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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping and Unsettling Read
Doris Lessing's 'The Fifth Child' may be a slim novel, but it is one that makes a real impact and is a compelling read from beginning to end. Harriet and David Lovatt have a seemingly idyllic life; they have four lovely children and plan to have several more; they have a beautiful, rambling family house complete with a huge kitchen where family and friends congregate;...
Published 17 months ago by Susie B

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3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, not quite there, but gripping never the less
I enjoyed the writing style of this book, but found that the story lost its wasy after the first half of the book. I was unsure about giving it a 2 or 3 star but found it strangely compelling and so felt it deserved a 3 in the end. The main character who drove me mad was the mother, who I didn't find that believable as she was so limp and flaky.

I'm not sure if...
Published on 12 May 2012 by Manda Moo


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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First warm, then cold: a disturbing family drama, 6 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
Harriet, 24 and David, 30 ignored the seductions of the roaring 60's and dreamed of a warm, happy future life with lots of children and family around. David's father helps them buy a big country house with 3 floors, a huge attic and a large overgrown garden.

Harriet has 4 pregnancies in 6 years. None were easy, but the deliveries fortunately were. Both their families love to spend the Easter, Summer and Christmas holidays in their hotel-sized house, staying for many days, even weeks: David's parents with their new partners, Harriet's sisters with their children; other cousins, nieces, etc. A paradise for parents and their children. After the birth of Paul, their 4th baby, H & D decide to postpone a fifth child for at least 3 years: Harriet is dead tired, relying heavily on her mother Dorothy to deal with daily chores. These are the happy, often magical parts of this short novel full of earnest values and ideas about the concept of family.

Soon after Paul's birth, Harriet is pregnant again despite her having been ever so careful. The wider family is worried and peeved. Was their advice ignored? Her 5th pregnancy is also very painful. The fetus kicks from the third month. Harriet's pain creates stress and turns the warm home into an unhappy, motherless house, because she is trying, 24/7 to simply survive this horrible pregnancy.

When Ben is born prematurely after 8 months, this book turns into a horror novel: he weighs 11 pounds and looks like a muscular Neanderthaler. What follows is for readers to find out.

Doris Lessing wrote a sequel to this family drama entitled "Ben,in the World", about how Ben survives, barely articulate and literate, apparently largely unfeeling with a poor memory, in modern times. This reader has not read it yet, but it may be as great a masterpiece as this novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I just started reading Doris Lessing after I read her ..., 30 Aug. 2014
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I just started reading Doris Lessing after I read her obituary and realised I had never read her books before. I think this is now about my third or fourth book and it really intrigued me. I want to read it again so that I don't make a fool of myself in how I interpreted it, but the issue of siblings and how the genes can throw out anything was very interesting. Also how one child and the parents reactions to it impact on the whole family and their friends, the unspoken feelings and reactions. The question of how society deals with this is also raised - especially in a society of to-day where every child is precious. Difficult to say more without being a spoiler. But it does tend to reinforce the feeling that overall the 'heir and a spare' philosophy has a lot to be said for it, in these days of massive over population.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be careful what you wish for, 22 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
Harriet and David are outsiders when they meet, with different views on life to those around them, and very different aspirations for their futures. They fall in love and marry because they want the same as each other, in a world where nobody else does.
Their dreams are for a large family, a happy home where everyone feels welcome, and a peaceful uncomplicated life.
This simple dream comes true until the birth of their fifth child, when everything changes.
This new child does not fit in with their plans, he physically and mentally defies their beliefs. As time goes on a mechanism for coping is found, but at what cost...

If you have read other Lessing books, you will recognise one of her favourite themes in 'The fifth child'. That is, her question - Why do we assume that certain things are our right to have? And more importantly, how do we cope when faced with the truth, that sometimes it is not within our power to choose our destiny?
That is not to say that a reader new to Lessing will not understand or enjoy this book. Simply but intelligently written, it is unputdownable and thought provoking.

A good read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an amazing story of family binds and their fragility, 4 Nov. 2009
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JCG Pveyo (Lille, France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fifth Child (Hardcover)
Starting from an idealized vision of family life, the author lead us to explore the failure of any possible anticipation of the future and to witness the decline of relationships provoked by an alien son who represents the incarnation of violence and threaten. Excellent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Short and not at all sweet, 6 May 2014
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S. B. Kelly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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No one ever accused Lessing of being an optimist or believing the best of humanity and this late novel is not for anyone feeling a bit low in spirits. A large, happy family is disrupted by the arrival of the fifth child, who seems to be some sort of throw-back to a pre-civilised era of the human race.

