Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Mix of Fiction and Nonfiction

Finished December 17
Alfred and Emily by Doris Lessing
This is a fascinating book on Lessing's parents, Alfred Taylor and Emily McVeagh. The first part of the book is a fictional life of the two, where Lessing gives them different happier, yet not perfect lives. This is followed by an explanation where she explains what influenced her choices for the fictional lives. The last part consists of a number of chapters discussing Alfred and Emily's real lives and Doris' experience of them.
Alfred had wanted to be a farmer, but lost a leg in the first World War and had various ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder (untreated as it often was then) that came out of his wartime experiences. Emily was a nurse at the Royal Free Hospital and became a matron at an unusually young age. The two met when Emily nursed Alfred following his injuries in the war. After the war the couple went to Persia for a few years and then took a farm in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Lessing's issues with her mother have appeared in many of her other works, but she discusses them here as a generational issue, arguing in favor of women working. Lessing is open about her family, recognizing her own issues in the relationships, but also compassionate in reflecting upon her parents and the lives they ended up with. As she says in her forward, she hopes they would approve the lives she has given them.

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