[[ read online ]] The Grass is SingingAuthor Doris Lessing – 91videos.co

Loneliness, she thought, was craving for other people s company But she did not know that loneliness can be an unnoticed cramping of the spirit for lack of companionship Doris Lessing, The Grass is SingingAmazing..rating and review to follow.Sometimes a piece of literature comes along that just leaves you speechless The Grass is singing is one such book.So I believe I read this as a kid It has been on my TBR list for several years and I wish I had read it sooner After reading it I did need to go back and read some parts again I also looked at dozens and dozens of reviews I really wanted to know what others thought.I am not doing a plot review but will talk about the characters and their motivations.If I had to use one word to describe this book it would be enigmatic I feel there is so much left unsaid and so much that is up for debate and discussion It s hard to put in to words.When I read Historical Fiction, I need the atmosphere to transport me there and man does this book do that One feels right there in the midst of it all And beyond that, the imagery is just..bewitchingly beautiful Yes, it depicts poverty and apartheid and depicts them in the darkest of ways but the Stars, The Night Sky, the thatched Huts, the trees and open wilderness were so beautifully painted As one reads this fascinating book, you can almost see the darkness of the sky with the stars illuminating the open farm It is one of the most atmospheric books I have ever read.And then there are the characters Mary Turner My feelings were so mixed It was sort of a slow agony to see who she was and what she turns into It is painful to see it all unfold.The book almost lost me at first with its sparse, telling not showing prose but I adjusted and surprisingly came to like it.Dick was Mary s husband and impossible to hate He is a dreamer and who can hate a dreamer All he wants is to belong to the farm I do not believe, as others do, that he really cared about success He had become one with the farm and were it n ot for the fact he had a wife to feed and someday perhaps children I really do not think he d have cared Except for perhaps the expectations of Farm society But Dick could have been just a happy dreamer content to toil away, barely noticing the poverty.Moses Here is where it gets tough I still have no idea why SPOILER ALERT Moses chooses to kill Mary I have tried to understand it I have googled why did Moses kill Mary Turner I have come up with my own theories, most of which I have thrown aside.I still do not know and would welcome discussion One thing I do not believe is that the act of undressing Mary drove him to rage Moses appeared to want to be Mary s protector I believe he welcomed the chance to undress her, the chance to take command over virtually her whole self He came to regard her as his I do not mean sexually It was way primitive then that.I believe that Tony Marsten was the trigger for Moses There are many reasons I think that I have examined many reviews and many theories and this is the one that seems to make the most sense Also, there is a line that I did not pick up the first time I read it but did pick it up upon reading again where, as Mary, clearly knowing she was about to come to her end, reflects that she betrayed Moses with Tony I did not understand that at first But it makes sense.Moses sees her with Tony And she is crying That is exactly how she came to know Moses She broke down crying and he took charge giving her drink and sleep That was the first time he reached out to her and the whole relationship shifted.I believe in the mind of Moses, Mary came to belong to him in a way Then he was humiliated by Tony and thrown out He knows Mary is leaving and wrongly suspects she is leaving with Tony And the crying..that would have figured in Mary had replaced him I believe that is why he regards Tony..not Dick Turner..as his ultimate rival Remember, directly after killing Mary he goes to watch Tony sleep and bask in the glow of his final triumph over his enemy And he says to himself that Richard Turner is unimportant because he was defeated so long ago.In spite of this, I do not think their relationship was sexual although it certainly had sexual aspects and may have become sexual in time I admit to being hopelessly frustrated that we were not allowed into the mind of Moses until at the very end and I almost took off a star for that but decided not to.The only thing that puts my theory into question is the comment Moses makes about the oranges being missing when they so clearly are not That makes me think well..maybe he always intended harm to her But then again, he could easily have killed Mary at any time His actions were protective until she decides to leave the farm.Then again I could be way off..there are so many theories surrounding the motivations of Moses, of Mary etc that it is impossible to know for sure.I will say..I liked Moses BEFORE, NOT AFTER he killed Mary I kept hoping the murderer somehow was someone else And I thought it just might be someone else There are theories, even on GR, that