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The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. With a nuanced sense of the intersec The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. 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.


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The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. With a nuanced sense of the intersec The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. 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.

30 review for The Good Terrorist

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Sumi

    My admiration for Nobel laureate Doris Lessing continues to grow with this novel about a naïve group of revolutionaries living in a squat in mid-1980s London. Lessing’s triumph is getting deep inside the complex mind of Alice Mellings, a spoilt, entitled and very clever upper-middle-class woman in her 30s who acts like the squat’s den mother and is filled with contradictions. Alice detests the striving, materialistic middle classes, and yet she enjoys – really thrives on – fixing up her squat and My admiration for Nobel laureate Doris Lessing continues to grow with this novel about a naïve group of revolutionaries living in a squat in mid-1980s London. Lessing’s triumph is getting deep inside the complex mind of Alice Mellings, a spoilt, entitled and very clever upper-middle-class woman in her 30s who acts like the squat’s den mother and is filled with contradictions. Alice detests the striving, materialistic middle classes, and yet she enjoys – really thrives on – fixing up her squat and feeding her lazy comrades. She hates that her parents have split up, and yet she’s enmeshed in a doomed relationship with a man named Jasper who’s clearly closeted and is repulsed by her physically. And she loathes capitalism, although she’s all too ready to steal cash and valuables from her parents and their friends. What’s remarkable is that Lessing lets us see things through Alice’s perspective, but also shows us how appalling her behaviour is on a human level. Alice is such a good judge of human behaviour, but lacks the ability to understand her own failings. I imagine Lessing drew on her observations and experiences – and eventual disillusionment – with the Communist party decades earlier. It’s never really clear what the revolutionaries in this book want to do or achieve. At first they want to join the I.R.A. Then there’s talk about Russia. Some of them affect working class accents to seem legitimate, even while ignoring actual working class people in their midst. No one discusses politics, but they go to the odd demonstration, occasionally quote Lenin and call anyone they disagree with “fascists.” While the book ticks away quietly for 300 pages, taken up with all manner of domestic and bureaucratic matters, Lessing sets the stage for a truly explosive finale. The casual way the climax is handled will make you think about the randomness and sheer banality of some terrorist acts and organizations. Besides Alice, and perhaps Alice’s mom, Dorothy, who’s also disillusioned (is it a coincidence that Lessing’s given them both names that evoke fictional girls who find themselves in fantastic, often scary worlds?), the characters aren’t all that well-rounded. But that’s intentional. One of the most disturbing things about the book is how the revolutionaries don’t care about human life, only their own needs. When someone leaves, or attempts suicide, or even dies? Meh. They barely care. (Comrades, indeed.) Alice does, but is it because she’s “well brought up,” earning that adjective in the book’s title? This book is proof that you don’t necessarily have to like a book’s characters to be engrossed by them. Alice’s insights and frustrating contradictions will haunt me, as will Lessing’s brilliant, disturbing image of burying shit – literally, buckets of human waste – in one’s back yard. Sooner or later, that buried crap will come back. And Christ almighty will it be messy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    My one line review in the interests of brevity would be: an 80s tragicomedy which is sadly less dated that one might like. Early in the novel so early that it can't be regarded as a spoiler, unless you are an extremely slow reader, the hapless, hopeless bunch of want-to-be radicals take a vote and decide to affiliate with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a well known and long running paramilitary organisation then engaged in fighting the UK government and Loyalist (view spoiler)[ ie Protestant (h My one line review in the interests of brevity would be: an 80s tragicomedy which is sadly less dated that one might like. Early in the novel so early that it can't be regarded as a spoiler, unless you are an extremely slow reader, the hapless, hopeless bunch of want-to-be radicals take a vote and decide to affiliate with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a well known and long running paramilitary organisation then engaged in fighting the UK government and Loyalist (view spoiler)[ ie Protestant (hide spoiler)] paramilitaries and nationalists (ie supporters of a united Ireland (view spoiler)[ but effectively Catholics irrespective of their personal political opinions, which as often in such civil war situations don't count (hide spoiler)] ) who stepped out of line. So from the start we have a comic dichotomy between the serious (terrorism/warfare) and the ridiculous (angry, alienated, youngsters taking a vote to affiliate with dangerous people 'please sir, can we have some bombs?). The central drama though is mostly hidden in the book, it is between daughter Alice, the good terrorist of the title, and mother Dorothy. Towards the end of reading I thought: mother, Dorothy, father Cedric, daughter Alice, hmm, I'm missing something - then the brother's name was revealed as Humphrey, bugger, so much for that working theory. Then I thought, maybe I don't need anything in bold, Alice, here is an earnest young woman who always seeks to be a good girl, look at her clothes when she wants to make a 'good' impression, the emphasis on pinks, and skirts, but she's accepting of a good degree of craziness (view spoiler)[like moving into a house where people have decided to use buckets as toilets but not to empty them, but instead store them in downstairs rooms (hide spoiler)] , doesn't all this remind me of Alice in Wonderland? And the mother, Dorothy...maybe The Wizard of Oz, or Dorothy Causabon(view spoiler)[ because what's a book without a Middlemarch reference (hide spoiler)] ? Alice and her mates squatting in a North London house scheduled for demolition talk of overthrowing 'the system', meaning something along the lines of Patriarchal, fascist, racist, sexist, capitalism (view spoiler)[ and why not, in for a penny, in for a pound. Like playing skittles - no point in only knocking over one you might as well have a go at the lot (hide spoiler)] , but actions speak louder than words and what their actions show us is that they wish to overthrow the fathers (view spoiler)[ luxuriantly bearded or not (hide spoiler)] in order to take their places. So Alice plays mother with impressive determination, turning a house almost into a home, while most of her squat mates play at being sulky children with an impressive degree of skill. Alice thinks she has improved on her Mother by loving a gay man (view spoiler)[ homosexual rather than frolicsome and cheerful which he isn't (hide spoiler)] , this is plainly a safe relationship, it has clear boundaries - he sleeps on his side of the room and she on hers, if he brushes past her she can interpret this as a sign of love, he takes as much money as she can beg, borrow and steal, while she accepts this as normal and appropriate, and she doesn't run the risks of a sexual relationship and break up as her parents did. Control is a big theme in the book. However she is giddy and weak at the knees when brought into contact with any man who presents himself as firm and authorative and Leninist (view spoiler)[ not that she knows much about Lenin, but that's the point I suppose (hide spoiler)] . So. Dorothy Causabon we recall, is the woman who could have been a contender, she could have been somebody in her own right but in mid-nineteenth-century Britain, the best she can be is a wife to a not very well read scholar who we see is decades behind the European scholastic mainstream, she can loyally support his learning but he's stuck and limited by his beliefs in how far he could go. Our Dorothy sees that education is the key, she laments what she could have been, without education she is unemployable and dependant. Her daughter has an education, but ignores it choosing to place herself into dependant relationships and to enable further dependency for others, she claims to want to overthrow the system but busily recreates the cosy home of her childhood. Safety. But we see this is a form of insanity, she has done this repeatedly following her 'boyfriend' about and becoming a squat mother - expecting a different outcome from the same repeated actions as though one might reasonably expect that one day you will switch on the kettle and it will become a friendly elephant instead of just boiling some water. Alice, and the narration is from her point of view, we are shown values the genuine, the authentic - she dissects the accents of others seeing her squat mates as trying to disguise their upper or middle class backgrounds but combines this sweetly with a blindness to truth, talking of her own one working class grandma, the unspoken mathematics of that are pretty clear. There was a film, Four Lions, a few years ago that tackled the political extremism and terrorism from a similar viewpoint, there one sees that an equally ridiculous group have committed themselves to extremism but with no clear direct motivation , here in the same way one senses the anger of the politicised squatters and can acknowledge there is some justice in what they say, but one looks and asks what is the root of the anger? Lessing is a rather brutal writer when she chooses to be and undercuts her little Alice completely because the seed of her fury is the memory of sharing a bedroom with her parents as a child when the parents had a party and some guests slept over. The memory of the consciousness of her parents breathing and sweating within the same four walls brings Alice, that poor little lamb, to the boil. A surprising overlap here with The Fifth Child a sense that children, real or ersatz, are monsters who dominate and can terrorise their parents. Famously Philip Larkin commented on what parents do to children. To that Doris Lessing laughs drily - you try being a parent, she says, see what your children put you through if they refuse to grow up. And what she says is rebellion against parents and things that we stand in relation to as children to parents except a form of childishness? Well plainly the politics and psychodynamics of extremism and terrorism remain contemporary, sadly the extreme parochialism of the characters does too, for all their vaunting about world conflict between capitalism and communism the key issue to these Londoners is that they are British, and more than that, English (therefore they take votes and are devoted to fairness (and Leninism (view spoiler)[ preferably without reading Lenin (hide spoiler)] )). Tragicomic, if only it didn't feel so true.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manny

