The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing

24 Apr

Started – 10/4/12

Finished – 17/4/12

Format – Paperback


Challenges – BCF April Reading Circle


Synopsis –  A classic tale from Doris Lessing, Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007, of a family torn apart by the arrival of Ben, their feral fifth child.

‘Listening to the laughter, the sounds of children playing, Harriet and David would reach for each other’s hand, and smile, and breathe happiness.’

Four children, a beautiful old house, the love of relatives and friends, Harriet and David Lovatt’s life is a glorious hymn to domestic bliss and old-fashioned family values. But when their fifth child is born, a sickly and implacable shadow is cast over this tender idyll. Large and ugly, violent and uncontrollable, the infant Ben, ‘full of cold dislike’, tears at Harriet’s breast. Struggling to care for her new-born child, faced with a darkness and a strange defiance she has never known before, Harriet is deeply afraid of what, exactly, she has brought into the world…

My Thoughts – I read this book as part of the April reading circle on the BCF. I had a few reservations about this as it is classed as a horror book, and horror is not my genre. However, this book is not at all a horror book in my opinion.


This book starts with a couple, Harriet and David who meet at a party and fall in love. They get married and buy a huge house, more than they can afford. Davids family help them out and give them money, several times throughout the book. They get married and start having children. Between them they have ‘The Dream’, to have as many children as possible. Now i agree with this in a way, if a couple want to have a lot of children then its fine, as long as they can afford it. In this book the couple cannot. They have four children, everything is fine and then Harriet falls pregnant again. From the start they know something is different with the baby, she cannot cope through the pregnancy and just wants the baby out.


So Ben is born.


Once Ben is born the family start to unravel. They cannot cope with him and other people in the family start to suffer. Now i wasnt sure if there was something physically wrong with him, or wheather he had a condition. Whatever was wrong with Ben, it wasnt his fault, he never asked for anything like that.


I thought that everything surrounding baby Amy was very difficult to read. She was born with Downs Syndrome and she was hidden away in parts of the book so not to distress others. I thought this was so wrong, i just didnt understand how this could happen.


I didnt like Bens parents attitude towards him. His dad didnt want him and his mother was almost obsessive with him. I think they needed to find a happy medium with it all.


I did enjoy this book, it was one continous prose and once i had got into this style of writing i enjoyed it a lot. There is a sequel to this book and i will definitaly be picking this up. i will also be looking up more books by this author. This is a short book, but there is so much crammed into the pages, its great.


Rating – 4/5

3 Responses to “The Fifth Child – Doris Lessing”

  1. beckyday6 April 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    This sounds like a story I’ve heard before……do you know if they happened to turn it into a film recently?

    • shelovestoread April 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

      It was a film back in 2005/2006 time so not sure if thats what you could be thinking of? 😀

      • beckyday6 April 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

        Hmmm maybeeee. The one I’m thinking of had the women in it that played the snow queen in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe… hmm..

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