Moses was not the killer which I do not agree with There is also speculation that Mary as good as ASKED him to kill her but I do not agree with that either.I am also interested as to why Moses so readily waits to turn himself in And poor Richard Turner At the end, everyone is either dead, about to be dead or emotionally gone It was deeply moving.I would also like to know how Mary knew she was going to die This is also not explained I believe she knew Moses had it in him to kill She had seen glimpses of his rage and knew it was possible.And the whole book seemed to me sort of Shakespearean in nature I have to say this book deeply affected me and I loved it. In her first novel, The Grass is Singing first published 1950 , Doris Lessing begins with a short description of a crime on a farm in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe MURDER MYSTERYBy Special CorrespondentMary Turner, wife of Richard Turner, a farmer at Ngesi, was found murdered on the front veranda of their homestead yesterday morning The houseboy, who has been arrested, has confessed to the crime No motive has been discovered It is thought he was in search of valuables.For Lessing, the crime itself isn t of interest it seems in some ways a foregone conclusion Instead, she focuses on the intertwined hierarchies in Southern Rhodesia race, gender, class and uses her novelist s lens to dissect these hierarchies She reveals how they are formed, what holds them together, and the profound toll they take on all who live according to their rules Her first novel is unwavering in its portrayal of the damaging racial, class, and gender based power dynamics in Southern Rhodesia in the early 20th century It s all the powerful because of Lessing s intimate focus on the psychological toll taken on the three main characters Mary Turner, Dick Turner, and Moses, their African houseboy a title that is difficult to type, but that says much about the racial hierarchy in Southern Rhodesia at the time Doris Lessing, c 1950Lessing is well known for channeling her personal experiences into her writing Her acute eye and gift for social analysis lend The Grass is Singing its matter of fact style and its psychological acumen Lessing knew about unhappy marriages by living through her parents frustration over their inability to make their maize farm in Southern Rhodesia profitable, as well as through her own marriage She understood the particular pressures women in the veldt faced as they struggled to translate their lives on farms in Southern Africa into cultural terms understood by their Edwardian culture Lessing s own experiences of being an outsider observing social conventions that limited women s independence and autonomy fueled the hopeless desperation in her descriptions of Mary Turner She also saw first hand the rigid rules imposed by the white settlers to ensure that their neighbors reinforced white rule They had to treat their African workers as subhuman, or face the consequences social isolation and opprobrium Farm in Southern Rhodesia now Zimbabwe African workers and children farmworkers at their compoundMary Turner grew up in a town When young, she saw the friction between her mother and father, and for that reason never thought much about marrying As an adult, she has a job, lives in a boarding home for women, and enjoys being a friend and a confidante to men and women alike until an overheard conversation between two of her friends leads her to follow a socially acceptable course and get married After a very brief courtship, she marries Dick Turner, and only then discovers that he is a struggling farmer, engaged in series of unprofitable experiments to make money on his farm, but on his own terms For example, he is reluctant to engage in profitable tobacco farming because of its factory like requirements, as well as its tendency to drain the soil Lessing slowly and painstakingly unfolds the Turners struggles with the land including drought and disease , with local white society and its rigid code of conduct, with Africans whom they need to work the land, but fail to understand or treat like humans, and with each other Over time, as Mary moves further from her husband and neighbors, she eventually begins to see Moses, the African who works for her as a houseboy, in a different light This shift in their relationship sets into motion the catastrophic events that lead to the novel s conclusion Southern Rhodesia postcard c 1940Countryside of Southern RhodesiaThis is a novel that explores the gaps between individual and social expectations and reality Lessing understands the profound dangers faced by people who lack a fundamental psychological understanding of themselves and each other, especially in a society that is built on inequalities She unflinchingly portrays the staggering cost we pay as a society, and as individuals, when we reinforce a social order built on dehumanization and surface appearances Lessing took her novel s title from Eliot s The Waste Land She includes the relevant passage as an epigraph In this decayed hole among the mountainsIn the faint moonlight, the grass is singingOver the tumbled graves, about the chapelThere is the empty chapel, only the wind s home.It has no windows, and the door swings,Dry bones can harm no one.Only a cock stood on the rooftreeCo co rico co co ricoIn a flash of lightning Then a damp gustBringing rainGanga was sunken, and the limp leavesWaited for rain, while the black cloudsGathered far distant, over Himavant.The jungle crouched, humped in silence.Then spoke the thunder T.S Eliot, The Waste LandIt s difficult to imagine a ominous, or perfect, opening passage to set the scene for the Turners tragedy Eliot s focus on an unforgiving landscape and on severe weather that is inescapable carries us to the African veldt where we are left, vulnerable and exposed to the dangers heading our way It is all the tragic when we realize these dangers are of our own making. If this novel impresses from the very beginning it is because of the openness in which Lessing plays her cards in the first chapter The voice of the omniscient narrator glows with the clarity of objective facts that is missing in the rest of the novel, replaced by an increasingly suffocating account of two doomed lives that slowly disintegrate in polarized madness.The tragic end of Mary Turner, a white woman, in the hands of Moses, her black servant, in a remote, hostile South African hell is reported in crushing detachment by a young farmer, recently arrived from Great Britain, who cannot digest the unwritten laws of the Apartheid His silent revulsion acts like a metaphor for the unspeakable horror that has ransacked a barren, parched land that the imposed supremacy of the white civilization has failed to subjugate Showcasting an indisputable mastery of descriptive skills, the daily life of the Turners, a couple whacked without mercy by the gender and racial prejudices imposed on them by the rules of a segregated society, unfolds mercilessly in front of the increasingly horrified reader.The gradual mental decline of Mary and Dick Turner runs in parallel to the growing menace of the African landscape and its severe climatic conditions The maddening chirping of cicadas, the extreme heat that accumulates on the tin roof of the decrepit farm hut and the poisonous dynamics between natives and whites present a recurrent pattern of symbols that infuse the narration with a morbid undertone, erasing all traces of light, of hope for a better future.Both oppressors and victims at once, the characters never dwell in self pity rather the opposite, they abuse themselves until they lose touch with a reality that becomes and distorted as years pile up in front of the unchanged shapes, scents and noises of the indifferent savannah The collective psychological portrait that Lessing paints with unfaltering resolve is a blunt criticism to the system of racial segregation that proved to be equally destructive both for the perpetrators and the tyrannized.Blacks who despise white women, who in turn, never miss an opportunity to humiliate their servants as means to evince their unquestioned racial superiority Ironically, the white man remains impervious in the apex of the social pyramid, looking down on both groups condescendingly, keeping the wheels of a perverse social scheme going round inexorably regardless of the terrifying consequences of dehumanization on a major scale.When a woman, deranged by prolonged loneliness, turns to an inferior man for solace, a disquieting attraction shifts the scales of power and exposes the fragility of artificially set boundaries.When the white mistress looks the black servant in the eye and recognizes the human being staring back, insolent, reproachful, his blood boiling with barely contained rage, the whole system collapses in a pool of murky, diluted colorWhat is madness, but a refuge, a retreating from the world Witnessing the inevitable decomposition of a woman locked in a world that chokes her to death is nothing short of appalling, but doing so through Lessing s unnerving prose poetry allows us to come to terms with the beastly outcome of this novel, which appositely exposes everything that makes us disgustingly, questionably and undeniably human.The man is hollow, the land might be wasted but the grass is singing. The Grass is Singing is Doris Lessing s first novel, published in 1950 It is a savage and stark indictment of South Africa s apartheid system It is set in what was formerly Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and concentrates on Rhodesian white culture with its racist and prejudiced attitudes The system of gross racial injustice dominates both the society and this story.The novel is told in flashback At the beginning of chapter one there is a brief news report of the murder of a white woman plus her assailant s arrest and the purported motive for the crime The rest of the book details the events leading up to this, with Mary Turner, the victim, as the main character It is many layered, the characters being not only individuals in their own right, but also types indicating the strata of complex society in South Africa at that time in history The local culture is not rich and the humiliating results of poverty are always