The Summer Before the Dark PDF Á Summer Before the

The Summer Before the Dark PDF Á Summer Before the


  • Hardcover
  • 260 pages
  • The Summer Before the Dark
  • Doris Lessing
  • Bulgarian
  • 04 November 2019

10 thoughts on “The Summer Before the Dark

  1. Samadrita Samadrita says:

    Before it all slips away from my feeble psychological grasp, before the after-effects start wearing off, let me write it all out. About the summer before the dark.

    The first thing that struck me while reading was this - Fuck purple prose. Or red or maroon or magenta prose for that matter. (And I say this in full acknowledgement of the fact that my prose is often closer to purple than any other color.) Screw post-modernism and its deliberate way of being obtuse, obscure, snarky. Screw all that.

    Because this is it. This is what I want to achieve if I were to attempt writing a stream of consciousness novel some day. This laying bare of all the everyday inner battles a woman wages with her conscience, with society, with those hunters lined up on the sidewalk eyeing her with the interest of a sexual predator as she walks home in that form-fitting dress. Delving this deep into the psyche of a human being who navigates the space of a few months rapidly changing disguises never knowing which of them are closer to her real self, but in prose so beautifully self-evident. The things nobody in the world is bothered about because all of it is so awfully pedestrian. After all, there's nothing remotely tantalizing about an upper class woman having perfunctory sex in a passionless affair or caring for her husband, her children, molding her existence around their schedules. There's barely any appreciation for what she is doing for society at large by playing the forever-at-your-service comfort-giver. The way she is working a thankless job, drifting through life mostly invisible in the eyes of the ones who surround her.

    This is how Virginia Woolf would have written if she had been alive right now. Because Mrs Kate Brown is nothing but a slightly modified modern day avatar of Clarissa Dalloway or Mrs Ramsay. Her insecurities about her steadily whitening hair and declining sex appeal maybe belittled as a rich white woman's first world problems but pay a little attention to them and you will see how universal and all-encompassing her gripe with patriarchy is.

    She marries because to get married young is to prove herself; and then it must be as if she has inside her an organ capable of absorbing and giving off thousands of watts of Love, Attention, Flattery, and this organ has been working at full capacity, but she can't switch the thing off.

    This is what I can only hope to do some day. Make my words bite, sting and burn those who read them. Force them to ponder upon devoured words for extended periods of time.

    But does it really deserve 5 stars? Perhaps not, especially in light of the portions where the narrative loses sight of its destination in one of its countless meanderings and gives us the impression that we are trapped in the quagmire of Kate's own inner chaos. But then I am already in awe of Doris Lessing's voice and its power, her way of systematically eviscerating an unequal partnership where the husband is somehow in command of his own life but the wife isn't, her way of cutting open and dissecting motherhood, magnifying each one of its ignored, glossed over aspects for us to see clearly. I love the way this perfectly ordinary Kate Brown with her ordinary name gets under my skin and burrows through my insides, making me so deeply uncomfortable, coercing me into reconsidering my view of the women I have known closely over the years.

    How elegantly she bridges the gap between the inner and outer worlds of an individual and yet in the simplest of manners! And that, for me, is a 5-star achievement.

    Disclaimer:- Put down your pitchforks, po-mo & purple prose lovers. I wasn't really being serious in that second paragraph. I love my share of po-mo fiction and purple prose almost as much as you guys do.


  2. Cheryl Cheryl says:

    The summer before the dark left me wondering what happened the summer after the dark. This seems more like a summer of awakening for Kate, a summer of light and experience, even when she is at her lowest moments.

    This is unlike Lessing's other novels I've read and I wonder if this could be a good place to start, if you haven't read a Lessing novel, or if it doesn't fully encapsulate her uniqueness as a writer. I'm not sure. On my book jacket, The Economist lists this as a masterpiece. I can't say I agree; in fact, I vacillated between a 3.5 - 4 star rating. However, I would say that it's an easier Lessing read that follows the conventional novel structure, unlike The Golden Notebook, for instance. It is also a book that toys valiantly with a theme that involves a seal (this I could have done without).

    The landscape is unlike the usual Lessing novel; different and in some ways, fascinating: London, Turkey, and Spain. Kate is a forty-five-year old housewife who speaks several different languages. When her grown children leave for the summer to travel and her husband heads out on a work mission, she takes a job as a translator. In London, she observes the fancy, yet casual city workplace for the first time, and is pleased that at forty-five, she still looks younger. She also feels needed: her kids felt stifled and her husband had work to accomplish, but her work associates value her intellect. Feeling younger and needed is an intoxicating mix that surprise, surprise, initiates her affair with a younger man. They head to Spain, where she embarks upon another journey of discovery.

    …friendship in the style of this way of living, casual, nondemanding, tolerant, friendship that was in fact all negation. It did not criticize. It did not make demands. It took no notice of national or racial differences…and it was sexually democratic.

    One of Lessing's greatest attributes as a writer is her ability to peel apart the layers of female consciousness, the sense of self kept burning behind so many different phantasms, and place these variations within parallel plot lines, parallel character portraits. There is Mary, Kate's neighbor and the free spirit whose husband and children have accepted her for who she is: a woman who doesn't believe in monogamy. And later, Kate meets Maureen, the younger version of herself; they become friends and during this time, their self-awareness evolve around each other. While Maureen values independence within relationships, Kate finds self in her duties as wife and mother.
    With three small children, and then four, she had to fight for qualities that had not been even in her vocabulary. Patience. Self-discipline. Self-control. Self-abnegation. Chastity. Adaptability to others - this above all. This always.

