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.