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Doris Lessing, born of British parents in Persia now Iran , reared in Rhodesia now Zimbabwe , and a resident of London since , is a writer who understands the world of violence and change. Lessing has persistently spoken for undergrounds and subcultures. Many of our problems, she suggests, stem from the fact that people are pressed into conformity. A group of young people with radical political views are squatting in an abandoned house in London. As revolutionaries, their aims are rather ill-defined: They belong to a group called the Communist Centre Union.

The Good Terrorist - A Thriller (Paperback, Vintage Intl)

At the center of the radical commune is Alice Mellings, in her mids, and her boyfriend, Jasper. Alice, a caring and kindly person, wears pretty little floral blouses beneath her combat jacket and attends to the needs of the comrades like a mother.

She is the good terrorist of the title. Jasper, however, is so cruel that you wonder why she stays with him. The reader quickly realizes that Alice lives in a masochistic dream world where the self is denied and a sadistic thug like Jasper is worshiped in the name of the revolution. Gradually the group attracts recruits: two lesbian feminists, one of whom suffers bouts of mental illness; a black unemployed printer; a pallid decorator whose girlfriend has thrown him out; a middle-class couple who choose to squat in order to save money, and a woman who builds bombs in the attic.

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It was then that I wrote to Lessing telling her how important her books were to me, and asking if she minded me echoing her title in The Ice Is Singing. She replied, magnificently, "I think you will find it is TS Eliot to whom we are both indebted. Alice's need to go to any lengths to see her comrades eating happily together around the big kitchen table is motherly. Her protectiveness of deadly Jasper is motherly, and she even acknowledges that while she is with him she can never have a child. When she hugs him it is as though she held a wraith, something cold and wailing, a lost child.


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When Jim is about to start his new job, Alice thought she was rather like a mother, making sure a child had eaten before going off to school. In the final confrontation between Alice and her mother, Dorothy, Dorothy's cruellest retort is to reveal the similarity between them: "I thought I won't have Alice stuck in my position, no qualifications for anything.

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But it turned out you spend your life exactly as I did. Cooking and nannying for other people. An all-purpose female drudge. Motherhood here is terrible: for poor Dorothy, giving and giving to her crazily selfish daughter, until she is reduced to bleak poverty.

For Alice, giving and giving financially and emotionally to cruel Jasper, who occasionally rewards her with a crumb of love - permission to put her sleeping bag along the same wall as his.

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The theme is echoed in the lesbian relationship between Roberta, comforting mother figure, and Faye, the pretty, naughty child who harms Roberta in the most effective way she can, by blowing herself up. Motherhood is presented as an obsessive need to love and protect those who seem weaker and less adequate than yourself, and yet who reject and hurt you. Alice's motherliness is even applied to the act of terror itself; after the bomb has exploded she pities those who don't understand the necessity for the outrage.


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Rereading the book now, in the light of the London terrorist attacks on July 7, I see it as an example of fiction going where factual writing cannot: exposing, in all their blinkered self-righteous rage, a group of people who want to smash the society they live in. With a nuanced sense of the intersections between the personal and the political, Nobel laureate Doris Lessing creates in The Good Terrorist a compelling portrait of domesticity and rebellion.

Doris Lessing was born of British parents in Persia, in , and moved with her family to southern Rhodesia when she was five years old. She went to England in and has lived there ever since. She is the… More about Doris Lessing. What set of circumstances will produce a terrorist act? Lessing provides a convincing explanation.

It bristles with arresting situations and observations of character. Read An Excerpt.

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