Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A theme driven, thought provoking pieceDec 19 2006
C. R. Eads
- Published on Amazon.com
I am currently reading "The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog: A Novel." It's the sequel to Mara and Dann which is number one on my favorites list. This book reads in typical Lessing fashion; propelled by stream of consciousness of the main character. Dann's dilemma, observations and musings, presented in omniscient third person, is the sole narrative. The first chapters seem to be using the spare voice of one re-telling an ancient fable or distant memory. There are few adjectives and detail is saved for seemingly random moments and Dann's inner dialogue. I've already read five years of Dann's life and I still don't feel that the story has begun. There is only the barest of character investment. Seemingly important characters are introduced and discarded within pages. If you have not read the first book then I doubt you would feel any character sympathy at all. As it is, I am familiar with the world Dann inhabits and I am excited to return.
This isn't the desperate, fast paced adventure that "Mara and Dann" was but it does explore some interesting themes. For instance, Dann is obsessed with what he does not know. He is constantly tantalized by fragments of knowledge and remnants of truth. He is frustrated by the complacent incuriosity of those around him and it begs the question: When are we satisfied with our knowledge, world, condition? When do we stop asking questions? It has me examining my own desire to learn and I can empathize with his frustration of apathy.
I haven't finished the book. As I said I am still waiting for the story to begin but I've had that same anticipatory feeling in other Lessing novels and found that I was missing the story, the crux, because I was expecting something else. Once I realized this I could settle down and appreciate the challenge and story she was sharing with the reader. She is a unique writer and her style defies stereotype. Doris Lessing is a true artist whose talent and method of conveyance would be impossible to teach.
On a lighter note a "snow dog" has been introduced as a central character and I like stories that have fuzzy animal friends.
Read it if you are a Lessing fan but not as an introduction to her work.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The worlds of ghostsOct. 20 2007
D. Cloyce Smith
- Published on Amazon.com
"Mara and Dann," this tale's haunting predecessor (and, I think, one of Lessing's most powerful and imaginative and accessible books), followed its brother-and-sister heroes as they traversed the African continent at the end of an Ice Age many millennia in the future. Their harrowing adventures brought them to a farm within walking distance of the Rocky Gates (Straits of Gibraltar), the Western Sea (Atlantic), and the rapidly filling cavernous expanse of the Middle Sea (Mediterranean).
The sequel begins nine months later, when Dann decides to fulfill his dream of exploring the Middle Sea to see for himself the ice-covered continent of Europe and ultimately to confront the demons that assailed him during his trek through the desert. The subsequent narrative expands upon two subjects from the first book: the lust for knowledge that fueled Mara and Dann's transcontinental journey and the drug-stimulated schizophrenia that inexorably worsens Dann's ability to lead, as a reluctant "general," the refugees who make up his slapdash army. During Dann's period of incapacity, the task of running the army devolves to a sidekick named Griot; like many messianic figures, Dann requires a loyal administrator to smooth over the public perception of his bipolar outbursts.
Although "The Story of General Dann" will make little sense if you haven't read the earlier book, as a sequel it is both satisfying (tying up loose ends and expanding on earlier themes) and frustrating (leaving just as many loose ends). The book's pacing is admittedly slower and the plot is slighter: this is more a character study than an adventure story. Significant portions of the book deal with Dann's psychological breakdowns, with Griot's hunger for Dann's approval, and with their obsession with finding out as much as they can about the mysteries of the past. This sequel seems, in fact, to be a bridge to a yet-to-be-published finale.
