the grandmothers

This week, after finishing Burial Rites but before diving into another book, I decided to read a short novella that I had downloaded a while ago as an ebook to my iPad, The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing. From Goodreads:

Two friends, two sons, two shocking and intense love affairs…

Roz and Lil have been best friends since childhood. But their bond stretches beyond familiar bounds when these middle-aged mothers fall in love with each other’s teenage sons—taboo-shattering passions that last for years, until the women end them, vowing to have a respectable old age. With Adore, Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, once again proves her unrivaled ability to capture the truth of the human condition.

Can I just start off by saying I’m a little confused by the title change? This novella was originally published in 2003 with the title The Grandmothers, and was re-published in 2013 as Adore. Was that done for the film of the same name? Meh. I much prefer the original title—I find it more fitting. Full disclosure: I saw the film first, and this may be one of those rare instances the film surpasses the book… I read it in about the same amount of time it takes to watch a movie, but I was more affected by the film. Maybe it was like, the feel of the book made more tangible? The actors made the characters more three-dimensional than they were in the book, too.

The premise is great, a twist on the old Oedipus complex, and I enjoy Lessing’s poetic, gentle prose (she’s on my radar now after having read The Fifth Child last year). While the depths of Roz and Lil’s friendship is palpable, most of the rest of it feels rushed and just skims the surface—like the boys’ friendship and their respective love affairs. I would have liked to read more what the characters were thinking and feeling (The Fifth Child is also short, but more introspection is achieved in that one). Likely this quibble is due to the book’s short length—the ebook version I read was only 49 pages. It’s good, but would have been amazing if fleshed out into full-length novel.

Read on August 12, 2014.

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