Shelf Control is a weekly celebration hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies, of the unread books on our shelves. Lisa says: “Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.”
Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!
For my 8th entry… The Diaries of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing!
My mother-in-law, of blessed memory, was quite a voracious reader. Mind you, many of the books she read were non-fiction, but she was also very well read regarding fiction. What always surprised me about her was that her first language was German (Austrian), her second English (she moved to London when she was 16), and her third Hebrew. She could also read other languages, and did so on occasion, but I believe when it came to fiction, she mostly read in either English or Hebrew. When her 2nd son fell in love with this American, she decided that she would do what she could to encourage my reading more British authors. This is one of the books she bought for me as a gift.
Now, as much as I loved my mother-in-law, I can’t say as I ever saw our literary tastes colliding much. For example, although she liked to see films, she tended to frequent more documentaries about social injustices, or fiction stories that leaned on the heavy side (bonus points if one of the characters had some mental illness or PTSD). Perhaps they appealed to her psychiatrist’s analytical mind – as if she could possibly figure out how to help these sad, disturbed people learn how to live happier lives. This is why I was (and still am) very wary of this novel. Mind you, I did read Lessing’s novella “Adore” (AKA “The Grandmothers”) and did enjoy it. Even so, it wasn’t a happy story, so to know I might have just over 500 pages of downers isn’t all that appealing, even if it is well written.
Still, I am willing to give anything a chance, so let’s look at the blurb on Amazon which is as follows:
The diaries introduce us to Jane, an intelligent and beautiful magazine editor concerned with success, clothes and comfort. But her real inadequacy is highlighted when first her husband, then her mother, die from cancer and Jane feels strangely disconnected. In an attempt to fill this void, she befriends ninety-something Maudie, whose poverty and squalor contrast so radically with the glamour and luxury of the magazine world. The two gradually come to depend on each other – Maudie delighting Jane with tales of London in the 1920s and Jane trying to care for the rapidly deteriorating old woman.
Well, that sounds depressing enough, and very much something a good psychiatrist could get their teeth into. That said, there’s also this:
As resonant with social and political themes as Lessing’s masterpiece ‘The Golden Notebook’, ‘The Diaries of Jane Somers’ sees the author returns to the realism of her early fiction with the wisdom and experience of maturity.
First published by Michael Joseph in 1984 under a pseudonym as ‘The Diary of a Good Neighbour’ and ‘If the Old Could…’, ‘The Diary of Jane Somers’ contrasts the helplessness of the elderly with that of the young as Jane is forced to care for her nineteen-year-old drop-out niece Kate, who is struggling with an emotional breakdown. Jane realises that she understands young people as little as she so recently did the old.
Oh, well… None of this bodes well for me, I’m afraid. Mind you, I believe I remember my mother-in-law telling me that Lessing published this under a pseudonym in order to see if an unknown writer could still be judged on their merit, and thereby get published. This was during the mid-1980s, before the days of boutique indie presses and reputable self-publishing; I think she was trying to encourage me with my attempts to publish my own creative writing work. While I can appreciate her very good intentions this to this day (over 20 years since she passed away), I don’t think my reading tastes have changed all that much, and reading these/this still feels like a very daunting prospect. Therefore…
My verdict is…
NO this will NOT stay on my shelf!
Would you read this? Have you read this? If so, would you recommend it?
If this does interest you, you can find it via the following (affiliate) links: Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Bookshop.org, UK.Bookshop, iTunes (iBook and iAudiobook), Indiebound, Alibris, Kobo (eBooks and audiobooks), Better World Books, Booksamillion, eBooks.com, Foyles, The Book Depository (UK and US), Waterstones, WHSmith, and Wordery (UK and US).
Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:
- Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
- Add your link in the comments to Lisa’s latest post, or link back from your own post, so Lisa can add you to the participant list.
- Check out other posts, and…