Saturday, December 15, 2007
THE CLEFT by Doris Lessing
When I first heard about the premise of this book, I was intrigued. Lessing speculates about the true origins of humankind. In the CLEFT, women are the first human beings and men come later. Lessing recounts this tale through a Roman historian in the time of Nero. The historian is piecing together the story of humankind through a variety of records that have been passed down. He tells the story of the Clefts (early women) and what happened when they started giving birth to "monsters."
I thought the idea was quite clever and I couldn't wait to see what Lessing made of it. However, I didn't like the book. Even though it was short, it was boring and difficult to get through. I did not understand the construct of the Roman historian. It didn't seem to fit and it was distracting. Instead of offering compelling ideas about early men and women, Lessing's portrayals become caricatures where men just want to be free to do what they want and women are cast as nagging irritants. The stereotypical nature of these characters was very off-putting. The idea of the book was good but the execution was really lacking.