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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 12 May 2016
a wonderful book so interesting
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on 28 January 2017
Engrossing & brilliant writing!
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on 17 December 2015
a must read
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on 17 June 2015
terribly dense and virtualy unreadable
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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 15 July 2016
Doris Lessing's first volume of autobiography (detailing the years from her birth to her arrival in England in her early 30s) is a must-read for anyone interested in colonialism in Africa, or in this exceptional writer. Lessing had, by any standards, an unusual life. Her father (a crippled veteran of World War I) met her mother while recovering from his war wounds in hospital; their powerful romance obscured from them both the fact that they were ill-suited as a couple. For the first five years of Lessing's existence the family lived a fairly luxurious life in Iran (then Persia) where her father worked as a banking official. However, as an 'outdoorsy' sort, he found the work boring, and eventually, with little or no discussion with his wife, bought a farm out in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) and moved the family out there. This venture proved to be a disaster - the farm never worked very well or yielded much income, Doris's mother suffered from profound depression, what schooling there was was inadequate (Lessing was for a while sent as a boarder to a local convent, but hated it and left as soon as she could) and the remoteness of the area meant that the family had little intellectual or cultural stimulation bar books sent from England, and the radio. Lessing escaped as soon as she could into marriage and motherhood - only to realize that this was just one more trap. The later stages of the book deal with her attempt to disentangle herself from her first marriage, her passionate embrace of Communism (which she saw as the only way to achieve social justice), her surprising second marriage to Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing (German aristocrat turned communist) and the birth of their son, and her eventual escape to England.

Lessing's autobiography is as readable and immediate as a good novel, full of fascinating information about Southern Rhodesia and its culture clashes and racism among British settlers, about farming in often near-impossible circumstances, about growing up in the remote bush and about her early discoveries of the joy of reading. Her descriptions of family, friends and lovers (apart from perhaps first husband Frank, who remains a somewhat shadowy figure) are vivid, and her explanations of why she became a Communist and how she eventually made herself into a writer fascinating. If I have any criticism, it is that Lessing never fully explains why she was so reluctant to attempt to get a better education (she became a fierce champion of education for others in later life), or why she married two men neither of whom she appears to have loved (unlike at least one of her later lovers) - or indeed why she had a third child, with a husband with whom she was clearly not planning to stay. But maybe she herself found it hard to untangle precisely why she made those particular choices.

A superb book, which I'd warmly recommend. It's a shame Lessing only wrote two volumes of autobiography - I'd have loved to have learnt more about her life.
3 people found this helpful
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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.
4 people found this helpful
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on 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.
6 people found this helpful
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