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A thought-provoking novel about love, and about the theatre. Lessing's protagonist is Sarah, a widow in her 60s who for years has invested most of her energies in her small theatre company. The company have decided to put on a play about a French-Creole 19th-century musician called Julie Vairon - a free-thinker, who mysteriously died (probably committing suicide) in her thirties in southern France. In the process of getting the play to performance, Sarah experiences love in various forms. Firstly, she watches one of the play's sponsors, an unhappy middle-aged man named Stephen, fall in love with the long-dead Julie Vairon. And later, when the play is in rehearsal, Sarah herself begins to experience feelings uncomfortably like love, first for one of the dashing young actors, and later, and more deeply, for Henry, the director. Meanwhile another of the actors in the group begins to make amorous advances to Sarah...

Lessing beautifully captures the experience of being in love (or in lust) and writes very interestingly on why Sarah may have avoided these emotions for so long. Her descriptions of the world of the theatre are brilliant, and the story of Julie Vairon (invented by Lessing) is fascinating, and very believable. If I had to criticize the book, it would be for the scenes dealing with the fantasist Stephen: I never quite believed in his passion for a long-dead woman, and Lessing seemed unable to make up her mind whether Stephen's wife was really a lesbian, or had simply turned to lesbianism in frustration at her husband! Also, Sarah's feelings for the young actor in her company (who appeared a spoiled brat) were less convincing than her feelings for Henry. But I'd still give the novel five stars - such excellent writing doesn't come round that often.
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on 6 July 2001
I have read most of Doris Lessings books, and they have always meant a lot to me. She writes with an honesty that I have only found in a few other authors. (Axel Sandemose is another).I read "Marta Quest" in my teens, and it helped me understand a lot of things. Now I read "Love, again" book as a middle-aged woman, and I got the same feeling of having learned something about myself, and of not being alone. It is an unusual book about love. It is not only about relationships but about the feeling of love itself.
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Listening to another's love agonies can be as boring and tiresome as listening to their dreams, and an entire book dedicated to characters dying - literally, in one case - and swooning left right and centre with unrequited love, is really too much. This is not the Doris Lessing of The Grass is Singing; but there are flashes of her, as she describes the reluctantly ageing Sarah and her luvvie theatre friends, all in the throes of a rather precious and frantic search for love. There are problems with families as well as partners, and Sarah eventually traces her own compulsive hunger for love and fulfilment back to her childhood.

The book probably deserves a far greater study than I was prepared to give it and would possibly then yield more rewards. It's readable, yes, but though I sometimes found the self indulgence and navel gazing irritating, how could I argue with passages such as: "Sarah...had been thinking, far too often, I shall never again hold a young man's body in my arms. Never. And it had seemed to her the most terrible sentence Time could deal her."
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on 11 September 2007
I must admit that I found this book hard going. I was more than half way through it before I began to wonder what might happen to the characters. The main character, Sarah, is a woman of 60 who mixes in theatrical circles, the book is full of literary quotes and references which I didn't recognise, and Sarah seems absorbed in self-analysis for too much of the time.
The book does have some telling insights into how it feels to be infatuated with someone, and how it feels to be depressed. There are also some beautiful descriptions of nature. Little bits of it will stay with me, but it doesn't make me want to read any of her other books.
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on 28 October 2015
I read this book many years ago, while in my thirties. Coming back to it 20 years later has given me much pleasure and also a different perspective from my first reading. As always with Doris Lessing, the writing is perfect, the characterisation utterly realistic and the novel brims with intelligence. Still a great read.
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on 29 October 2010
I love Doris Lessing and have read many of her books, however this one was so cringing, badly written and unbelievable. I read it to the end to see if it got better. As a love story it started out as a woman who is strong and yet as the book went on it was as if every man she met she was in love with, it was quite ludicrous and wasn't the strong character that was initially portrayed. I was actually predicting the very predictable ending to each little section and was getting more and more angry the more I read on. I've stopped reading Lessing now, I'm just very glad that this wasn't the first book of hers I'd read
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