britain and what it is to be human.’
‘Ben, In the World is huge in scope, humanity and pathos. Lessing created a monster; her triumph is that he not only personifies the human yearning to belong, but that we also come to love him.’
Shena Mackay, Daily Telegraph
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Book Description Harpercollins Pub Ltd, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0002261952