This is the third book in the Doris Lessing series “The Children of Violence” which are her semi-autobiographical novels about Martha Quest, initially a young woman living on a farm in Rhodesia who confronts her mostly unambitious family and seeks to run away in the first book, he marries and confronts her immediate regret about conforming to patriarchal culture of young marriage in the second book, and who now finds herself in the midst of a political and intellectual awakening among the Communist intelligentsia of South Africa before WWII here in the third book.
She’s beginning to wonder at this point whether she’s finally landed at her life’s station in terms of intelligence, meaning, purpose, love, happiness, and mission. And I hate to say it, Martha, but you’ve still got growing to do.
Like a lot of books that came out post-WWII, a lot of the Communist writers from the 30s and 40s find themselves reckoning with unfettered Stalinism after the war. Martha is little different. She realizes of course here that Communism is equally as patriarchal as Capitalism, only of a different flavor, and maybe there’s not yet the thing that she needs in her life at this stage.
What interesting for this novel and for me as a reader is seeing where we go from here given that Lessing already wrote what feels like culminating book on her youth in The Golden Notebook, but there’s two more novels in this series, both written after The Golden Notebook. It will be interesting to see how those books interact with that book.