Doris Lessing is one of the most important writers of the twentieth century and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. Her first novel, 'The Grass is Singing', was published in 1950. Among her other celebrated novels are 'The Golden Notebook', 'The Fifth Child' and 'Memoirs of a Survivor'. She has also published two volumes of her autobiography, 'Under my Skin' and 'Walking in the Shade'. Doris Lessing died on 17 November 2013 at the age of 94.
Mara and her brother Dann are abducted as children and raised by strangers in Ifrick, or Southern Africa, thousands of years in the future. All traces of the technological society of the 20th century have been obliterated by the advance of glaciers that cover most of Europe. The ice cap is finally retreating, but as global warming opens new lands in the north, it also turns the south into a barren desert. Mara and Dann join the great migration to Yerrup, encountering outposts of culture where ancient artifacts are preserved. Mara's insatiable curiosity about these things supplies most of the background for this adult fairy tale. The book's pacing is painfully slow, but the obsessive level of detail may indicate the author's personal involvement: there are obviously some elements of autobiography here. This long novel misses the mark as an adventure story, but it may appeal to diehard Lessing fans. For larger fiction collections.‘Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch., Los Angeles
'I hope everyone reads Mara and Dann and it wins all the prizes.' Victoria Glendinning, Literary Review 'An outstanding piece of storytelling... rich and imaginative' Helen Dunmore, Daily Mail 'Fascinating and profoundly curious' Rachel Cusk, Daily Express
Tenderly perceptive, Lessing's first far-future novel since her celebrated Canopus in Argos: Archives series of the late 1970s-mid '80s features two appealing orphans precariously reaching adulthood on Earth thousands of years from now. The Ice Age brought on by the ecological rapaciousness of today's society is receding, bringing lethal drought to the Southern land of "Ifric," where a power struggle in her family has stranded seven-year-old Mara, who is fiercely caring for her even younger brother, Dann, in a remote village of neo-Neanderthals. Even under desperate conditions, Mara's thirst for knowledge outpaces the thirst for water that, over the years, drives her‘sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by Dann, who as he grows up insists on following his own dreams‘toward the icy North, where remnants of Earth's old technological glories await. She and Dann endure numerous hardships and adventures along the way: Dann becomes addicted to "the poppy" and gambles Mara away on a roll of the dice; Mara works as a spy and is kidnapped to be a "breeder." Lessing spins a glowing hymn to human endurance around the sweet, shrewd, indefatigable Mara, one of her most engaging heroines. Though Lessing sanitizes Voltaire's savage satire of Western civilization here, her innocent-but-canny Mara proves as effective as Candide at surviving the worst and celebrating the best that human beings can do to one another. This novel is a resounding affirmation of humanity and what it holds dearest, from one of our most gifted storytellers. (Jan.)