Unsuspected by the petits bourgeois who were in the thrall of the mental superstructure of fascist-imperialistic Britain, the poor slaves of propaganda, were these watchers, the observers, the people who held all the strings in their hands. Her commitment to the cause is hard to distinguish from her feelings for Jasper, who is not exactly her boyfriend, certainly not her lover, but whom she idolizes and yearns for, whose approval she craves but who actually seems to depend almost entirely on her for money and all domestic arrangements.
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Alice loves to shock her parents, to steal from them and throw rocks at their middle-class suburban windows, but she also runs to them for money and soup pots and expects them to stand as references when she applies for permits and loans. The house itself is tempting to read symbolically, but of what? Does it stand for England, with its solid foundation but shameful state of disrepair, its squandered capacity to welcome and shelter, its rotting beams at the top that need replacing by stalwart workers?
Or is it more specific to the revolution, with its shared spaces regressing into private territories, its pretense of civility barely concealing its buried sewage, its susceptibility to external attack as well as internal rot? I did get mildly interested, by the end, in what kind of terrorist Alice would turn out to be.
You can follow all the replies to this entry through the comments feed. I want to comment on your last paragraph, the parenthetical comment. There was another such case I ran across where an author in her interview claimed that her novel was light and funny.
The Good Terrorist : A Thriller
However, none of the reviews of her books mentioned finding the book humorous. And she showed up in the comments of some of the reviews protesting that the book was not meant to be serious but should be considered a light read.
Lessing is so admired that I do think I should probably try something different of hers — maybe The Golden Notebook? Thank you for this post, Professor Maitzen. To my mind, your last paragraph is spot-on in its comparison of the latter to the former.
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Oh, yes, I remember that last scene well in The Terrorists. It can be found here. The novels would be a lot less compelling if they forced us into taking that last word as the real last word. Come visit! Comments that contribute civilly and constructively to discussion of the topics raised on this blog, from any point of view, are welcome.
The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
Categories: Contemporary Fiction. The Good Terrorist.
In a London squat a band of bourgeois revolutionaries are united by a loathing of the waste and cruelty they see around them. These maladjusted malcontents try desperately to become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. Only Alice seems capable of organising anything. Motherly, practical and determined, she is also easily exploited by the group and ideal fodder for a more dangerous and potent cause. Eventually their naive radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, but the aftermath is not as exciting as they had hoped.