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The Cleft by Doris Lessing

The Cleft is told by a Roman historian trying to piece together an ancient history from parts of transcriptions of ancient storytellers. It tells of a world where the first humans were woman, who led a lazy, sensual life along the water's edge. They weren't sure how they reproduced, but every baby was born with the cleft, female genitalia. When a boy was suddenly born, with protuberances instead of a cleft, they castrated it and leave it to die. More boys are soon born and left for the eagles, but the eagles carry the boys to a nearby valley. The boys form their own society, one based on action and adventure. The women think they have no need of this other society, until they discover they can no longer reproduce without their help. This leads to two genders who seem to be different animals, yet bound to each other by reproduction and family. Doris Lessing's novel has received mixed reviews with The Observer saying, "Despite an infuriating absence of character and plot, Doris Lessing writes movingly of the human desire for change, revolutionary and evolutionary, and for things to stay the same. In the end, she conveys a powerful belief in the impermanence of any situation in which human beings find themselves and the paradoxically unchanging nature of human relations."
Buy The Cleft by Doris Lessing
London Times review by Lisa Appignanesi

The Observer review by Geraldine Bedell

London Times review by Sophie Harrison

Sydney Morning Herald review by Debra Adelaide

Washington Post review by Elizabeth Bear

New Statesman review by Henrietta Clancy

The Telegraph review by Claudia Fitzherbert

Doris Lessing
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