Tag-Archive for ◊ The Sweetest Dream ◊

• Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Doris Lessing, was born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Persia (now Iran) in 1919 from British parents. Her father was crippled in the first world war and was working as a clerk in The Imperial Bank of Persia and her mother had been a nurse. Her parents moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1925, hoping to become wealthy through maize farming, which was to prove a disappointment.

Doris Tayler had a difficult childhood. She was educated at a Roman Catholic convent, the Dominican Convent High School in the capital Salisbury (now Harare). She left school at the age of fourteen and worked as a nursemaid, a telephone operator, an office worker and a journalist before marrying her first husband, Frank Wisdom, in 1939, with whom she had two children and divorced in 1943. She remarried a second time in 1945 with Gottfried Lessing after joining the Left Book Club – a communist club. She divorced from Lessing in 1949 after having a son from him and didn’t marry again.

Lessing has an extensive bibliography having written fiction, non-fiction, libretto, short stories, autobiography, drama, comics, and poetry. She received many prizes and notable awards for her work including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007. Lessing died in November 2013 at her home in London at the age of ninety-four, predeceased by her two sons but survived by her daughter.

The sweetest Dream, Doris Lessing’s twenty-fourth novel, was published in 2001. It is a family saga spread over three generations, three decades and two countries: England and a fictitious country called, Zimlia, alluding to Zimbabwe where the author grew up. The story starts in the early sixties: “that contradictory time” whose spirit the author particularly wanted to recapture.

The period when people believed they could change the world. What a “sweet dream” it was then. Unfortunately all ideologies are doomed to failure due to human greed, pride and thirst for power. This is a generation that has witnessed the relinquishment of collective utopias in favour of individualism. The shift of political commitment towards the disappointed hopes born of disillusionment.

During the time Lessing spent among the fundamantalist British communist party members she gained first hand experience of their hypocrisy, selfishness, idleness and political opportunism. The author now in her eighties, is no longer naïve, she can reflect on the past with lucidity. She mockingly describes the commuist character of comrade Johnny, who is always repeating his clichés and doesn’t live acording to what he is preaching. The only thing that his mother and ex-wife agree upon is that he is a sloth and an imbecile. There are also his comrades who were either utopian fools or opportunists.

Frances, her mother-in-law Julia Lennox and her step-grand-daughter Sylvia are three extraordinary women from three different generations who nonetheless have in common: their altruism, their independent free spirit, their tolerance, and a good sense of responsibility. Each one of them tries to make this hopeless world slightly better. These female characters are portrayed more positively than the males by the author, they are going to endeavour like her, each one of them her own way, to improve things.

Frances, is paying for her mistake of marrying Julia’s son at a young age. Julia’s son is the unreliable, irresponsible, comrade Johnny Lennox, whose dream is to save the world. These were the high days of the communist party in England. Johnny, is a prototype of an apparatchik who believes in his duty toward the communist party more than his responsibility towards his widowed mother, his wife and his two sons: Andrew and Colin, who didn’t have a normal childhood being brought up by their mother without their apathetic father.

Frances has to give up her dream of becoming part of the theatrical world and works in a left-wing newspaper, The Defender, in order to provide for her sons’ education with help from her mother-in-law. Frances, who becomes Johnny’s ex-wife, is very maternal, a model of abnegation. She is always providing abundant meals, comfortable lodging, succour and advice to her two boys and their dropout, stray, rebellious, friends who, estranged from their parents come, like them, from middle class families.

Most of these adolescents will grow-up to be self-centred and without any empathy for others. Rose Trimble becomes a Marxist as well as a journalist, finding herself a suitable niche, to suit her character, in “World Scandals”. She is bitter and ungrateful and goes as far as using her paper to besmirch the reputation of the Lennox family who sheltered her and looked after her. Andrew is now working for “Global Money” and allocates large sums to the corrupt government of Zimlia, none of which will benefit the citizens who are in desperate need of basic items but the sums will disappear into the pockets of the leaders. Colin becomes a mediocre novelist. Sophie, their good looking spoilt friend, is now a theatrical actress and behaves like a prima donna. Comrade Franklin is back home and is a corrupt minister in the newly liberated communist Zimlia.

