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on 14 February 2003
Under My Skin
Doris Lessing's autobiography traces her political and emotional development from her earliest childhood memories to her growing, overwhelming, disenchantment with provincial (as she saw it) small town life. "Small town" life for her was pre-WWII Salisbury in the (then) British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Salisbury was a complacent capital city of 10,000 white settlers in a country the size of Spain.
Lessing is quick to debunk the myth of the prosperous, close knit, white farming community - poverty was a real fact of life both for blacks and whites. Her most vivid childhood memories are of escaping from the family home and off into the limitless veld. The emptiness of the veld parallels her youthful emptiness and her growing convictions that the communist party represents a real hope for the world.
The book, a masterpiece of autobiographical writing, is brutally honest in parts and wilfully obscure in others. Some of her emotional mistakes are hardly glanced at (leaving her first two children, for example) but others (the joys of being part of a fast, hard drinking sect, embracing radical politics) are wonderfully engaging. Reading her thoughts you could be forgiven for thinking that the "party" was the only opposition to conservative white rule in Salisbury. This is what makes her book so appealing, her supreme skill as a novelist allowing us to enter the heady world of rushed meetings, leftist newspaper deliveries, drinks on the sports club verandah and back in time to find the cook still waiting to prepare supper. Naturally it couldn't last and Lessing is far too intelligent to think that that is all there is to life. The book ends in 1949 as she arrives in London, apprehensive and hopeful in the capital city of her parents.
This is more than a 'who-did-what' from a long time ago, times and dates are (probably deliberately) rarely mentioned. It is the personalities and the ideas - most of all the ideas - sliding from youthful enthusiasm to mature realism which fuse the book with life and vitality. 'Under My Skin', published in 1992, is that rare thing, a candid autobiography written by a consummate novelist with skills to spare. Doris Lessing is a national treasure.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 October 2007
This is a candid autobiography with as main themes love, sex (good sex, as the author calls it, is a right for everybody) and politics (communism) in South-Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) ruled by the blank minority.,
It is a gripping, moving, and realistic picture, wherein the author tries to find answers to personal and more general human questions: why was she so outspoken rebellious and, on the contrary, so strictly loyal to the communist movement?
Why are people fighting relentlessly each other, and on the other hand, striving for happiness?
Are the people of her generation all children of World War I? Why was her father a freemason?

This book is written like an irresistible waterfall. Not to be missed.
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on 13 January 2012
The first volume of Lessing's autobiography often reminds the reader of the biased version of the narrative she gives us. Memory is a deceiving and partial thing, distorting small events and making other things from the past totally disappear.
She takes the reader along for her archaeological inquiry into remnants of her past and you visit her view of Persia, where she spent the first years of her childhood, you see England through her first brief contact with it and then you move with her parents (analyzed in detail and portrayed as tragic characters) and younger brother to the distant lands of Southern Rhodesia, where white farmers dreamed of making it big. The book debunks the myths of prosperity which those colonists had, while giving the reader a first person perspective of what it must have been like to be young an curious, rebellious and restless.

The book also gives you a concrete example of a cultural hybrid through Lessing herself. She is a product of late British Imperialism and also a product of the first world war, given how both her parents were affected by it.

A fine psychological and self-reflexive novel with historical details which become so personal under her skin.
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on 6 February 2003
... Doris Lessing's autobiography traces her political and emotional development from her earliest childhood memories to her growing, overwhelming, disenchantment with provincial (as she saw it) small town life. "Small town" life for her was pre-WWII Salisbury in the (then) British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Salisbury was a complacent capital city of 10,000 white settlers in a country the size of Spain.
Lessing is quick to debunk the myth of the prosperous, close knit, white farming community - poverty was a real fact of life both for blacks and whites. Her most vivid childhood memories are of escaping from the family home and off into the limitless veld. The emptiness of the veld parallels her youthful emptiness and her growing convictions that the communist party represents a real hope for the world.
The book, a masterpiece of autobiographical writing, is brutally honest in parts and wilfully obscure in others. Some of her emotional mistakes are hardly glanced at (leaving her first two children, for example) but others (the joys of being part of a fast, hard drinking sect, embracing radical politics) are wonderfully engaging. Reading her thoughts you could be forgiven for thinking that the "party" was the only opposition to conservative white rule in Salisbury. This is what makes her book so appealing, her supreme skill as a novelist allowing us to enter the heady world of rushed meetings, leftist newspaper deliveries, drinks on the sports club verandah and back in time to find the cook still waiting to prepare supper. Naturally it couldn't last and Lessing is far too intelligent to think that that is all there is to life. The book ends in 1949 as she arrives in London, apprehensive and hopeful in the capital city of her parents.
This is more than a 'who-did-what' from a long time ago, times and dates are (probably deliberately) rarely mentioned. It is the personalities and the ideas - most of all the ideas - sliding from youthful enthusiasm to mature realism which fuse the book with life and vitality. 'Under My Skin', published in 1992, is that rare thing, a candid autobiography written by a consummate novelist with skills to spare. Doris Lessing is a national treasure.
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on 28 November 2013
Beautifully, honestly and intelligently written, full of insights. Apart from Doris Lessing's personal life, and particular her free childhood in Africa, the book is also a realistic history of the 20th century in terms of consciousness, English values, the effect of the World Wars, left-wing sensibility and communism, colonialism - all seen through the prism of Lessing's private and public life. Incidentally, there were a few pages at the end that were deeply shocking...
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on 18 February 2015
a gripping story of a childhood and early life. The images that the words conjure up are graphic and desirable. You can taste the school food and imagine the fear and trepidation of a woman setting out on her adult life. A real page turn and a good book to discuss in a book club. I like Doris Lessing as an author and this is no let down
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on 15 May 2014
This came after a short delay and was in good c onndition and well wrapped. Rather awkward read as it is personal and depressing !
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on 10 June 2014
Such a well writen book, Dorris lessing is an amazing writer and the story of her life is awesone. Worth every penny!
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on 4 May 2016
Full of the most exacting observations and insights. Couldn't ask for a better biography: a measure of life itself.
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on 17 June 2015
terribly dense and virtualy unreadable
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