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Ben, in the World
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on 2 October 2017
Sequels can be challenging. This book, which is a sequel to the brilliant THE FIFTH CHILD, has the added problem that the main character, Ben, is a feral being who doesn't have recognisable human emotions or feelings. It is therefore very difficult to connect with him, and in this book unlike the first he is the main focus.

Given that it isn't as brilliant as the first book, BEN IN THE WORLD will intrigue any fan of the first book because it answers so many questions about Ben. In the Fifth Child we were deliberately left wondering whether Ben's family, especially his mum, were to blame for his categorisation as 'feral'; perhaps it is their family resentment of him, a baby too many, that made them shut him out of the family. However, as we look at Ben's life as an adult we see that the rest of the world have this same judgement of him. As a throwback caveman, unable to understand how modern people work, Ben is vulnerable to exploitation and we see him cheated and bullied by a whole series of people. Luckily, there are a few people who try to protect him (all women who are outsiders themselves). At the end of the story, some evil scientists (stereotypically evil, in fact) entrap Ben and experiment on him to try to discover whether he is really human.

The ending is shocking, and vividly described, making the slightly disappointing narrative leading up to it worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 23 March 2014
I read the Fifth Child recently which told the story of Ben's upbringing and wanted to read the sequel to find out more about what happened to him as he grew up.
Ben has always been told he is different and he is. In this book he moves from his close knit family into the wider world which, in some ways, is more forgiving of his appearance and behaviours. Yes he is still different but his experiences show others who are much more sinister and monstrous than Ben. As we follow him through the world of the underclass, Ben's difficulties are explored sensitively.
The writing is beautiful, creating fabulous images and emotions. Gradually we understand more about how Ben works which develops into empathy and admiration of his ability to cope with all that life can throw at him.
As with the previous book, the format is uncomfortable with no chapters and no breaks in the narrative which makes the read awkward (I think that is Doris Lessings plan!)
I'm not convinced that Ben needed to be moved around the world to show his differences and the book may have been even more effective if he had been left at home. If thinking of him as a real person, would he really have met all the people he did?
At the end I came away from the book frustrated. It is beautiful and I loved reading it but I didn't believe that his family had simply given up on him and I wanted to see some of the story from their side.... Maybe the opportunity for someone to write another sequel! However, the book raised lots of emotions in me and that is always good!
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on 27 December 2008
I was looking forward to Ben's story and the epilogue to "The Fifth Child" by the same author. I have enjoyed this book even more than I had its predecessor. This is a book about being different. About acceptance and understanding. A book that pierces the heart.
Ben Lovatt. Who was he? What was he? As vulnerable as a newborn baby, yet at times very wild, instinctive, almost... feral.

May I suggest to read "The Fifth Child" first. This sequel stands on its own perfectly but I still feel that the reader would understand Ben's tale better by reading about his birth and family beforehand.

Once again I have admired Ms. Lessing's writing style (just like before, no chapters in this book, just a few pauses) and her ability to convey an emotional pathos with a simplicity that captivates deeply. This book was gripping, powerful and really sad. The quote from a newspaper on the book cover summarizes my feelings "A wonderful novel, flawless as a black pearl".
4 people found this helpful
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on 9 February 2010
'The Fifth Child' had a kind of haunting resonance that left you wondering 'what happened next' - but it would have been much better if it had been left at that. A useful long plane journey kind of read I suppose. It has to be said it's not at all well written - too hasty and casual - and the story is pretty hammy. You get the impression it was written more in the sixties than in 2000, the detail is just too naïve, superficial and cliched - certainly not what you'd expect from a Nobel prize winner. It's going to the bookshelf in the garage 'till I can find somebody to palm it off on.
3 people found this helpful
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on 14 November 2016
Great prose & intriguing story. After reading The 5th Child I had to find out what happened to Ben. Preferred the 1st book
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on 3 January 2016
excellent follow up to previous book. needed to know what became of Ben, who or what he was| Beautifully written, very readable.
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on 5 November 2015
Just had to find out what happened to Doris Lessing's FIFTH CHILD - a sensitive and moving sequel with Ben having 'grown up'. So very glad I bought it.
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on 10 June 2014
Amazing book, I'm a totall book worm and I loved it... Doriss Lessing is onew of my favourite author. Tank you!
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on 29 October 2010
I tend not to read sequels if I really loved the original but 'The Fifth child' was so amazing I couldn't resist. I was slightly disappointed as it wasn't written with the same gusto as the original and also found the Mothers involvement or lack thereof far from realistic after what she risked losing by being so involved and not letting him go in the original. That said as a story it was good and I'm glad I read it, I won't spoil the end but I just went hmmm, as the character would never have done this as he wouldn't of understood what he was doing and what it represents. I'm sure this doesn't make sense but it really would spoil the book if I explained more
One person found this helpful
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on 23 May 2013
Think I have already reviewed this book! Very pleased with the quick delivery, packaging etc. Condition of book was excellent, but my only gripe would be that it was inscribed in front cover, which was not mentioned in description.
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