I guess I could explain the plot or something here, but this is the fourth book of a five book series, and while there is a plot, it’s also a lot like the other books here in this series. We have Martha (nee Quest) marries to Anton Hesse. She finds herself weary at the end of WWII both from the exhaustion of working in the local war office, but also from the sheer distance she feels from the actual combat and conflict in much different and much farther parts of the world. It’s an interesting question of positioning here. Whether in life, in war, in novels, where one finds oneself becomes the center of things, in the same way that a compass recalibrates or a GPS. So for Martha, the war is far away, and even if she can imagine the war in north Africa, that’s still thousands of miles away. Imagining the war in France or Germany must feel infinitely farther. As an American, I also sometimes think how far WWII must have felt for someone living in say Chicago. In life though, even being the center of consciousness doesn’t always mean feeling centered. Martha lives in Rhodesia, but feels far away from the rest of the world. This is especially true in a moment late in the book where she’s determined to be a British citizen, something in question in Rhodesia, despite her British parents.
Causing additional feelings of isolation is her waning interest for the Communist Party, despite having affairs that keep her connected. It almost wouldn’t be a Doris Lessing novel if someone wasn’t getting disillusioned by the party. This novel is from 1966, but the plot takes places in 1949, before the death of Stalin, so Martha’s ambivalence is still in a kind of pre-fallen state.