Vale Doris Lessing

She died today at home, aged 94. Doris Lessing, writer of more than 60 works, of novels, short stories, plays, poetry. A writer who defied categorisation, a writer of ideas.


Many critics claim the Golden Notebook was her best work, but in my opinion it’s The Four-Gated City.

The Four-Gated City

The Four-Gated City

It’s a great loaf of a novel, the culmination of her Children of Violence series, about the young Martha Quest, who in this novel begins her life over again in post war London. It’s a long time ago that I read this book, but I remember and love her descriptions of London, of drinking tea in Jimmy and Iris’s cafe, looking out through the grimed glass, walking hurridly through the bombed-out streets, the ruined houses, the ever-present river. She writes about the city as a slow-moving organism, the buildings bombed out by war revealing layer after layer of wallpaper – each an emotional expression of lives lived within.

It’s a novel about about life lived under the nuclear threat. She draws on imaginary novels, diaries, letters, notes shopping lists and actual historical events to build a picture of a society breaking down.

She was a prescient writer, ahead of her time. Vale Doris Lessing, I’ll be reading your books again.

See Doris Lessing video here.


1 thought on “Vale Doris Lessing

  1. virginia shepherd

    A week or so ago I picked up The Four Gated City and read it again. I’ve read this book so many times that I now notice the typos and a transposed paragraph. So much for ‘the editing of the past was more carefully done’. The front and back covers have fallen off my battered paperback and there are old incense burns marking the part where Martha arrives at Radlett St. Remember the song….”I know what you done, before you even do it” etc…..”telepathy, telepathy’s, gonna be the death of me” (lene lovich..)

    It is a very prescient novel, given that it was written in 1969, and so much of what is so matter-of-factly stated is actually happening now, including our collective inertia. We cant see whats staring us in the face. an interlocked web of environmental crises converging to a focal point..overfishing, logging, land degradation, elimination of biodiversity, plastics in the oceans and right through the biosphere, overpopulation, climate changing faster than it did during the permian, before the permian mass extinction (due to global warming)…lynda coldridge saw england misted over, like a mouse thats been poisoned, a vision of the coming catastrophes. the few people who made it through were those ‘not suited to normal life’….

    Global telepathy, which she saw as an emerging capability in the few million people left after the unspecified catastrophes, that’s another issue- I think she was very influenced by RD Laing who did turn out to be a bit of a fruit cake in the end (alcoholism) but there’s a grain of truth as well.

    Vale Doris. I’m glad I was reading the 4 gated city on the day she died.

    All the reviews etc focus on the golden notebook and memoirs of a survivor but that’s her best book for sure.

    I hope she has made it through ‘the ocean of sound’.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *