With the four short novels in this collection, Doris Lessing once again proves that she is unequalled in her ability to capture the truth of the human condition.
The title story, ‘The Grandmothers’, is an astonishing tour de force, a shockingly intimate portrait of an unconventional extended family and the lengths to which they will go to find happiness and love. Written with a keen cinematic eye, the story is a ruthless dissection of the veneer of middle-class morality and convention which manages to be at once universal and desperately, heartbreakingly personal.
A second story, ‘Victoria and the Staveneys’, takes us through 20 years of the life of a young underprivilged black girl in London. A chance meeting introduces her to the world of the Staveneys – a liberal white middle-class family – and, seduced, she falls pregnant by one of the sons. As her young daughter grows up, Victoria feels her parental control diminishing as the attractions of the Staveney’s world exert themselves. An honest and often uncomfortable look at race relations in London over the past few decades, Lessing reaffirms her brilliance at demonstrating the effect of society on the individual.
With these and two other equally brilliant novellas, Lessing has proven once again that she is one of our most valuable and insightful living authors.