This morning I finished reading the first of two novels written under the pseudonym of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing 1n 1983/4 as an experiment to discover how the works from a previously unknown author would be received. All was revealed in 1985 when Penguin published the one volume edition.
Through the relationship between a successful middle-aged magazine editor and the needy nonagenarian woman whom she befriends, the author examines the lives of women from differing backgrounds, using the device of the journalist’s diary to narrate the story of which I will not give details. Compassion and empathy combat natural antipathy and disgust to forge an albeit ambivalent genuine friendship through which are explored the nature of love between varying classes and ages.
Workplace and family bonds, alliances, and disappointments are also chronicled, with failures honestly examined. How much do current relationships compensate for early aversion, or give opportunities for lack of success?
We also confront the realities of declining health and lingering death.
Lessing writes with sensitivity, wit, and insight, enabling her to present the complexity of her characters. Her fast-paced prose contains simple, straightforward, language and short sentences as appropriate for her journalistic protagonist. Dialogue is credible and she has good descriptive skills, not holding back on unsavoury detail.