Julia is Frances’ former mother-in-law. She is a German-born World War Two exile who became the widow of the upper-middle-class Englishman, Philip Lennox, with whom she had Johnny. She is the matriarch of this big house in Hampstead, London who rightly said that the new generation is disoriented because one cannot expect to go back to normal as if nothing had happened after two devastating world wars.

The teenager Sylvia, Johnny’s anorexic step-daughter, with her absent communist father and abnormal mother, is looking for an anchor, a certain stability, which she finds in the Hampstead home with Julia as her “foster mother”. After Julia’s coaching, Sylvia obtains her diploma and becomes a medical doctor. She is transferred to a remote, small village in the post independent African state called Zimlia. There she is confronted for the first time in her life with extreme poverty, orphans left destitute, superstitions, helpless people dying of AIDS and other minor diseases because of the lack of education, equipment, medicines as well as corrupted leaders. Sylvia works herself to death trying to help the suffering Zimlians.

In her semi-autobiographical, compelling novel, the author analyses with acuity the complexity of human relationships and describes the gloomy reality with some humour and compassion. She feels comfortable with her novel’s subject, a period she lived and experienced first hand. She is portraying the baby boomer generation who wanted to change the world on their own terms. They succeeded to change the world for ever but, as Lessing outlines it, the result was not for the better.

The Sweetest Dream, with its rich characters as well as its rich subject, is a novel that leaves the reader with much to reflect upon.

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• Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Here is a list of the books we have read and reviewed and will be reviewing in the coming months at the UNWG Book Club:

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Human Stain by Philipp Roth

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Youth & The End Of The Tether by Joseph Conrad
English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
Samarkand by Amin Maalouf
Portrait In Sepia by Isabel Allende
Youth by John Coetzee

Waiting by Ha Jin
Silk by Alessandro Baricco
Notes From The Hyena’s Belly by Nega Mezlekia
Crabwalk by Günter Grass
The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath
The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Fear And Trembling by Amelie Nothomb
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Eve Green by Susan Fletcher
The Palace Tiger by Barbara Cleverly
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer

The Bookseller Of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Embers by Sandor Marai
Palace Of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz
Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz
I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti
One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
In The Country Of Men by Hisham Matar
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve

Staying On by Paul Scott
The Swallows Of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
The Cairo House by Samia Serageldin
Keeping The World Away by Margaret Forster
The Speed Of Light by Javier Cercas
The Lady On My Left by Catherine Cookson
My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk
An Old Fashioned Arrangement by Susie Vereker
Tears Of The Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

The Miniaturist by Kunal Basu
Mothers And Sons by Colm Toibin
The Blood Of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani
So Many Ways To Begin by Jon McGregor
The Agüero Sisters by Cristina Garcia
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda N. Adiche
That Summer In Paris by Abha Dawesar
The Island by Victoria Hislop

Brick Lane by Monica Ali
The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Mission Song by John le Carré
The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies
The Sea by John Banville
The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
26a by Diana Evans
The Road Home by Rose Tremain

Desert by Le Clézio
Any Place I Hang My Hat by Susan Isaacs
Rules of The Wild by Francesca Marciano
My Name is Salma by Fadia Faqir
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Nadirs by Herta Müller
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa El Aswany
Crow Stone by Jenni Mills

The Other Hand (UK print) or Little Bee (USA print) by Chris Cleave. (Two different titles for the same novel depending on where you buy it).
The Siege by Ismail Kadare.
The Loner by Josephine Cox.
Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
Okei by Mitsugu Saotome.
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett / La couleur des sentiments / Gute Geister.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga / Le tigre blanc / Der Weisse Tiger.
My Father’s Notebook by Kader Abdolah / Cunéiforme / Die Geheime Schrift.

The Last Station by Jay Parini / Une année dans la vie de Tolstoi / Tolstojs Letztes Jahr.
The Invisible City by Emili Rosales / La ville invisible / Tiepolo und die Unsichtbare Stadt.
No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod / La perte et le fracas.
Illuminations by Eva Hoffman.
Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher / Oasis du couchant / Sonnenuntergangs Oase.
Ignorance by Milan Kundera / L’ignorance / Die Unwissenheit.
Light of the Moon by Luanne Rice.
Softcore by Tirdad Zolghadr.
The Musician’s Daughter by Susanne Dunlap.

