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Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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First Impressions

Please use this space to share your expectations and early impressions as you begin reading!
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Jessica
Posts: 968
Registered: ‎09-24-2006
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Re: First Impressions -- historical? fantasy?

I just picked up this book last night. So far, I'm loving it! A cool blend of historical novel and fantasy.

Has anyone else read Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake? One of my favorites. The Cleft has the same atmosphere as that book.

I'm only on page 50, but I'm getting the hang of the changing POV. It's interesting that a Roman male is narrating. I wonder why she chose him. Any thoughts?
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: First Impressions -- historical? fantasy?

I've only managed to read up to page 80, and find it slow going. Much as I love Doris Lessing, THE CLEFT is a struggle for me. None of her earlier works prepared me for this major switch in her writing style.

It's definitely not a historical novel, not in the usual definition. It does have elements of a fable or myth or science fiction. The atmosphere is very Margaret Atwood-like, as in ORYX AND CRAKE. It even reminded me of her futuristic book THE HANDMAID'S TALE where society has to cope with birth dearth.

There are no names or any specific identities, just generic descriptions. The location is not identified, there is only the island surrounded by ocean. There is no one or no thing that readers can identify with. The females are not very attractive in the beginning of the book. They just loll around in their mythic eden and have no personalities.

So far I have no clue why she chose the male Roman senator as the chronicler of this ancient "history". I see some symbolism with the Roman empire's eagles as emblems of political power.

The eagles were originally there to protect the "females", but with time, they caused major changes in the natural cycle when they began to protect the "males" whose births increased with frequency.

I would love to know what other readers think about this novel.

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: First Impressions -- historical? fantasy?

Hi Jessica and Ibis!

Glad to find you here! I get the impression that the Roman Senator is our narrator because of how we--in the West--tend to look on Ancient Greece and Rome as our cultural ancestors. Maybe the Roman Senator is our own fabled character? And he in turns narrates another older fable of an even more basic kind of origin?

It is a very interesting idea. I almost get the impression that the novel itself is supposed to be the beginning of storytelling. As if it were the beginning of human conflict.

What do you make of this primal "femaleness" and "maleness" that evolves? Do you relate to any of the characteristics?

I've ordered a copy of Golden Notebooks now, and I'm really curious to see how different it is, or what the common themes might be.


Rachel
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lmoon-55
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎10-26-2007
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Re: First Impressions

I am waiting to be notified about getting The Cleft fr.B&N. Shouldn't be too long.

Doris can be a very confusing read. Her gift is that her novels don't have to be conventional at all. All who love her work have confidence that she takes us to a place where we can extrapolate, even write the novel in our heads in a sense, to pull out our own guesses and visions for these anonymous characters. If she is pointing us toward Eden, I would love to see her vision of it. I also like the idea that she is presenting us with a view of history as perhaps something new to the human species: therefore nesessarily obscure. Re Oryx and Crake, that was a tremendously presented story of the future, and to me very frightening indeed.

lmoon-55
Addicted to reading since five. War and Peace, had to read twice(ouch) around 13.
I sometimes wish Doris Lessing had been my mother.
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: First Impressions -- historical? fantasy?

Rachel, I have given more thoughts to the Senator as narrator. He is a likeable man when he muses about his autobiography, but he is retelling the story from a man's viewpoint. He is aware of it, and often speaks talks of his one-sided chronicle.

That confuses me as reader. If he recognizes that he's giving us his man's viewpoint, it makes it impossible for me to read the book as irony or satire.

So is this straight-forward oral history? Disguised as myth-making?

Another question I had: if we, the West, look to Ancient Greece and Rome as our cultural ancestors, wouldn't homosexuality be an accepted lifestyle? Yet the Senator doesn't wonder why homosexuality is only a temporary expedient for boys without access to women.

Once clefts became a part of their lives, wouldn't homosexuality still be an accepted lifestyle?

IBIS
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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lmoon-55
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎10-26-2007
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Re: First Impressions

I finally got the book! I am very impressed with Lessings treatment of the origin of the speices. I am a firm advocate of evolutionary theory as it has grown with the years after Darwin. Yes, I do think there is a possibility of the Clefts emerging form the sea. The time scale is enourmous as our Senator/historion stesses time and again. Evolutionary time, the millenia of years, of eras, of ages is proven very well by paleologists,biologists,geologists, anthropologists(re-humanity).

But Lessing spells out a number of likely scenarios for the beginning of women and of men as later develoments. Parthenogenethis(sp.)was used in Greek mythology as regards Aphrodite. She sprung from herself, no sexual act with a male was needed. And it is interesting to see Lessing handle this pregnancy and birth issue as vague and unclear, but leading us to speculate that if this may be the case, how do we accept the Cleft's explanation of the moon and a large fish as agents of creation?

Anyway, these ate my first impessions.
Addicted to reading since five. War and Peace, had to read twice(ouch) around 13.
I sometimes wish Doris Lessing had been my mother.
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