24 Jul 2011



Set in Rhodesia, the Grass is Singing tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer and his wife Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding.
..... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): The newspaper did not say much. *

MEMORABLE MOMENT (page 12): They let him be, while keeping an eye on him, for he was a white man, though mad, and black men, even when policemen, do not lay hands on white flesh.

KEEP IT OR NOT: Keep it.

Where to begin reviewing this? 

I think its only fair to say that whilst I can't say I enjoyed this book at the same time I can't say I didn't enjoy it - I think there was just something lacking for me personally though what that something was I cannot honestly say.

Without a doubt beautifully written, the authors descriptions are simply stunning - I could feel the bleakness, the heat, the oppression of the farm Mary (for it is Mary's story that the author mainly concentrates on)found herself on - HOWEVER, to me this wasn't so much a story as a chronicle of a lonely woman who seems to have given up on life, a woman merely existing from day to day without any hope that things will get better. (Have I given too much away?)

Quite a frightening read in many ways, it is certainly difficult to believe that such things were occurring in the 1950's, that there was such separation not only between the different classes but between the sexes and, as most evidently portrayed in The Grass Is Singing, between the races, the 'natives' being thought of and treat as little more than savages.

The thing to disturb me most about this book though? The continuous use of the word nigger. Obviously in common use at the time and not thought of a racial slur so much as an accurate description I believe it was realistic and right that this was not edited out of this 2011 edition (the book was originally printed in the 50's)but I admit to feeling uneasy about its usage and have to say I cringed every time I read the word.

Ultimately I'm glad that I did read this as, if nothing else, I got a real insight into the historical oppression of any one who was not a  white, middle class male.

A ' Contemporary Collection' offer in conjunction with the Times newspaper and Waterstone's book shops, The Grass Is singing was the 57th book read for my 100+ Reading Challenge.

* Please Note: In this instance I have not used the first sentence as I believe this may spoil the story for some.


Arti said...

Looks a good read... Nice review there Tracy...
Have a fabulous Sunday:)

anilkurup said...

That is an unique kind of review.

Though the book was written long before and described much happening in the 50's that will make you cringe ( in your own words)the misfortune of the world is that things havent changed much in many places.

I must get hold of the book.

Misha said...

I have only read one book by this author, and as far as I remember I did enjoy it. This one seems like a good read, but I can see why the use of that word disturbed you. It would have disturbed me too.

Kelly said...

I'm afraid I might find this book frustrating and depressing.

Good review.

Dorte H said...

I read The Grass is Singing several years ago and loved it, but then I am a great fan of Doris Lessing (not ALL her books, but several of them).

Of course the word ´nigger´ sounds offensive today, but would we really understand how people looked upon them at that time if Lessing was all nice and polite about it? I don´t think so.

animewookie said...

Oooo that's a tough one, but I'm glad you were able to take something from it :D

pinksheepcafe said...

I'm glad to hear this was a half decent read. I have The Good Terrorist sitting on my TBR pile and I hadn't heard too terribly much about Lessing. Great review!!

naida said...

This one does sound interesting, but it also sounds very depressing. I'd have to be in the mood for it. Nice review!

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

I can see why you liked it and didn't like it. I think I'd feel the same way. You don't want to see the horror of humanity, but yet it sounds like the author did it well. Good review!

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

...you write the greatest reviews, tracy.
definitely interesting.

that book does sound good, thanks i might try to read this.

big hugs
betty xx