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The Fifth Child

by Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing’s contemporary gothic horror story–centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human–probes society’s unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.
Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. While around them crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts are certain that their old-fashioned contentment can protect them from the world outside–until the birth of their fifth baby. Gruesomely goblin-like in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong and violent, Ben has nothing innocent or infant-like about him. As he grows older and more terrifying, Harriet finds she cannot love him, David cannot bring himself to touch him, and their four older children are afraid of him. Understanding that he will never be accepted anywhere, Harriet and David are torn between their instincts as parents and their shocked reaction to this fierce and unlovable child whose existence shatters their belief in a benign world.



About Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing was one of the most important writers of the second half of the 20th-century and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. In awarding the prize, the Swedish Academy described her as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”. She wrote provocative, inventive and influential works, ranging from novels, short stories and science fiction to autobiography, drama, poetry, essays and operas. Her first novel, The Grass is Singing, was published in 1950, and her international reputation has flourished since then. Among her other celebrated novels are The Golden NotebookThe Summer Before the Dark and Memoirs of a Survivor. She also published two volumes of autobiography, Under my Skin (which received the James Tait Black Prize) and Walking in the Shade. Her collection of short novels, Five, earned her the Somerset Maugham Award in 1954. The French translation of The Golden Notebook (1962) won the Prix Medici in 1976. In 1982 she received the Austrian State Prize for Literature and the Shakespeare Prize, Hamburg. Doris Lessing has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times: Briefing for a Descent into Hell (1971), The Sirian Experiments (1981) and The Good Terrorist (1985) and won the WH Smith Award in 1985. In August 1991, she received an honorary title of Distinguished Fellow in Literature in the School of English and American Studies conferred by University of East Anglia. In 2001 she was awarded the Spanish Prince of Asturias Prize in Literature, the David Cohen British Literature Prize and received a Companion of Honour from the Royal Society for Literature. She was recently short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize and received S. T. Dupont Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature. She died in 2013.

Other books by Doris Lessing



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