apparent.Before the long flashback, however, we have chapter one, which is particularly hard to read The attitudes by each character, whilst varying in degrees, display such incipient arrogance and complicit acceptance of both the corrupt regime and its hidden implications, that the reader is all too aware that these views are only the tip of the iceberg It is a manipulative and exceptionally well crafted piece of writing One character, Tony Marston, has recently come from England He is portrayed as having the typical views of a newcomer to the country, with misguided views of equality He will soon learn the ways of South Africa, the others think indulgently And these ways vary from treating the natives and yes, an even worse n word is also used as less than human, the masters having an unwavering conviction of their entitlement to maltreat, bully and beat these workers with asjambok , even sometimes until death if they deem it necessary Such a sorry event would be passed off with a shrug White women were taught from a very early age to live in fear of the natives, that as a group they were untrustworthy The shades of attitude vary, the other end of the spectrum being that the natives were alright if you knew how to handle them They knew their place, and the master knew his.The repugnance felt by modern readers towards this whole spectrum of views is compounded by the fact that these are overt and explicit This is the system of apartheid This is the status quo Far worse lies underneath, and this introductory chapter indicates with hints, veiled expressions, subterfuge and things left unsaid, that there are are additional ugly factors at work The recently arrived English character is a useful hook for the reader to identify with, at this point He knows something is badly amiss and hates the arrogance, intolerance and prejudice that he sees in neighbouring farmers such as Charlie Slatter He also knows that plenty of people in his position give up trying to farm under such conditions, and are viewed by those who stay as not hard enough not up to either the unforgiving land and weather, or the imposed social regime either.The novel itself does a thorough job of describing how each character has become what they are Mary and Dick were two sad characters whom the reader sees very early on should never have married For reasons that become clear on reading the novel, Mary should never have entered the farming community Dick for his part, was a struggling farmer who wanted a family, but did not know how to choose one The neighbours variously made successes of their lives, by their own terms They all had a view of the homeland England even though some had never stepped foot in it, having been born in South Africa And they all had a view of solidarity, of the way things should be, and that they had no connection with the natives , who came from theirkraal , except as their servants or workers They were only concerned with what the natives could do for them, viewing it as their inalienable right.The book is solidly set in its location The natural strength and hostility of the South African landscape, the all pervading poverty, the white townships,ugly little houses stuck anyhow over the veld, that had no relationship with the hard brown African soil and the arching blue sky , the unbearable heat of the corrugated iron and brick houses aggravating the desperations and tensions of the characters, are all conveyed very well It is a finely judged and balanced book with a good narrative flow, ahead of its time, written by an author who went on to write exemplary works So why does it not get 5 stars Have you perhaps deduced why from this description There are no black viewpoint characters Not one Even Moses, who was arrested in the first chapter, is not fleshed out his actions are merely reported without any comment, insight or indeed any given motivation The reader has to infer a resentment against the corrupt system, and that Mary is his personal representative of it We are told that he came from a mission school, just as we were told briefly where the original old servant Samson came from The author describes as a group where the natives come from, and how far they travel in search of work Doris Lessing allows them to vary in looks, in attitude to work and other superficial indications But they are not filled out in anything like as much depth as the white characters.Dick Turner, one of the sympathetic white main characters, feels aggrieved, thinking of of the South African government as beingunder the influence of n lovers from EnglandAnd the newcomer Tony Marston,had the conventionally progressive ideas about the colour bar, the superficial progressiveness of the idealist that seldom survives a conflict with self interest The author repeatedly castigates her white characters by implication, for lumping all natives together Yet she does precisely that herself in this novel In addition to the lack of characterisation of non whites, Doris Lessing talks aboutthe genus nativeAt another point she refers to,a native conveniently endowed by nature with the ability to walk long distances without