Ben, in the World

Ben, in the World

Doris Lessing

‘The Fifth Child’, Doris Lessing’s 1988 novel, made a powerful impact on publication. Its account of idyllic marital and parental bliss shattered by the arrival of the feral fifth child of the Lovatts made for unnerving and compulsive reading. That child, Ben, is the central character of this sequel, which picks up the fable at the end of his childhood and takes our primal, misunderstood, maladjusted teenager out into the world. He meets mostly with mockery, fear and incomprehension, but with just enough kindness and openness to keep him afloat as his adventures take him from London to the south of France and on to South America in his restless quest for community, companionship and peace. Lessing employs a plain, unadorned prose fit for fables; again, we have a childlike perspective at the heart of the book; again, the world in all its malevolence and misapprehension swirls around at the edge, while, occasionally, a strong character steps forward to try to set a good example.

Reviews of Ben, in the World

    • ‘A wonderful novel, flawless as a black pearl.’ Daily Mail
    • ‘Outstanding…A tour de force that poses stark questions about modern-day Britain and what it is to be human.’ Sunday Times
    • ‘“Ben, In the World” is huge in scope, humanity and pathos. Lessing created a monster; her triumph is that he not only personifies the human yearning to belong, but that we also come to love him.’ Shena Mackay, Daily Telegraph

More from Doris Lessing