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The Grass Is Singing [Paperback]

Doris Lessing
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

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Book Description

15 April 2002 Paladin Books

The classic first novel from the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007.

Doris Lessing brought the manuscript of ‘The Grass is Singing’ with her when she left Southern Rhodesia and came to England in 1950. When it was first published it created an impact whose reverberations we are still feeling, and immediately established itself as a landmark in twentieth-century literature.

Set in Rhodesia, it tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer and his wife, Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding.

A masterpiece of realism, ‘The Grass is Singing’ is a superb evocation of Africa’s majestic beauty, an intense psychological portrait of lives in confusion and, most of all, a passionate exploration of the ideology of white supremacy.



Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Paladin; Re-issue edition (15 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586089241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586089248
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007, is one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of recent decades. A Companion of Honour and a Companion of Literature, she has been awarded the David Cohen Memorial Prize for British Literature, Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize, the International Catalunya Award and the S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a
Lifetime's Distinguished Service to Literature, as well as a host of other international awards.
Doris Lessing died on 17 November 2013.

Product Description

Review

‘Original and striking…full of those terrifying touches of truth, seldom mentioned but instantly recognised.’ New Statesman

‘Doris Lessing responds more passionately than most writers to people or situations: often she responds with hate or rancour, but always with passion. In “The Grass is Singing”, you can feel the dynamo-like throb of a formidable talent; by its side, most novels of 1950 look like crochet-work.’ The Times

‘“The Grass is Singing” focuses on the blighted life of a woman whose spirit is destroyed by a disastrous marriage and by an environment to which she couldn’t respond. More than any other white African writer of her generation, Doris Lessing is aware of the seductive cruelty of colonialism, and is one of our strongest, fiercest voices against injustice, racism and sexual hypocrisy.’ Independent on Sunday

From the Back Cover

Doris Lessing brought the manuscript of 'The Grass is Singing', her classic first novel, with her when she left Southern Rhodesia and came to England in 1950. When it was first published it created an impact whose reverberations we are still feeling, and immediately established itself as a landmark in twentieth-century literature.

Set in Rhodesia, it tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer and his wife, Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding.

A masterpiece of realism, 'The Grass is Singing' is a superb evocation of Africa's majestic beauty, an intense psychological portrait of lives in confusion and, most of all, a passionate explanation of the ideology of white supremacy.

"Original and striking… full of those terrifying touches of truth, seldom mentioned but instantly recognised."
NEW STATESMAN

"Doris Lessing responds more passionately than most writers to people or situations: often she responds with hate or rancour, but always with passion. In 'The Grass is Singing', you can feel the dynamo-like throb of a formidable talent: by its side, most novels of 1950 looked like crochet-work."
THE TIMES

"' The Grass is Singing' focuses on the blighted life of a woman whose spirit is destroyed by a disastrous marriage and by an environment to which she couldn't respond. More than any other white African writer of her generation, Doris Lessing is aware of the seductive cruelty of colonialism and is one of our strongest, fiercest voices against injustice, racism and sexual hypocrisy."
FIAMMETTA ROCCO, ' Independent on Sunday'


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original and striking 27 Jan 2004
By HORAK
Format:Paperback
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy, but relentlessly grim 17 Jan 2013
By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Grass Is Singing is the debut novel of Nobel Prize for literature winning Doris Lessing, set in Southern Rhodesia, where Lessing was born, there is a deliberate attempt to make the area represent all South Africa as a whole.

I've always had a "thing" for Africa and always enjoy finding novels set in the continent. This particular novel is the story of Mary Turner, and begins with reports of her murder, from there it traces Mary's story from her childhood to her untimely demise.

On one level The Grass Is Singing is interesting from the point of view of how much Lessing used autobiographical content, I wondered if the young Mary freed from her parents by education represented young Doris whereas the older frustrated farmers wife Mary who wishes for a less impoverished lifestyle represented her mother Emily, and essentially the fear, which is sadly realised for Mary, of "ending up just like her mother".

The other level is the examination of Apartheid society, and the shocking yet entirely acceptable in its day, bigotry and racism, it's quite eye-popping.

Doris Lessing is someone who "I've been trying to get along with" for some time, because someone I admire is a great fan, but this is the third book of hers I have now read with four others yet to go on my Book Mountain and I still haven't clicked with her.

