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The Memoirs of a Survivor by [Lessing, Doris]
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The Memoirs of a Survivor Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Length: 192 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

'Original and astonishing … Brilliant persuasive and circumstantial in its imagination, so that each step towards barbarism seems completely necessary.' New Statesman

'For some years and books now [we] have been reading Doris Lessing to find out what's going on - what is happening to our society's nervous system and how it affects the way we live with each other … She is one of those acute emotional intelligences whose stories provide keys to our personal dilemmas.’ Guardian

‘An extraordinary and compelling meditation about the enduring need for loyalty, love and responsibility in an unprecedented time.’ Time

From the Inside Flap

In a beleaguered city where rats and roving gangs terrorize the streets, where government has broken down and meaningless violence holds sway, a woman -- middle-aged and middle-class -- is brought a twelve-year-old girl and told that it is her responsibility to raise the child. This book, which the author has called "an attempt at autobiography," is that woman's journal -- a glimpse of a future only slightly more horrendous than our present, and of the forces that alone can save us from total destruction.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 857 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (14 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00FAI68MQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #148,425 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book doesn't have any chapters, and not that many paragraphs.

That's a good starting place for a review, because Memoirs of a Survivor describes a world where neat chapters and paragraphs are things of the past. There has been some kind of disaster, which has society unravelling. We follow events through the viewpoint of a woman living alone in what was once a smart block of apartments in a large city. She takes in an abandoned young girl and her cat. The three of them face a slow apocalypse together.

Perhaps the most arresting thing about the opening sections – I would use the word “chapters” but there aren’t any - is the way some of the details of decline are recognisable from everyday pre-apocalypse life:

"... on the newscasts and in the papers they would pursue for days the story of a single kidnapped child, taken from its pram perhaps by some poor unhappy woman. The police would be combing suburbs and the countryside in hundreds, looking for the child, and for the woman, to punish her. But the next news flash would be about the mass deaths of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people."

Sound familiar?

So society falls apart, and serious as this sounds there are some amusing moments. There's a hilarious section about the Ryan family - one of those extended clans who can't move for antisocial behaviour orders, and tabloid stories about benefit cheating. Post apocalypse, the Ryans find themselves well adapted. They live from hand to mouth anyway. Scavenging for food and supplies isn't so different from old habits of casual theft.

Interestingly alongside general collapse, structures re-emerge, often very similar to the ones that are disappearing.
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Format: Paperback
Doris Lessing's sombre dystopian fantasy is less of a visionary fable and more an expression of one of society's perennial fears: children out of control. Latchkey kids, shopping mall kids, kids in the care of transient guardians or the local authorities, victims of aimless, loveless lives, children killing children; the nightmare is alive today in twenty first century Britain and elsewhere. This is a grim novel which expresses similar concerns to those found in A Clockwork Orange (and to a lesser extent Lord of the Flies), yet it is a strangely austere and dispassionate work which offers only a vague hope that a new civilisation can rise from the ashes.
The narrator watches society disintegrate from the windows of her block of flats, a slow fragmentation into tribes and clans, loose alliances without loyalty or trust, formed just as a means of survival and forever on the move, as the city empties and an urban hell looms, similar to South Bronx during the 1970s/1980s. A little girl with a bleak past, Emily, is deposited in her flat without explanation together with her pet, the creepy dog-cat chimera, Hugo, and she is obliged to raise a stranger, and hope that she has enough influence on Emily as she grows and matures to prevent her from leaving the flat and melting into the marauding gangs of children that terrorise the population; a seemingly insurmountable task.
Not all of Doris Lessing's fans were happy when she passed into her science fiction phase (following the political and psychological phases) and not all of her science fiction novels have been literary triumphs though this is very good. However, I constantly had the feeling that I was reading something significant but didn't know why.
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Format: Paperback
This novel works on many levels, and has a strong story line which is addictive. The world is falling apart, urban life as we know it is disintegrating and new ways of living are emerging. In this way the novel is a piece of sparse future-realism, but it is also much more than that. The old woman, the 'survivor', is observing all these changes, but she is also reliving her past and experiencing mystical realms, when she walks through the living room wall to other rooms, which reflect and illustrate, illuminate her life. This part of the novel seems just as real. There is also a girl who is left with the old woman, and again there is uncertainty as there is no explanation for this strange girl, and, as the old woman watches her grow up, she relives some of her past. Perhaps both old woman and girl are facets of the same person? Underlying the dreams and the histories are elements of fable and analogical teaching story, giving the novel dimensions which unfurl and mirror both ourselves and our society. All together, a fantastic novel and also a gripping read!
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Format: Paperback
this is a vital book for our times: prescient, as is so much of Doris Lessing's writing, beautifully written, and a story which unfolds from our own age. the contrast between the raiding groups of youth who come into the town in search of food, and the inhabitants of that town - afraid to move out of their homes for fear of the raiding gangs - throws an echo of our own times: when [we are told] many people are afraid to leave the safety of their homes for fear of the violence which young gangs of disenchanted youths will inflict. Perhaps the fear is mother to the fact: perhaps there is indeed a culture of violence which is unmoved by compassion, or a sense of community with any people other than their own kind... Doris Lessing saw into the future in many of her books, and we are alerted, and given the signposts we need. Can we take the necessary steps to avoid these happenings, or are we indifferent until it is too late? One way or the other, read this book and reflect.
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