Thursday, February 28, 2019

FFB: THE FIFTH CHILD, Doris Lessing

Books I read in 1987
"I hated writing it,'' said Doris Lessing in the NYT. ''It was sweating blood. I was very glad when it was done. It was an upsetting thing to write - obviously, it goes very deep into me somewhere.'' 

THE FIFTH CHILD was Doris Lessing's 35th book and was different from the other ones I've read. It was an easy read; the rest were not. And yet it was a hard read. I guess it's nearest cousin is THE BAD SEED.

The golden couple of the story (Harriet and David) have four perfect children. And then Harriet becomes pregnant again and the pregnancy is difficult, as is the birth, as is the introduction of this destructive child into the household.  He is referred to as a brute, an alien, a monster at various times. Eventually Ben is institutionalized and although the other children are relieved, Harriet cannot live with the decision and brings him back home. Although he is somewhat improved, the other children find ways to live apart. The family has been destroyed. Ben finally finds a place in a gang with other kids like him and this is of some solace to Harriet to who presides over a ruined family. 

The book stuck with me more than most. I read it in 1987 and I mentally use the term the fifth child whenever I hear of a child that brings a family down. Is it his/her fault? Probably not.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is a good choice, Patti. I hadn't thought about this book in a long time! Thanks for the reminder.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I always disliked THE BAD SEED so would be very unlikely to read this one. I did read THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK.

George said...

I read a lot of Doris Lessing back in the 1970s. I have a copy of THE FIFTH CHILD around here somewhere. Lessing's Canopus in Argos, a sequence of five Science Fiction novels, are underrated.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, this one even gave her trouble clearly.