The Sweetest Dream: A Novel

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9780066213347: The Sweetest Dream: A Novel

This story of a family, spanning most of the twentieth century, has its fulcrum in the Sixties, that contradictory and embattled decade about which argument becomes louder each day. The youth of that time, bursting old bonds and demanding freedoms, were seen by some of their elders in a manner not at all as they saw themselves, as romantic idealists, but as deeply damaged people. Old Julia, the clan's matriarch, knows why. "You can't have two dreadful wars and then say 'That's it, and now everything will go back to normal.' They're screwed up, our children, they are the children of war."

Remarkable women, Julia and Frances, grandmother and mother, fight for "the kids" against obstacles, the worst being Comrade Johnny. Here is a memorable picture of a character only recently departed from our scene. "The revolution comes before personal matters" is his dictum, as he deposits discarded wives and hurt children in the accommodating house whose emotional center is always the extendable kitchen table, that essential prop of the Sixties, around which the family sits through the evenings, eating, joking, boasting about their shoplifting, debating the violent ideologies of the time that take some of them out to the Third World, another to a South African village dying of AIDS.

This novel reflects our recent history like a many-faceted mirror, and is full of people not easily forgotten, each -- for worse or for better, directly or indirectly -- made by war.

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Review:

The motivating power of dream and the political price of illusions are the subject of Doris Lessing's extended family saga, The Sweetest Dream. While Frances Lennox, uncomplaining and unsentimental about her roles as a 1960s earth mother for a string of "screwed up" post-war children, serves up endless nurturing at the crowded kitchen table of a large North London house, her ex- husband pursues revolution on all-expenses-paid trips and conferences. Occasionally he drops by for free meals or to dump one of the children, or wives, of another failed marriage on Frances's doorstep. Lessing is able to turn a dispassionate eye on the economics of free love, in which women usually pay.

From swinging-'60s London to liberated sub-Saharan Africa, the author depicts the human faces of a broad canvas of issues in this polemical piece. The novel ranges from anorexia to AIDS to casting a questioning eye at the morality of the travelers on the World Bank gravy train. Moving from London to the tragic landscape of post-independence "Zimlia" (a thinly veiled Zimbabwe), Lessing documents the social movement and lost dreams of a post-war generation, for whom "it is always The Dream that counts." --Rachel Holmes, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:

Doris Lessing was born to British parents in Persia in 1919 and moved with her family to Southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in 1949 and has lived there ever since. She is the author of more than thirty books--novels, short stories, reportage, poems, and plays--and is considered among the most important writers of the postwar era. Her most recent works include two volumes of autobiography, Under My Skin and Walking in the Shade, and a novel, Mara and Dann.

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