The book was compared to Mary Shelley’s [b:Frankenstein|18490|Frankenstein|Mary Shelley|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41BUn%2BnHB3L._SL75_.jpg|4836639], which really gets on my nerves. Why on earth do we have to do that? Publicity? I do that sometimes myself (i.e. comparing books), but on a personal note. I’m not a publisher / critic and my opinions don’t go on book blurbs or magazines. I wish publishers found an interesting / original / catchy thing to say about the book itself in order to sell it rather than just compare it to a classic or whatever best-seller is handy.
Back to the book. Though set in the wild 60’s, David and Harriet seem to share traditional values and once they got married start making them real. Now, the reason any couple would like to buy a Victorian house as big as a hotel and plan a certain number of children beats me. I do agree with traditional values, it's just their careful planning that scares me. I wonder whether it’s innocence (mixed with positive thinking /optimism) or rather naivety (as most of their relatives see it). I do have the tendency to consider they do this from a sense of accomplishment of real life values opposed to the shallowness of the era - if so, why do they accept financial support from David’s father?
So we get the point. They live, procreate and party with a huge amount of relatives and friends in this idyllic place. This really gets annoying at some point, everything is so repetitive, (especially since Mrs. Lessing has no taste for dividing her book in chapters or anything of that sort) that something has to happen. Thank goodness the 5th child is born, because you either go crazy or throw the book away. With Ben in their lives, nothing stays the same, the parties end, the relatives stop visiting and the family’s existence is shaken. Animals die, doors are locked and eventually the whole family disintegrates. Older children choose to spend time with grandparents or friends instead of their parents. Is it their fault? Can anyone blame a mother for wanting to keep a child with a certain “condition”? We never actually know what the real condition is, except he’s different and what really struck me towards the end was the easiness David and Harriet referred to Ben as being anything but human, like a troll, a gnome, an archetypal being.
I wish Lessing went deeper with the book. OK, I really love modern books (as in them being shorter compared to biblical-length classics), but some things are so left out in the middle of nowhere, you just need to know what happens next.
Catchy, not as haunting as I expected and easy to read.