Yet Lessing still conveys her preoccupations with the frailty of knowledge and our continual need to recreate the discoveries of the past: "it's likes seeing the worlds of ghosts.... We are looking at words that were copied from others, written by people who lived long before them." In an interview with John Freeman, Lessing spoke about this theme: "What pains me is that everything the human race has created has happened in the last 10,000 years, you know, and most of it in the recent years. An ice age would just wipe that out. It would. Then we have to begin again then, don't we, which is what we always do." The Mara and Dann books, then, are not simply disturbing fantasies disguised as adventures stories, but parables on the tenuousness and persistence of human civilization.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Impressive New Novel of a Far Future Earth from Doris LessingDec 24 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
In "the Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and The Snow Dog", acclaimed Nobel Prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing has rendered a most captivating tale about friendship, loss and love, set sometime in Planet Earth's distant future; a time when the world has been plunged anew in yet another great Ice Age that has entombed much of the Northern Hemisphere in great ice sheets. Humanity's great cities are but a distant, almost forgotten, memory, buried under these thick ice sheets or submerged in seas and oceans. In her latest novel, a sequel to her 1999 "Mara and Dann", Lessing focuses upon the trials and tribulations of the adult Dann, now General Dann, and the leader of a great army in the barren wastes of northern Africa. Dann must contend with news of the sudden, tragic death of his sister Mara, and comes to terms with her newborn daughter, and with his own wife and newborn child. It is an emotional, intensely psychological journey that Dann undertakes, and one in which he nearly fails, over the course of years that are so elegantly collapsed within the relatively terse confines of Lessing's novel. Lessing's prose has never been better, and she has crafted such a mesmerizing tale that I found almost impossible to set aside, even for brief moments of time. For those wondering why Doris Lessing deserved the Nobel Prize for her excellent science fiction and fantasy literature, then reading this elegant little novel may provide you with some intriguing, perhaps delightful, answers.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
All hope is not lostNov. 4 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Mrs Lessing continues telling the story of Mara and Dann whom we left at the Farm in Ifrik in "Mara and Dann". Dann soon returns to the Centre together with Griot - who had been a soldier under General Dann back in Agre - Ali, her daughter Tamar and the snow dog called Ruff. They plan to rescue as many refugees from the south as possible and turn them into the Red Blanket army. At the Centre, they assemble all the technical knowledge left there by the long extinct civilisations of Yerrup because the place is slowly sinking into the marshland. Finally they make their way for a city in the Tundra where they hope to set up a community based on the knowledge the scribes and savants studied and collected at the Centre.
It is a slightly disappointing sequel to "Mara and Dann" which lacks the latter's intensity because the plot is sluggish and less like the adventure the reader enjoyed in the first novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Another Story from a Great StorytellerMay 19 2006
Marcy A. Sheiner
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a sequel to Mara and Dann, Doris Lessing's 2002 adventure story about a brother and sister trying to survive in a world where weather rules--and there's a lot of it. As is said of so many sequels, you don't need to have read the first book to get the second-- to simply follow and understand the story, that is. On a deeper level, the reader who hasn't read Mara and Dann, won't get much more out of this story than just that: a story. I'll go even further--without having read at least some of Lessing's voluminous works, I have a feeling this book will seem mighty thin. Themes and philosophies Lessing has been exploring almost obsessively for fifty years are merely touched on here, and it's possible the virgin Lessing reader won't even recognize them sailing by.
I'm referring to Lessing's preoccupation with consciousness: individual versus collective consciousness; the evolution of human consciousness (past, present and future); animal and even alien consciousness. She's also still fretting about all the waste and destruction of "what we've been landed with" (see The Four Gated City). Now she's particularly aggrieved over what we've done to the planet with which we've been landed.
Compared to the nonstop perils that Mara and Dann constantly struggled against, not that much happens in the sequel, other than the interactions between the characters. The most interesting of these is the relationship between Dann and Ruff, the snow dog he rescues from drowning as a pup. Lessing has written much about cats, but this is her first foray into dog consciousness. She is rarely sentimental, and makes no exception here--yet I defy readers to remain dry-eyed during certain passages involving Ruff.
Little did I know when I picked up A Proper Marriage nearly 35 years ago that I was being introduced to an author whose work would stimulate and nourish me for a lifetime. While this may not be my favorite of her work, I hope nothing I've said will dissuade anyone from reading it,or any of her other more than thirty books.