If The Old Could…..

This is the title of the second of Doris Lessing’s Diaries of Jane Somers, written under the hoax pseudonym as an experiment to test the reception of an apparently unknown novice writer.

The book has the same qualities of description, insight, and depth of characterisation as its predecessor, Diary of a Good Neighbour.

The nature of love and family life with its repetitions of personalities and relationships through the generations is very well depicted. Ultimately, however, the protagonists are destined for disillusionment and unfulfillment. According to the writer older qualities reappear in younger members of their families, as does their behaviour. We are also bound to replicate earlier mistakes and are always alone in the end.

Again the diarist conveys powerful ambivalence and entrapment by her own kindness and inability to confront issues. Pretending nothing is wrong as a method of avoidance is a recurring theme.

In fact my own reading of this book mirrored the ambivalence. The writing skill kept me interested although I became frustrated enough to want to part company. Less obviously a diary than the first book, the prose seemed more elegant and certainly contained compelling passages. I found myself becoming angry with Janna, just as she described her anger with those dependent upon her whom she cold not influence.

I was not sorry to finish the work, although I couldn’t give it up.

Published by derrickjknight

I am an octogenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs. In these later years much rambling is done in a car.

24 thoughts on “If The Old Could…..

  1. I enjoyed your review of your experience. The book sounds as though it belongs to the Unremitting Depressing School of Writing (a school I tend to favor).

  2. I find it refreshing when a reviewer does not necessarily enjoy a book and says so without pulling it apart. Sometimes our mood and circumstance play a part in the way we perceive what we read. I join Merril in thanking you for providing an honest review.

      1. It is a good, honest review, Derrick, and I agree with Anne that sometimes our mood and circumstance play a part in the way we perceive what we read.

  3. It does sound quite a cheery book, but, quite rightly, as merrildsmith has pointed out, making a review an honest, and accurate, one is fundamental to the task.

  4. “I was not sorry to finish the work, although I couldn’t give it up.” Some books just do that! I’m currently reading The King’s Last Song by Geoff Ryman which is set in present day Cambodia. It’s excellent and very compelling, but the passages about the Khymer Rouge are heart-breaking. I need to get to the end, but it will be a relief when I do so.

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