feeling fatigue Is it deliberate Is it an attempt to make the point about one culture alienating another even stronger If so I think it misfires.The ending of the book is beautifully written Mary s gradual mental deterioration into a complete breakdown is very convincing, and the reader is unsure what is real and what is in her mind There is an hypnotic and oppressive feeling in this final chapter Clearly we are invited to feel that the ending was inevitable that the characters of Moses and Mary are puppets, or victims of their own doom Yet nothing earlier in the novel had indicated any feelings on Moses part, except for a brief moment of surprise and pity, when Mary had begged him not to leave, back before her depression took hold But at the end of the novel, Lessing says of Moses,what thought of regret, or pity, or perhaps even wounded human affection were compounded with the satisfaction of his completed revenge, it is impossible to say Why, exactly This idea of an enigmatic native type is not only inaccurate but very distasteful.It is a brave book for its time And it is extremely well written, by an author who went on to be a Nobel prize winner But this is far from an exemplary work.My Personal Glossary of terms Veld wide open rural spaces of Southern Africa It is used in particular to refer to flatter areas or districts covered in grass or low scrub, especially in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia Vlei a shallow minor lake of an intermittent nature Seasonal ponds or marshy patches where frogs and similar marsh dwellers breed Kopje a small isolated hill Kraal a homestead and usually included a simple fenced in enclosure for animals, fields for growing crops and one or thatched huts Afrikaans and Dutch word also used in South African English for an enclosure for cattle or other livestock.Kitchen Kaffir dated now offensive Fanagalo, a Zulu based pidgin language.Compound Closed labour camp of migrant male workers from rural homes in Bantustans or Homelands to the mines and jobs in urban settings generally One of the major cogs in the apartheid state Flash points for unrest in the last years of apartheid.Sjambok official heavy leather whip of South Africa, sometimes seen as synonymous with apartheid.Mashonaland a region in northern Zimbabwe.Lobengula the second and last king of the Ndebele people, usually called Matabele in English Migrant workers from there. The Grass is Singing is a novel of colonialism, human degradation, and an uncomfortable view of the prevailing attitude of a time and place, and yet, to me it was so a powerful portrait of a crumbling mind Mary Turner is a hideous woman bitter, cruel, entitled What started out as a woman s resentment over a boring farm life and a distant marriage soon turned into something deeper and much unsettling Sometimes people are broken so early in their life that it s impossible to ever be whole, and at her core, Mary Turner was ruined long before adulthood and her neurosis was merely the lid on a simmering pot of rage and hurt The book opens with her murder we know she s doomed We watch as she flails and unravels and in the end, perhaps, finds some kind of distorted relief This is Lessing s portrayal of a woman without a choice a child without a choice a people without a choice The farm fails, the marriage fails, Mary Turner s brain fails Apartheid fails The atmosphere in this book is sweltering, suspenseful, and hypnotic It s all unrelentingly heat and blinding sun and unbearable tension Something s got to give The ineffectual trying trying trying Mary Turner tried, but she never stood a chance, not with that husband, not in that country, not with that childhood, not when she was destined to brood away all her days inside her head, the frustration a ticking time bomb This is what happens, Lessing said, when women can t choose This is the outcome, she tells us, when you enslave people This is unnatural and wrong and this is what you get. It is by the failures and misfits of a civilization that one can best judge its weaknesses Author Unknown 4.5 Stars I was shattered with the outcome of this novel Disturbing Unflinching Compulsively readable. Colonialism in southern Africa both sides left in destruction Doris Lessing, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature, tells the incredibly haunting story of the disintegration and descent into madness of Mary and her husband Dick Turner, simultaneously revealing the scathing truths of apartheid ruled life in Rhodesia This was her first book, published in 1950 What a debut I m stunned, I have goosebumps I m unfit to do this book justice, to convey the claustrophobic, solitary descent the Turners take in the unbearable heat of their barren, hopeless farm and tin roofed house The beginning of this book reveals the end Mary is found murdered by her houseboy , a native worker named Moses The book then backs up a good fifteen years, when Mary is younger and living a rather enviable, independent life It explains how she ends up choosing to marry, and the slow, hot, soul destroying existence she shares with her husband on their farm And it tells