Wednesday, 11 May 2011
The Diaries of Jane Somers
Title: The Diaries of Jane Somers
Author: Doris Lessing
Number of pages: 528
Started: 28 April 2011
Finished: 11 May 2011
The first part is a summing up of about four years. I was not keeping a diary. I wish I had. All I know is that I see everything differently now from how I did while I was living through it.
My life until Freddie started to was one thing, afterwards another. Until then I thought of myself as a nice person. Like everyone, just about, that I know. The people I work with, mainly. I know now that I did not ask myself what I was really like, but thought only about how other people judged me.
The diaries introduce us to Jane, an intelligent and beautiful magazine editor concerned with success, clothes and comfort. But her real inadequacy is highlighted when first her husband, then her mother, die from cancer and Jane feels strangely removed. In an attempt to fill this void, she befriends ninety-something Maudie, whose poverty and squalor contrast so radically with the glamour and luxury of the magazine world. The two gradually come to depend on each other -- Maudie delighting Jane with tales of London in the 1920s and Jane trying to care for the rapidly deteriorating old woman. 'The Diary of Jane Somers' contrasts the helplessness of the elderly with that of the young as Jane is forced to care for her nineteen-year-old drop-out niece Kate who is struggling with an emotional breakdown. Jane realises that she understands young people as little as she so recently did the old.
What I thought:
Well, what to say about this book? This is the first Doris Lessing book that I have read. In fact this is actually two books that she originally wrote under a pseudonym that have now been brought together under one title and, since the cat was let out of the bag, are now attributed to Lessing. She wrote the books under a pseudonym because she wanted to try a different style and to see how the books would be received if they were submitted by an unknown author. The first book was turned down by many publishers, at least one of which said this was because it was too depressing. I can see why.
This book gives me dilemmas. It was well written and I persevered with it to the end because there was something very engaging about it. But it was so depressing and my general mood plummeted because of reading this book.
It is a book that looks at British society and how we treat each other and the social care system, loneliness, relationships and much more. It is an insightful novel and one that is worth reading, but beware of the psychological impact that this book can have.