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Good Terrorist [Paperback]

Doris Lessing
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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The Good Terrorist The Good Terrorist 5.0 out of 5 stars (1)
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Book Description

Aug. 3 1995
In a London squat a band of bourgeois revolutionaries are united by a loathing of the waste and cruelty they see around them. These maladjusted malcontents try desperately to become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. Only Alice seems capable of organising anything. Motherly, practical and determined, she is also easily exploited by the group and ideal fodder for a more dangerous and potent cause. Eventually their naive radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, but the aftermath is not as exciting as they had hoped. Nonetheless, while they may not have changed the world, their lives will never be the same again…

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From Publishers Weekly

Lessing (The Golden Notebook, etc.) offers a bleak analysis of a decaying world in this tale about a group of British radicals who get mixed up in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. PW commented that the "compulsively readable story . . . vividly displays the full array of Lessing's superb gifts as a traditional writer."
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

The Good Terrorist is the story of a loose-knit group of political vagabonds who move about London, living off the dole and existing as squatters in abandoned or condemned houses. Alice Mellings, the central figure in this tale, acts as a housemother to her fellow comrades, bringing curtains (stolen from her own mother), cooking soup, carrying out trash, and finagling hot water and electricity for their comfort. Her efforts go largely unappreciated, however, for the others are more interested in radical political actions, such as bombing and being recruited by the IRA. Even though Alice never truly articulates her own political convictions, she becomes a willing partner in a terrorist act that seals her fate as a dysfunctional, drifting adult. Lessing portrays terrorism as psychopathological rather than political and thereby creates a chilling, strangely compelling storyAone that will haunt listeners for quite some time. Unfortunately, Nadia May's nasal quality does not enhance the listening experience, and character transitions are difficult to follow until the story casts its darkly hypnotic spell, which happens by the end of the first tape. After that, the listener becomes used to May's voice and is held captive until the work's abrupt end. Despite these few drawbacks, this audiotape is essential for all literature collections; highly recommended for all popular fiction fans.AGloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gut-wrenching April 24 2001
Format:Audio Cassette
I read the book; I have not heard the audio version so cannot comment on it.
The book was amazing. A chilling study of group dynamics and human motivation.
Highly recommended.
I in fact just completed the book a few minutes ago. I am still shaken.
The book moves ploddingly, inexorably along -- there are no chapters -- building up to a terrifying climax. Terrifying because you finally see the characters for what they are -- I don't mean about the terrorist act they commit, it says right on the back cover that this is going to happen -- but for the horrible delusions they are living under. In particular, the main character, Alice Mellings.
If Doris Lessing intended to jar the reader awake, to make him question his own assumptions about himself, then she has succeeded.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The terror inside. July 10 2005
By ex nihilo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
We'd do well to read, or re-read, this literary masterpiece by Doris Lessing which dissects for us the common-place, undramatic way in which many people in our Western society can get involved with terrorism. At the same time, the novel is a criticsm, full of irony and subtlety, of the hypocrisy and lack of values of western middle classes . In my opinion, this novel is far more scary than reading a black and white view of society, something Doris Lessing certainly never does here, since it is the blurry quality of grey what makes us confused when we have to judge.

Alice Mellings, the main charater of this novel, has all the qualifications for being the perfect middle-class home-maker: she cleans, decorates, cooks, and in general takes care of housekeeping and looks after her people. In the first of the great ironies of the book, though, Alice is not a middle-class housewife, but someone who "rebelled" against her middle class family in her youth by becoming a squatter, and is still trying to determine just the exact meaning of that. The people Alice looks after in such a motherly way are a group of squatters, mainly people who have abhorred their middle-class roots and have failed to find their place in the London society of the day. The house Alice tries to make into a nice, cozy home for all of them is an old, abandoned house where they are illegally living.