the story of her murder, and all that contributes to this tragic violent end.You get a clear idea of the rigid class system rich white colonists at the top, followed by poor whites, then Afrikaners, and then blacks Constantly toiling, yet ineffectual and blinded by his pride, Dick Turner keeps them spinning in poverty, season after season, year after year The Turners are looked down upon because they simply can t succeed They are a stain and shame on their people Lessing sets the tone for this novel in the first page, illuminating the colonial attitude towards the black Africans It is made painfully clear as the novel progresses, especially through Mary s treatment of the workers in her home and on the farm, which originates from both fear and the poisoned world she has lived all her life.This is a story of poverty, of racism, of the twin solitude that marriage can be This is a story of what happens when unspeakable lines are crossed This is a story of the cost of segregation, where the propagators are also victims of a hateful system It is also a story of southern Africa, a merciless, sun scorched place where men struggle and die but the cicadas keep singing I learned some nasty racist language in this novel, a sad education of the time and place. Re read after about 7 year s break.One of the unusual things about this, Lessing s first published book, is the extreme omniscient author position she takes She describes a character s appearance to others, then swoops into her psyche to reveal her thoughts She describes someone s response to another person s expression and then jumps to his companion s view of him To emphasise her power even further, she shifts from objective descriptions of the landscape to characters experiences of it However, there is one threshold she will not cross, and it is into the minds of black characters, usually referred to in author voice and by white characters as natives.I think Lessing has adopted this position, and drawn attention to it, and made an exception to it, to emphasise white supremacist arrogance and ignorance in general, and to acknowledge her own limited perspective as a white writer In the opening chapter, we find this about the black man, Moses, who will be executed for murdering the white woman, Mary People did ask, cursorily, why the murderer had given himself up There was not much chance of escape But he did have a sporting chance He could have run to the hills and hidden for a while Or he could have slipped over the border into Portuguese territory Then the District Native Commissioner, at a sundowner party, said that it was perfectly understandable If one knew anything about the history of the country, or had read any of the memoirs or letters of the old missionaries and explorers, one would have come across accounts of the society Lobengula ruled The laws were strict everyone knew what they could or could not do If someone did an unforgivable thing, like touching one of the King s women, he would submit fatalistically to punishment, which was likely to be impalement over an ant heap on a stake, or something equally unpleasant I have done wrong, and I know it, he might say therefore let me be punished Well, it was the tradition to face punishment, and really there was something rather fine about it Remarks like these are forgiven from native commissioners, who have to study languages, customs, and so on although it is not done to say things natives do are fine Yet the fashion is changing it is permissible to glorify the old ways sometimes, providing one says how depraved the natives have become since So that aspect of the affair was dropped, yet it is not in the least interesting, for Moses might not have been a Matabele at all He was in Mashonaland though of course natives do wander all over Africa He might have come from anywhere Portuguese territory, Nyasaland, the Union of South Africa And it is a long time since the days of the great king Lobengula But then native commissioners tend to think in terms of the past Here we have the assumption of white authority and expertise, exotification of native tradition , followed by a confession of ignorance that must be diffused with assertions of indifference and contempt.Having opened with the aftermath of the murder, Lessing rewinds to unravel the tableau, telling the story of Mary from her childhood This section of the story has feminist interest, because the naive young woman from an unhappy, unsupportive background is happy, independent, successful and a good friend to those around her until the pressure of heteronormative expectations and patriarchal constructions of women s roles breaks upon her and pushes her into marriage to a young farmer, Dick, who is similarly directed by convention and vague desires Knowing little of each other they are both disappointed in their expectations and sink into a mutually damaging marriage Mary, struggling to adapt herself to her new situation, driven by a mixture of complex personal shame and the culture of white supremacy, abuses her servants and alienates her neighbours, mismanaging the little portion of her life she can control.If