Honour by Elif Shafak / Crime D’honneur.
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes / Des fleurs pour Algernon.
Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye / Trois femmes puissantes.
Firmin by Sam Savage.
The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle / Embrouille en Provence.
The Year Of The Hare by Arto Paasilinna / Le lièvre de Vatanen.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain / Madame Hemingway.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen / Amours et autres enchantements.
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh / Lignes d’ombres.

The Map Of Love by Ahdaf Soueif / Lady Pacha.
The Secret History Of Costaguana by Juan Gabriel Vasquez / Histoire secrète du Costaguana.
Night Train To Lisbon by Pascal Mercier / Train de nuit pour Lisbonne.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell / Cette main qui a pris la mienne.
The Way To Paradise by Mario Vargas Liosa / Le Paradis-un peu plus loin.
The Sweetest Dream by Doris Lessing / Le rêve le plus doux de Doris Lessing.
The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker / Le détour de Gerbrand Bakker.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson / La dernière conquête du major Pettigrew de Helen Simonson.

Coastliners by Joanne Harris / Voleurs de plage.
The Rock Of Tanios by Amin Maalouf / Le rocher de Tanios.
The Heart Of A Dog by Mikhail Boulgakov / Coeur de chien.
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin / La saison des mangues introuvables.
The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes / Une fille, qui danse.
Balzac And The Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie / Balzac et la petite tailleuse chinoise.
Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi / Le ravissement des innocents.
Accabadora by Michela Murgia.
Hanna’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson / Hanna et ses filles.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell / Epouser Mozart: Le roman des soeurs.
Please Look After Mother by Shin Kyung-Sook / Prends soin de maman.
Kartography by Kamila Shamsie / Kartographie.
All The Names by José Saramago / Tous les noms.
In The Skin Of A Lion by Michael Ondaatje / La peau d’un lion.
Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras.
Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson / Dans les coulisses du musée.
The Little Paris Bookshop By Nina George / La lettre oubliée.
The Masterpiece by Anna Enquist / Le chef-d’oeuvre.

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke.
How It All Began by Penelope Lively.
The Heart Has Its Reasons by Maria Duenas / Demain à Santa Cecilia.
The Violinist Of Venice by Alyssa Palombo.
The Woman On The Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford.
The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami / Les années douces.
The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson / L’analphabète qui savait compter.
A Piece Of The World by Christina Baker Kline.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan / Le club de la chance.

Luncheon Of The Boating Party By Susan Vreeland.
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land. / Le sang du monstre.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles / Un gentleman à Moscou.
When The Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke.
Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman / La vie selon Ove.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey / La fille de l’hiver.
The Last Song Of Dusk by Siddarth Dhanvant Shanghvi / La fille qui marchait sur l’eau.
Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf / Léon l’Africain.

The Library Of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard / La librairie des ombres.
The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin / La boutique des petits trésors.
The Master Of The Prado by Javier Sierra / Le maître du Prado.
The Good Husband Of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith / Les larmes de la girafe.
The Bondmaid by Catherine Lim / La maîtresse de jade.
Ties by Domenico Starnone / Les liens.

Together Tea by Marjan Kamali.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami / La ballade de l’impossible de Haruki Murakami.
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami / La brocante Nakano.
Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck / La terre chinoise de Pearl S. Buck.
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell / Hamnet de Maggie O’Farrell.
Pavilion Of Women by Pearl S. Buck / Pavillon des femmes de Pearl S. Buck.

Slowness by Milan Kundera / La Lenteur de Milan Kundera.
Love In Exile by Ayse Kulin.
The Secret Life Of Book Club by Heather Woodhaven.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith / De la beauté de Zadie Smith.
The Little French Bistro by Nina George.
The Palace Of Dreams by Ismail Kadare / Le palais des rêves de Ismail Kadare.
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones.
The Enchantress by Han Suiyn.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Tool / La Conjuration des imbéciles.
Chasing Cézanne by Peter Mayle / La femme aux melons.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng / La saison des feux.
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery / L’élégance du hérisson.
The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain / La femme au carnet rouge.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald / La Libraire.

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