The last novel by the Nobelprize winner Doris Lessing (1919-2013) is an attempt at a special kind of biography. She writes a biography about her parents Alfred Tayler and Emily McVeagh that is not a biography, not even two biographies. What does Doris do? She takes away one very important historical event away from the lives of Alfred and Emily and reinvents an new live for both of them. The Great War(1914-1918) made a everlasting impact on both Alfred and Emily. Alfred was wounded during the war and one of his legs was amputated and replaced by a wooden one. Emily lost the young man (a medical doctor) whom she loved. Now Doris wrote the Great War out of the history of Alfred and of Emily. What would have have happened to these young people when life had gone on with out the impact of the war? What would have happened to their young dreams and wishes? Would they have ended up together? She weaves a beautiful story about two people and their intertwining lives, but still in separate ways.

In the second part of this book Doris Lessing gives a background to certain decisions she has made in her fictitious biography. The longing of her father to be a British farmer on his own farm comes true. The difficult relationship of Emily with her father makes her to leave for London and take up nursing and a life that makes an impact even outside nursing.

In the third and final part of this book Doris Lessing returns to her own past in the heady days of Rhodesia where her parents moved after a time spent in Iran. They take up farming on a small holding, but the place is a difficult spot and life is hard. Many years are spent on this isolated farm, till the family decides to move to town due to the weak health of Alfred. Lessing does not spare her parents nor does she spare herself and her attempts to create a life of her own, away from the heavy presence of her mother.

I enjoyed the way Lessing recreated the lives of her parents and her memories of her childhood that in their own way give a backdrop to the first part of the book.

Doris Lessing – Alfred & Emily – 2008

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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