From the point of view of the protagonist, Alice, we follow the dozens of small problems and mishaps she has to overcome in order to reach her goal of creating a comfortable home for "her people". We follow her when she goes to her despised middle-class mother's house and steals money (an important source of income) or she speaks with the city council authorities to have electricity or water at home. We see these home-making activities are all-important in her aimless life, while she pays little attention to politics as they are discussed by the people who live with her.

These people vow to make revolution against capitalism (most of them, but especially the most rabid of these characters -I won't say more or it would be a spoiler- come from well-off families) and eventually begin to talk of aiding the IRA in their terrorist actions in London (the novel was written in the eighties...). Again, ironically, we know nothing of Alice's political opininos. In fact, she doesn't seem to be interested in politics at all. She is just "Anti-system", without knowing very well what it means, but, anyhow, her comrades seem to be very sure about it so she goes along with them....And thus, though passively, Alice is finally involved in the terror these people create in London.

What is masterly in this novel is the concept that terrorism, although obviously a political weapon, must rely in the actions of persons. That these persons, involved in terrorist actions, are certainly not good citizens or exemplary members of society, but usually psychollogical misfits who, once having found the explanation for their particular grudge and the easy justification for violence that extremist ideologies provide , are impossible to control.

But the best concept in the novel is that it shows how what we consider the best elements in our society (from the very home-making impulses of the protagonist to the idealization of youthful rebelliousness, to the "democratic" way in which the squatters' home is ruled, to the altruistic ideals the squatters seem to share...)are ironically being handled in a context and situation far from what we would consider idealistic. And we see how these very western concepts can ultimately be used against our society when they are not backed by human values. When abstract words such as "system" "capitalism" "socialism" "class struggle" "revolution" and many others (that, in the case of these novel, the characters manipulate without knowing very well what they mean), are seen as more important than the single, objective concept "human being", our best values are lost. Our society is creating monsters. And no matter how much we repeat that the threat of terror comes from outside. Ideas might come from outside, and that cannot be stopped....but the terror is inside. Doris Lessing helps to make us aware of this.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gut-wrenching April 24 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio Cassette
I read the book; I have not heard the audio version so cannot comment on it.
The book was amazing. A chilling study of group dynamics and human motivation.
Highly recommended.
I in fact just completed the book a few minutes ago. I am still shaken.
The book moves ploddingly, inexorably along -- there are no chapters -- building up to a terrifying climax. Terrifying because you finally see the characters for what they are -- I don't mean about the terrorist act they commit, it says right on the back cover that this is going to happen -- but for the horrible delusions they are living under. In particular, the main character, Alice Mellings.
If Doris Lessing intended to jar the reader awake, to make him question his own assumptions about himself, then she has succeeded.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic exploration of character Nov. 17 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book while travelling. It shows a simple girl, and then, like an onion, strips away layer after layer of her personality, finally exposing her in the last few scenes. For exploration of character, this is one of the finest books I've ever read. However, IMHO, Doris Lessing has a problem with plot, and that's evident in this book as well. It isn't resolved, it just ends.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ahead and Boldly As Always Dec 5 2002
By L. Dann - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Reading Lessing is like picking up the phone and hearing the voice of an old friend. Leave it to her, no foreigner to the left- to be the first to reveal the pathology inherent in those who make a political cause out of their own alienation. This is a brave statement and today, not so startling a tale- given the Symbionese trial and Ira Einhorn's conviction- Lessing drew it for us before it unraveled and as always, drew it with a care for the details of personality in social estrangement.
Lessing's story of unfinished growth and the contaminations of naivete and thrill have laid the passage to what now, we in the West have come to fear as no longer distant- terror, youth gone out of control and powerlessness.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doris does it again! Dec 4 2000
By Doug Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I enjoy the writing style of Doris Lessing. I love the constrasting characters that help create a very absorbing story. The main character is Alice who carries a cast of misguided terrorist. Lessing is a wonderful writer in the way she does not need to wrap the story up in a nice package. I believe after reading one of her books you will be hooked like I am.
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