Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 9 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

I think my father's rage at the trenches took me over, when I was very young, and has never left me. Do children feel their parents' emotions? Yes, we do, and it is a legacy I could have done without. What is the use of it? It is as if that old war is in my own memory, my own consciousness.

In this extraordinary book, the 2007 Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing explores the lives of her parents, each irrevocably damaged by the Great War. Her father wanted the simple life of an English farmer, but shrapnel almost killed him in the trenches, and thereafter he had to wear a wooden leg. Her mother, Emily, spent the war nursing the wounded in the Royal Free Hospital after her great love, a doctor, drowned in the Channel.

In the fictional first half of Alfred and Emily, Doris Lessing imagines the happier lives her parents might have made for themselves had there been no war; a story that begins with their meeting at a village cricket match outside Colchester. This is followed by a piercing examination of their relationship as it actually was in the shadow of the Great War, of the family's move to Africa, and of the impact of her parents' marriage on a young woman growing up in a strange land.

"Here I still am," says Doris Lessing, "trying to get out from under that monstrous legacy, trying to get free." Triumphantly, with the publication of Alfred and Emily, she has done just that.

 

About Doris Lessing

See more books from this Author
Born in Kermanshah, Persia (later Iran) on October 22, 1919, Doris Lessing grew up in Rhodesia (the present-day Zimbabwe). Her father was an amputee due to injuries received in World War I and, and her mother had treated his war injuries. As a child, Lessing explored the rural Rhodesian landscape, occasionally hunting small animals. While working as an au pair and a telephone operator in Salisbury, Rhodesia, Lessing read such authors as Chekhov and Tolstoy, refined her writing skills, and married twice. During her two marriages, she submitted short fiction and poetry for publication and, after moving to London in 1949 with her son, Peter, Lessing published her first novel, The Grass is Singing, in 1950. This work treated apartheid/racial issues that existed in Rhodesia at that time. She would go on to explore the individual's--women's in particular--relationship to society in many types of experimental fiction thereafter. Lessing has published many solid short-story collections but is perhaps best known for her 1954 Somerset Maugham Award-winning experimental novel The Golden Notebook. She has received numerous awards for her work including the 2001 Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, the David Cohen British Literature Prize, and the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature. Lessing has also had a lifelong interest in such topics as Marxism, telepathy, and social psychology.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 290 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Alfred and Emily

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

A few shorter, more casual pieces (“Insects,” “Provisions,” Servant Problems,” etc.) don’t add much to what Lessing has written before about Africa, but “My Brother Harry Tayler” gives the author a chance to expatiate on her sibling, her own children and the end of white rule in Rhodesia with an ...

Jun 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Doris Lessing once declared that “fiction makes a better job of the truth” than straightforward reminiscence. This observation does not apply to her latest book.

Aug 05 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Doris Lessing explores the lives of “these sick and half crazy people, my parents,” with unsentimental clarity.

Aug 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

The real Alfred and Emily - the healthy English farmer and the driven career woman - were killed off by the war, Lessing suggests.

May 16 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

It's there that Lessing begins - the idyll, Alfred at the crease, 16 years old, a gifted boy among men, Emily watching from the boundary, the long, hot summer of 1902 and all their lives laid out before them.

May 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

Doris Lessing, however, has decided to rewrite the script in this blend of fiction and memoir, imagining how her parents' lives would have been had they never married and - more significantly - had their generation been spared the First World War.

Mar 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

The Guardian

See more reviews from this publication

Doris Lessing's half-fiction, half-memoir is a clever example of just how sharply counterfactual history can illuminate life's wrong turns and paths not taken.

Mar 20 2009 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

Book Reporter

ALFRED & EMILY is the moving story of three different lives:.

Jan 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

Bookmarks Magazine

Nobel laureate Doris Lessing, author of the 1962 feminist classic The Golden Notebook, struggles to come to terms with the blighted lives of her parents in this innovative "autobiography"—her reputedly final book.

Jul 27 2008 | Read Full Review of Alfred and Emily

Reader Rating for Alfred and Emily
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 16 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×