Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing

This is a book about Ms. Lessing’s parents.  The first part of the book is hypothetical.  What would there lives have been like if World War I had never happened?  While interesting, this part of the book was also rather flat.  Not quite boring, but comimg close at times. 

Alfred and Emily doesn’t really come alive until the second half, which takes place after the “Great War”, when the family moved from Persia to Southern Rhodesia (what is now Zimbabwe).  The tone of the book changes, and you can hear Ms. Lessing’s voice as though she was talking to you.  Telling the things that happened then with her wounded, ill father and her desperately disappointed mother.  Disappointed because she left for Rhodesia expecting the same high-flying, party filled lifestyle she had indulged in while in Persia to continue in her new home.  Gorgeous frocks were created for the magnificent parties she intended to give, to attend.  Needless to say, such did not materialize.

I think I would have liked Alfred Taylor, with his interest in history and love of the land.  Emily McVeagh I don’t believe I would have liked at all.  Except for her love of books, and the way she conveyed that love to her children, though her personal literary scope seems to have been limited.

Part two is a truly wonderful, absorbing read, but the first portion doesn’t reach its full potential.  The first half of the book would receive a rating of 3.5, the second a 4.5, so, I’ll compromise.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars


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