The Sweetest Dream by Doris Lessing (1991)

The sweetest dream by Doris Lessing

From the 1991 HarperPerennial edition of The Sweetest Dream by Doris Lessing: This story of a family, spanning most of the twentieth century, has its fulcrum in the sixties, that embattled decade about which argument becomes louder each day.

The use of that time, bursting the old bonds and demanding freedoms, were seen by some of their elders in a manner not at all as they saw themselves, as romantic idealists, but as deeply damaged people.

Old Julia, the clan’s matriarch, knows why. “You can’t have two dreadful wars and then say ‘that’s it, and now everything will go back to normal.’ They’re screwed up, our children, they are children of war.”

Remarkable women, Julia and Frances, grandmother and mother, fight for the kids against obstacles, the worst being comrade Johnny. Here is a memorable picture of a character only recently departed from our scene.

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Doris Lessing

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“The revolution comes before personal matters” is his dictum, as he deposits discarded wives and hurt children in the accommodating house whose emotional center is always the extendable kitchen table, that essential prop of the sixties, boasting about their shoplifting, debating the violent ideologies of that time to take some of them out to the Third World, another to a South African village dying of AIDS.

This novel reflects our recent history like a mini faceted mirror, and is full of people not easily forgotten, each — for worse or for better, directly or indirectly — made by war.

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