Gillian Flynn
March 08, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Sweetest Dream

Current Status
In Season
Doris Lessing

We gave it an A-

Earthy Frances Lennox tends to a hoard of teens — her two sons and their smug friends — in a rambling London home. It’s the ’60s, and the kid crowd is growing fatuous on visions of a perfect world. Over the next few decades communism, feminism, and the plight of Africa all become fodder for these often badly behaved do-gooders. In depicting the restless, raucous group (with sensible Frances as its stable foil), Lessing reveals humanity’s darkest side: It’s not sweeping brutality that keeps us from grace, but a swarming, ambitious pettiness. Fans of Lessing’s autobiographical work will plumb few clues here, but they will revel in the grand-scale writing. Wonderfully ripe characters — bitter, vengeful, kind — are raised, ruined, killed off, or written off by Lessing with all the clear-eyed objectivity of a young god playing house.

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