The Cleft by Doris Lessing
A Novel

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From Doris Lessing, "one of the most important writers of the past hundred years" (Times of London), comes a brilliant, darkly provocative alternative history of humankind’s beginnings.

In the last years of his life, a Roman senator embarks on one final epic endeavor, a retelling of the history of human creation. The story he relates is the little-known saga of the Clefts, an ancient community of women with no knowledge of nor need for men. Childbirth was controlled through the cycles of the moon, and only female offspring were born—until the unanticipated event that jeopardized the harmony of their close-knit society: the strange, unheralded birth of a boy.


About Doris Lessing

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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. 274 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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One day, on this isle of Fish Skin Curers, Seaweed Collectors and Old Shes, a virgin birth produces a Monster, complete with a “tube” below his navel and nipples that “aren’t good for anything.” As in old Greece, unwanted babies are exposed to the elements on the Cleft, and even while the Clefts ...

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The New York Times

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But in her celebrated novel “The Golden Notebook,” for example, these divisions were embodied in human characters who yearned for wholeness — and there are no such characters in “The Cleft.” There are Shes and Hes, but they are symbols, not people.

Sep 02 2007 | Read Full Review of The Cleft: A Novel

The Guardian

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The Cleft by Doris Lessing HarperCollins £7.99 Lessing's conjectural history of human development does not fail nearly as badly as it should.

Dec 30 2007 | Read Full Review of The Cleft: A Novel

The Guardian

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The Cleft by Doris Lessing 260pp, Fourth Estate, £16.99 A Roman scholar of the age of Nero possesses a mysterious manuscript from ancient times - times that he considers ancestral to his world, though they differ strangely from Roman, or even human, history and myth.

Feb 10 2007 | Read Full Review of The Cleft: A Novel

The Guardian

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The Cleft by Doris Lessing Fourth Estate £16.99, pp288 Doris Lessing has always been a novelist enthralled as much by ideas as people and, in her latest book, she more or less does away with people altogether.

Jan 07 2007 | Read Full Review of The Cleft: A Novel

Book Reporter

As he works his way through the fragments of the old writings, he finds a compelling but disturbing story: in a prehistoric time, in a "place near the sea," is an isolated community populated only by women known as the Clefts.

Dec 27 2010 | Read Full Review of The Cleft: A Novel

The Blurb

I started reading The Cleft intrigued by this idea of women existing in a population without men - spontaneously becoming pregnant and birthing only girl babies.

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