Mary s redeeming feature is her former happiness, Dick s is his respect and love for the land of his farm Unlike his neighbour Charlie Slatter, who grows tobacco, grazes cattle and makes no effort to maintain the fertility of his soil, Dick plants trees and rotates crops, growing them in small batches Due to his lack of business sense and short attention span with his misguided investments, he never makes money, and both he and Mary are harrowed and embittered by their poverty.Like all of the white South Africans, Dick is an ardent bigot, and Lessing as author cannot restrain herself from direct criticism of him Listen to me, said Dick curtly I work hard enough don t I All day I am down on the lands with these lazy black savages, fighting them to get some work out of them you should learn sense If you want to get work out of them you have to know how to manage them You shouldn t expect too much They are nothing but savages after all Thus Dick, who had never stopped to reflect that these same savages had cooked for him better than his wife did, had run his house, had given him a comfortable existence, as far has his pinched life could be comfortable, for years At other points in the book, she is subtle, allowing white injustice to indict itself Like most South Africans, Dick did not like mission boys, they knew too much And in any case they should not be taught to read and write they should be taught the dignity of labour and general usefulness to the white man and She said again sharply, her voice rising I said, get back to work At this he stopped still, looked at her squarely and said in his own dialect which she did not understand, I want to drink Don t talk that gibberish to me, she snapped She looked around for the bossboy who was not in sight.The man said, a halting ludicrous manner, I want water He spoke in English, and suddenly smiled and opened his mouth and pointed his finger down his throat She could hear the other natives laughing a little from where they stood on the mealie dump Their laughter, which was good humoured, drove her suddenly mad with anger most white people think it is cheek if a native speaks English She said, breathless with anger, Don t speak English to me, and then stopped This man was shrugging and smiling and turning his eyes up to heaven as if protesting that she had forbidden him to speak his own language, and then hers so what was he to speak That lazy insolence stung her into inarticulate rage involuntarily she lifted her whip and brought it down across his face in a vicious swinging blow Mary s steadily disintegrating mental health is the dynamic moving the plot throughout Lessing keeps the focus on her and most often takes her perspective She carefully and cleverly marks this foregrounding, for example by suddenly giving Moses a name for the first time when Mary is shaken out of her lassitude by the sudden, deeply uncomfortable awareness of his humanity, when he waits for her to be out of sight before completing the task of washing himself Mary is unable to process this pivotal revelation Although she is deeply unsympathetic, the reader is able to empathise with her and see her as a damaged personality locked into a situation that is hostile to her fragile, confused sense of herself.In my opinion this book is a passionate, humble and self aware response to the virulent injustice of white supremacy and the social structure in South Africa.Just as I finished reading it, I came across the website of an exhibition of Margaret Bourke White s photography from South Africa that is contemporary to Lessing s book This section is on farm workers and this one on exotification is particularly interesting The photograph at the top of this page could be Mary and Dick poor whites. Doris Lessing s first novel has the precision of a fine short story and the depth of a longer novel This portrait of the psychological disintegration of a farmer s wife saddled with an ineffectual husband on a luckless South African farm is precisely realized and and completely convincing The last quarter of the novel, however, is weaker than the rest The character of the black house servant Moses is of a symbol than a human being, and the ending meant to be tragic descends to melodrama. Set In South Africa Under White Rule, Doris Lessing S First Novel Is Both A Riveting Chronicle Of Human Disintegration And A Beautifully Understated Social Critique Mary Turner Is A Self Confident, Independent Young Woman Who Becomes The Depressed, Frustrated Wife Of An Ineffectual, Unsuccessful Farmer Little By Little The Ennui Of Years On The Farm Work Their Slow Poison, And Mary S Despair Progresses Until The Fateful Arrival Of An Enigmatic And Virile Black Servant, Moses Locked In Anguish, Mary And Moses Master And Slave Are Trapped In A Web Of Mounting Attraction And Repulsion Their Psychic Tension Explodes In An Electrifying Scene That Ends This Disturbing Tale Of Racial Strife In Colonial South Africa The Grass Is Singing Blends Lessing S Imaginative Vision With Her Own Vividly Remembered Early Childhood To Recreate The Quiet Horror Of A Woman S Struggle Against A Ruthless Fate