The novel rushes on relentlessly, aided by the absence of chapters or even page breaks, despite the fact that it covers some 20 years in the life of its protagonists.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm, not quite there, but gripping never the less, 12 May 2012
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Manda Moo (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
I enjoyed the writing style of this book, but found that the story lost its wasy after the first half of the book. I was unsure about giving it a 2 or 3 star but found it strangely compelling and so felt it deserved a 3 in the end. The main character who drove me mad was the mother, who I didn't find that believable as she was so limp and flaky.

I'm not sure if I would recommend this book or not. It's short, so worth a try if you fancy it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, unsettling, compelling, 25 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
Harriet and David are instinctively drawn to each other through a mutual yearning to play traditional happy families. They marry almost immediately, stretch their finances to live in an enormous home, and Harriet gives birth to four normal, healthy children amidst a whirl of family gatherings and old-fashioned support. Ben, the fifth child, is different even before he is born, torturing Harriet from within; and then after birth, immediately proves himself insatiable, brutal, `other'. Harriet and David become convinced that Ben is not quite human - somehow a throwback from an ancient, primitive race, and untameable. In the face of this indomitable force of nature, their carefully constructed family idyll begins to crumble...

The story of this unearthly cuckoo in the nest, threatens all sanguinity. How can a mother relate to an `alien' child? How does one balance the overwhelming demands of one presence against all others in one's life? If Harriet and David's life before Ben seemed a little too pat, with the extended family (willingly) playing too large a role in sustaining the dream, life after Ben shakes every foundation and forces reassessment of every assumption.

Lessing's prose is succinct and unobtrusive, telling her story simply and without sensationalism. Whether or not one believes Ben is a `throwback' - a truly primitive force - or simply a different child (perhaps the product of a distant, unloving family; perhaps autistic, for example) failed by the social and welfare structures of his time, Lessing somehow conveys his vulnerability as well as his impenetrability and brutality.

This is a dark, unsettling, and reluctantly compelling read. I will definitely be reading the sequel, 'Ben in the World'.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unsettling read that will certainly affect you for many hours after finishing it, 29 Jan. 2010
This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
This was my second Lessing novel, and though I liked The Grass Is Singing better, this novel is still a true Lessing novel: her pure and raw, naturalist writing style and voice is ever present, and she's tackling problematic, difficult issues again: a weird child is born into a large family as the fifth child, the mother begins to hate and resent the baby and the pregnancy as it causes her unprecedented suffering, she starts referring to the baby as "the enemy" and even wants to initiate the birth one month early. But unfortunately things get even worse once the baby is born. Noone, none of his siblings or family members and not even his parents like him. They try to like him, they try to tell themselves the newborn is normal, just a bit different than their previous children, but they can't not notice the many weird things. The dilemma remains all through the novel: is the fifth child an abnormal weird, evil creature and is the family and the mother right not to love him or is he a lonely kid, who became the way he is because he didn't get the love and intimacy from anyone? It isn't an easily answered question.

I believe one of the main characteristics of Lessing is her ability to unnerve and unsettle the reader: to tell her stories in such an unmannered simple way that it gets under the skin of the reader and affects them. This novel stayed with me long after I finished reading it, the story, the dilemma and the human lives and fates introduced kept me thinking and debating for many more hours after that last page.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars it's not love, it's guilt...., 15 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) (Paperback)
I enjoyed reading The Fifth Child (translated into Greek) but I don't think that Harriet actually loved Ben....she felt guilty, she felt responsible for giving birth to him, that is why she brought him back home. I will read the sequel entitled Ben In The World soon just to see what happened to Ben when he reached adulthood. It is worth reading The Fifth Child.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 14 Jan. 2014
Really enjoyed this book about a family who strive for their idyll and what happens when the fifth child doesn't fit the plan. Very thought provoking - looking forward to discussion at book group!!
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The Fifth Child (Paladin Books)
The Fifth Child (Paladin Books) by Doris Lessing (Paperback - 2 April 2001)
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