Home > Book Review, Fiction > The Grass is Singing – Doris Lessing

The Grass is Singing – Doris Lessing

A little about author: Doris Lessing was raised in South Rhodesia and The Grass is Singing(1949) is her first novel. She was critically acclaimed for her novel The Golden Notebook(1962) and she won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1954.

The Grass is Singing is a study of a married life of a white couple living a poor life of a farmer. And it is about the natives, the black people.

Mary is raised in a small family where she grows up despising her father – a drunkard. She grows into a very childish sort of woman, wearing kiddish skirts, ribbons on her hair even when she is nearing 30. She hangs around with guys comfortably and they treat her like a comrade. But one day she overhears her friends criticising her lifestyle and saying that she should get married. Quiting her job of secretary that pays her will and helps her live comfortably, leaving away her favorite club house for women, she marries Dick Turner, a farmer, and settles in country – a place full of hardships. She is now Mary Turner.

She has to handle the natives, someting she never did before. They have a houseboy and they, by rule, are natives. Mary’s life is destroyed here. She can never stand beside Dick who fails to bring money due to his bad management policies or sheer bad luck. She hates the weather – it is hot – and is always fighting with it. She cannot handle a single native and every house boy leaves her job due to her constant hatred and rebuke towards them. She is lonely, talks to no one, and she hates to help Dick at his farm despite his constant requests. Towards the end her life becomes sedentary, she just sits – morning, noon and evening. She hates to sleep beside Dick, and despises him for he cannot make money. She has a secret dream life – her life in city, without Dick, with her old friends, whom she curses for it was because of them that she married…She hates her living conditions. She hates the natives – except one. She cannot hate him for she feared him, she wants to rebuke him but she finds no courage for that, she wants him to go away but her circumstances are such that she begs him to stay, she….And then she dies and no one talks about it.

It is a book you will love to hate, but you won’t stop appreciating it. You hate Mary but you will pity her too. You will sympathize Dick, appreciate his passion for his work, his pride but cannot help notice his stupidity. Mary is professionally skilled but insouciant. She can never support Dick and cannot help nagging him, hurting him. She gives him no pleasure. She is always talking as ‘I’ and not as ‘We’. It was never made a home.

Very sad, but realistically written. There are times when you hate Mary to such an extreme that you would wonder your reaction if she comes in front of you, and you want to put that book aside. But you want to read – read her mind, know why she died, know whether she makes any effort to change, and you read because you hate to leave a book unfinished.

Doris Lessing dwells inside a woman’s mind.

Categories: Book Review, Fiction
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