    The underlying expression is one of the effects of change as relates to age - something universal. We often hear anecdotal jokes about change for the middle-aged guy, you know, the sports car thing, but here, Lessing delves into how the conscious processes this pivotal life stage for a woman, the balance of womanhood and motherhood, of marriage and the casual indifference of modern relationships. The novel is both serious and light, with variations that will lure readers with various perspectives.


  3. Libbie Libbie says:

    After drudging through page after page of Mrs. Michael Brown's good hair and bad hair, I ask myself the very same words so often uttered by the beautiful, pot-smoking, dancing waif Maureen: 'what's the point?'


  4. Kate. Kate. says:

    This book is perhaps too character-driven. (Stop dreaming and go get your hair done, you pathetic old bat!) And yet, I was struck by how much I could relate to Kate Brown--the capable wife/mother who reluctantly embarks on the standard issue midlife crisis, and returns to her London suburb only after an exhausting series of salty pan-Euro adventures. Doris Lessing showers her reader with all imaginable foils of Kate Brown--all, that is, except the one I wanted most to meet: the Kate who had learned to stand up for herself before age 50.


  5. Speranza Speranza says:

    I can't even force myself to finish this, but me and Lessing are definitely finished.


  6. Callie Callie says:

    I deeply admire Doris Lessing. I love that she gives weight to women's lives, thoughts, emotions, opinions, experience. Her novels are treasures in my view.
    I have to quote some of what she says about motherhood.

    With three small children, and then four, she had had to fight for qualities that were not even in her vocabulary. Patience. Self discipline, Self control. Self abnegation. Chastity. Adaptability to others--that above all. This always. These virtues, necessary for bringing up a family of four on a restricted income, she did slowly acquire. ...She had been amused by big words for what every mother is expected to become. But virtues? Really? Really virtues? if so, they had turned on her, had become enemies. . ..it seeemed to her that she had acquired not virtues but a form of dementia.

    Kate had spent the morning walking slowly up and down up and down that long crammed street, taking in this truth, that the faces and movements of most middle aged women are those of prisoners or slaves.

    She was obssessed from morning till night about management, about organization, about seeing how things ought to go, about the results of not acting like this or of acting like that. That was what all those years of acquiring virtues had led to: She and her contemporaries were machines set for one function, to manage and arrange and adjust and foresee and order and bother and worry and organise. To fuss.

    Her family, she saw now, were quite aware of it. She was being treated by these independent individuals . . .husband, and young people as something that had to be put up with. Mother was an uncertain quantity. She was like an old nurse who had given her years to the family and must now be put up with. The virtues had turned to vices, to the nagging and bullying of other people. An unafraid young creature had been turned, through the long, grinding process of always, always being at other people's beck and call, always having to give out attention to detail, minuscule wants, demands, needs, events, crises, into an obsessed maniac. Obsessed by what was totally unimportant.

    That was how people changed; they didn't change themselves : you got changed by being made to live through something , and then you found yourself changed.

    Agree with her assessments or not, what I love about her is that she is taking a woman's experience seriously and thinking about it and describing it and trying to be as truthful as she can about what it might mean. She is not laughing it off, or making it into humorous episodes, the hardship and effects of motherhood. She is holding it up to the light and examining it and what she sees is painful but must be said anyway. I look at what she writes and think about my own mother. I think about myself as a mother and I have to reexamine old cliches. I have to take a hard look at what being a mother really means, not just accept what I have been taught or told.


  7. Fenixbird SandS Fenixbird SandS says:

    This is wonderful...She (Kate Brown) is 1/4 Portugese married to a lovely Englishman for many years & now at age 45 finds herself suddenly called into active duty as a bona fide Portugese translator...and into a new lifestyle....At Chapter 2 she is embarking on travel to Istanbul, Turkey....I am already amazed at the clever opportunities that this author uses!

    On the cover of my 1968 printed paperback I found and bought from Bookmans, also The Golden Notebook is also being promoted! I fear the lead character Kate Brown does not have what it takes to ENJOY a midlife affair. She is thrust in the midst of 1 after another obstacle traveling with her new younger part Spanish love interest..currently the couple are stranded in the middle of remote Spain & suffering from terrible dysenterrie with high fever he is being cared for by nuns & a Priest with substandard medical care...

    Quoting NY Times Reporters on her Nobel literature, Ms. Lessing’s strongest legacy may be that she inspired a generation....


  8. Michele Michele says:

    Not bad, but I got impatient with the main character. I felt she got a bit self-indulgent at the end. I don't remember anything devastating in its consequences either (blurb, you lie! or at least exaggerate!). Originally 3 stars but downgraded to 2 because even though I read it only five months ago I've already forgotten most of it. Any book that falls out of my head that fast can only be a meh.


  9. Jocelyn Jocelyn says:

    What can I say. Some writers tell, others show; Lessing reinvents you.


  10. Stephen Durrant Stephen Durrant says:

    This is my first foray into Doris Lessing, 2007 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (and it confirmed my suspicion that Margaret Atwood is the one who should have won the award). Well, one is supposed to rate a book according to one's own idiosyncratic taste, especially on a semi-private forum like this. Hence, three stars. I do, however, admire the genius of this book, as well as Lessing's strong feminist message (feminist does seem something of an oversimplification for the complexity of the ideas Lessing expresses in this novel about women and womens' roles). The Summer Before the Dark is about conventions and rules and the way they erode freedom and spontaneity. According to Lessing--or at least her main woman character Kate Brown--one just concedes to what others have decided you should be, unless, like Mary, one of the background characters in this book, you simply reject all that and live as an eccentric others just can't figure out nor tolerate. This is a disturbing book and makes any sensitive reader wonder what authenticity s/he has given up to be a functional, acceptable parent, child, husband, wife, or friend. That being said, the book is slow-going!


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