THE FOUR-GATED CITY

This is the fifth and last installment of Doris Lessing's Bildungsroman—Children of Violence—which began with Martha Quest, published in England in 1952. Twice as voluminous (more than 600 pages) and much more overwhelming than any novel in the series, it will reveal changes in Miss Lessing, Martha, and the world which now outdistances our time and crosses into the next century after The Catastrophe. When last seen before leaving Africa, Martha was a combative young woman with a strong masculine mind and female instinct—the latter only apparent here at the very outset since sexuality becomes a very ancillary concern. So too for the most part do the political events and ideas and stances (Communism) with which Martha was involved. Now as the book opens in London, she is totally unaffiliated, wanting no liens and having no belongings beyond a suitcase. Temporarily she goes to live with Mark Coldridge, whose wife is in a mental hospital, and help him with his writing and his messy, muddled household which expands continuously (relatives, children of relatives, mental patients, etc.) Lynda, Mark's wife, comes back from the hospital to live in the converted basement with another disturbed woman and hold seances. Martha herself has one period of dangerous instability when threatened with the visit-visitation of her own mother. As time goes on, she identifies more and more with Lynda and the failure of drugs, psychiatrists, shock treatment—a failure which is a lack of awareness of some sort of inner life unknown to science. Miss Lessing, always a protester, seems to be inveighing once again against entrapment—whether political or social or psychiatric, opting for freedom which ultimately she and Lynda (with their special extrasensory powers) find at the close on a nameless island. Certainly much less of a direct documentary than the earlier books, at times ambiguous and confusing. But it does have the self-propelled continuity of The Golden Notebook, a kind of flaying, furious, obsessive momentum which should assure much of the same audience.

Pub Date: May 16, 1969

ISBN: 0060976675

Page Count: 674

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1969

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

more