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on January 27, 2004
Doris Lessing's "The Grass is Singing" opens with the death of Mary Turner. How could Mary's life have ended with such a tragic fate? As the reader progresses through the novel, he discovers Mary's insufferable existence, her life destroyed by a disastrous marriage to a farmer, Dick Turner. Mary is forced to live in a rural environment in South Africa for which she is ill-suited. Furthermore, Mary's relationship with her husband rapidly deteriorates as she realises that Dick is unable to manage the farm successfully and they are constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. A truly superb novel, tragic and moving to the very last line. Mrs Lessing's wonderfully captures Africa's majestic beauty, the difficult relationship between the whites and the Natives. The psychological portrait of her heroine is exceptionally intense.
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on April 17, 2001
"The Grass is Singing" is at once a simple story and a complex psychological and social analysis. It is a commentary on race relations in imperial Rhodesia, and an exploration of the timeless dichotomy of culture and nature.
The book is perhaps most interesting when the author describes the ideology of white colonists in Africa. In particular, the idea that extreme racism develops out of a need to justify economic exploitation is poignantly posed. It is not that whites oppress blacks because they hate them, rather they hate them because they have to oppress them and deny their human worth to maintain their standard of living. Thus, newcomers from Britain must be taught how to deal with and feel about the natives, and poor whites are despised because they seem to blur the color lines.
The main characters of this book are the Turners, Dick and Mary. Dick is an unsuccessful farmer, who lacks the mindset and risk-taking behavior of a commercial farmer-entrepreneur. Always in debt, always facing bad harvests, he still manages to live on because he finds fulfillment in his work and feels attached to the farm. Mary, on the other hand, is fundamentally unhappy with life. She was used to life in the city, working as a secretary, visiting clubs and movie theaters. She marries Dick simply because she realizes her friends think she should marry, and her meeting with the harsh realities of the countryside devastate her. Mary hates the sun, the natives, the bush; in short, everything associated with nature as opposed to culture. In the end, her unhappiness overcomes her to the point of full-fledged psychosis.
This book contains many insights, and Lessing describes the natural and social settings very vividly. Her detached exposition of the values of white farmers is very effectful (in this respect, I was reminded of Turgenev's quiet depiction of the misery of the Russian peasantry as a 'sideshow' in his stories). On the whole, however, I would have to say that the book failed to live up to my expectations, which had been raised by the captivating first chapter. We dwell inside Mary Turner's head for 200 pages, and unfortunately she is a spoiled and rather boring woman who fails to engender much sympathy.
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on January 21, 2001
Though she is a renowned author, Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, generally thought to be her best work, I found garbled and depressing.
'The Grass is Singing' was written when she was much younger and more stable, but it is still depressing, dealing as it does with the appalling treatment of the blacks by the whites in Africa. The prejudice and cruelty Lessing evokes ring true,as does the characterization of Mary. Personally, I found it impossible to empathise or even sympathise with her, and wasn't exactly upset at her fate. It is Moses one feels sorry for.
Lessing is able to be at once detached and involved in the lives of her protaganists and is only judgemental by implication. The collapse of Dick and Mary's relationship is well delineated and inexorable. Her descriptive powers are impressive - Africa comes through very strongly and one can almost smell the dust and the rain and the blossom. A good read.
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on October 17, 2007
I have not read this work yet, but since reading one of the posted reviews here, I almost don't have to. One of the reviewers included a spoiler revealing what surely must be a pivotal incident in the story.
The point of a review is to give a generalized overview of the work and your opinions regarding the quality or style of the writing, not reveal important plot twists in an explicit synopsis. You have had the pleasure of reading the novel in blissful ignorance of the outcome. Please refrain from this type of review in the future and grant the rest of us the pleasure of reading the book for ourselves.
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on February 20, 2009
The Penguin Reader edition of this book (with the photo of a tractor on the cover) is a child's version of the story. It's been "retold" for a 9 to 12 year old audience.
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on March 23, 2000
The Grass is Singing is a book that I had never heard about before my English teacher presented it to the class for reading.I heard from people that I knew that it is a good book.So that was my first encouragement to read.Who wants to miss a good book? I think that the book was very interesting but the title seems to be dull and the first chapter was quite confusing.I had to read as fast as possible to know what actually happened.It gets more and more interesting as you continue flipping the pages.Especially when Moses comes into Mary's life as a house boy.Mary's death was very tragic especially when there was a hope that she could be able to see some better days after her husband has sold the land and was ready to go for a vacation. Love and hatred can really make people do anything.Maybe it was the fear of losing her that Moses killed Mary as she was now leaving him and going away and won't need him anymore. All in all the book is readable and if you manage to pass through the first chapter it is unputdownable.
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