Monday, April 1, 2013

Through the Wall: Doris Lessing's Memoir of a Survivor

I can’t say the Doris Lessing’s post-apocalyptic novel The Memoir of a Survivor is a particularly successful novel, or even a talented piece of genre writing.  The prose is a bit strained, and Lessing never feels comfortable in this zone, but she gets points for trying (and she did write, under a pen name, a science fiction series as well).

This is one of those post-apocalyptic novels which focuses on children and their reaction to the calamity.  This is a common ploy; a way to expose the most exposed in our society to the absolute worst in us.  In this sense, the girl-woman Emily works quite well.  Lessing is on sure footing here, writing about female sexual and intellectual maturation.

But the scenes with the hallucinogenic wall, and the fairy tale ending, fall flat, or collapse.  There is no punch for the reader.  We slide into a narcotic ending that lulls us into unwanted good feelings.

Overall, the novel is worth reading with low expectations.  But rest assured even outside of her accustomed paths, Lessing can tell a good story.

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