My problem with The Grass Is Singing in the end is how grim it is. A relentlessly depressing, hopeless sinking of a woman who married because she felt like she had to. It's very well written of course, but not really the kind of novel one reads for enjoyment, and instead "an issues based thing" which are nevertheless good to read from time to time for the point of being cultured, but many novelists manage to both make you think and enjoy the plot and this doesn't do that really.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A dark and moody drama - compelling. 16 April 2003
Format:Paperback
Not my first Doris Lessing but I think the best so far. This, her first novel, brilliantly conveys the theme of a doomed and mutually destructive relationship. Mary and Dick spend the novel systematically destroying each other and their descent into insanity and oblivion, respectively, is superbly charted. Not for everyone certainly, but if you can cope with a disturbing and psychologically challenging onslaught of a narrative then give it a try.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By Four Violets VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A almost uncomfortably raw story of the inevitable tragic and shocking consequences when Mary is taken from small town Rhodesia in the late 1940s to live on a remote farm with a husband she despises. Alone all day listening to the screaming of the cicadas, feeling the sun baking her through the tin roof, enduring stultifying aloneness and ground down by the fight against poverty, Mary is trapped and helpless. For the first time she encounters the black work force and their close proximity has a profound effect on her sensibilities.

The house servant Moses in particular exerts a powerful influence over her as her mind begins to disintegrate in the claustrophobic atmosphere. Past a certain point their developing, unwholesome relationship is left to our imaginations; but it consists more of mutual fascinated loathing than love.

Published in 1950, this is Doris Lessing's first novel. It took until 2007 for her to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Brought up in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), she witnessed at first hand the racial tensions and entrenched attitudes of the era she depicts.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel of poor whites in 1950's Rhodesia 27 Nov 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
From the opening pages this novel grabs and holds your interest - much like the opening pages of 'Enduring Love' (Ian McEwan).You are told the end at the beginning. Later the book takes you through the steps leading to the awful conclusion. The tension is held superbly right through the novel, added to this the descriptions of the sunbaked, barely fertile ground, on the poor white farm and the relationship of the couple who own it to each other and their black native servants are graphically very strong. The relentless heat intensity is truly unbearable. All this set in the rigid insular white farming society of 1950's Rhodesia. Chosen by our Book Club - I will certainly be reading more Doris Lessing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The Grass Is Singing was my first Doris Lessing novel, and I loved it!
As you could have already read the synospsis, in this book Lessing tells the story of a farmer husband, Dick Turner, and his wife Mary, their life and struggles on their farm in South Africa, while portraying the fragile and unstable state of the balance of forces between the whites and the blacks.

During the first 2 chapters I was a bit surprised and not sure if I would enjoy it (her realistic racist description shocked me), but wow, her evocative and yet simple descriptions of the African landscape, the scorching hot and the reality of the farms and sweaty hard work were very realistic and made me feel as if I was seeing it. And her storytelling! it was so painful and saddening to read the story of these 2(-3) people, who are so different and wanted so different things from life and witness as their differences and inability to understand each other (and their lack of ability to communicate) ruin their lives. Beautiful and very powerful book, it was a wonderful read, I will definitely read more by her. Someone once told me that if I read only one Lessing novel in my life, I should read The Grass Is Singing, and having read it, I can definitely second that opinion, this novel is one you definitely have to read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writing and an interesting story
This is in many respects a brilliantly evocative account of a certain kind of life that most of us will never experience; a convincing picture of time and place, the time being the... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Phil O'Sofa
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting
Would have preferred more description and information of where the story took place,
Very interesting and must have been a difficult time
Published 24 days ago by allison Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
Very much enjoyed reading it. A good read. The edition I bought was an original and almost as old as me!!
Published 1 month ago by Julia W
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
This story will remain with me forever! Well written and chosen by my book club. Haunting story, one I'm encouraging my friends to read.
Published 1 month ago by Tupperlina
3.0 out of 5 stars THE GRASS IS SINGING
I remember when this was published and have only just got aroung to reading it. Again a sad tale with another psychotic woman- prose as flat and sad as the landscape- sexual... Read more
Published 2 months ago by BETTY BROUGH
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but tragic
This book should be required reading for anyone wishing to understand the colonial powers in Africa, their narrow-minded cruel world, and their bigotry. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Trish
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my best read
I didn't find this book captivating in the way it was written. The content was alright - but I get seriously off-put by authors who seem to construct such long sentences when they... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jenny Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite use of language - but shocking at the same time.
Doris Lessing doesn't disappoint in this tale of the inner turmoil and eventual breakdown of a woman living out her lonely and frustrating marriage to a farmer in the wilds of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by sandybee
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
Had never read any Doris Lessing before,but thoroughly enjoyed it. After hearing of her death. Complicated ,intriguing, intense and thought provoking.
Published 3 months ago by Alison turner
5.0 out of 5 stars So well written and compelling to read. It had the feel of a Greek...
So well written and compelling to read. It had the feel of a Greek tragedy. I would certainly consider reading more Doris Lessing in the future
Published 3 months ago by Dr Angus Goudie
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