    I was thinking the other day about C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle, a book which I utterly loathe. As I said in my review, you can pardon the uninspired writing or the preachiness. What gets me angry is the subplot with Puzzle the donkey, who fronts the religious coup and, somehow, is whitewashed and receives eternal salvation. Apparently, because his unspeakably evil acts were performed in good faith, everything is fine. The surprising thing is that Lewis lived though WW II, and was writing not t I was thinking the other day about C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle, a book which I utterly loathe. As I said in my review, you can pardon the uninspired writing or the preachiness. What gets me angry is the subplot with Puzzle the donkey, who fronts the religious coup and, somehow, is whitewashed and receives eternal salvation. Apparently, because his unspeakably evil acts were performed in good faith, everything is fine. The surprising thing is that Lewis lived though WW II, and was writing not that long after the Nuremberg trials, which, I thought at least, ought to have established for that generation that it's not sufficient merely to say that one was obeying orders. Lewis gets away with it, at least as far as some people are concerned, partly because you aren't shown any direct chain of cause and effect between Puzzle's actions and the reign of terror those actions unleash. So it seemed natural to me to think that someone ought to write a book that filled in the gaps, portraying a not overly bright but essentially kind and well-meaning person who inadvertently and largely unknowingly finds themselves serving evil. When I got this far, I realized that I had already read the book in question: it's The Good Terrorist, which presents the moral issues in a far deeper and more convincing manner than The Last Battle. If I felt like taking a cheap shot, I might add that this illustrates the difference between winning the Carnegie Medal and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I will resist the temptation to do so. In Lessing's novel, the central character, Alice, is rather like Puzzle. She's emotionally dependent on a wicked and manipulative person, and ends up helping them in all sorts of practical ways. But the story is far more credible. In Lewis's novel, evil is at least satisfyingly grandiose; Puzzle's misguided actions trigger the Apocalypse, which eventually turns out to be a Good Thing. (I'm not even going to start on analyzing what might be wrong with that argument). In Lessing's version, evil is more like the kind that we see every day. The terrorists are not just bad, but also pretty incompetent. Compare for example with Robert Mugabe, who's currently in the news all the time. He's ruining Zimbabwe though a mixture of evil and plain stupidity; it's hard to say which one is more important. The biggest difference, however, is that Alice, deep down, is well aware of what she is doing. She just chooses not to think about it, which is what really happens most times that people come into contact with evil. The critical principle established at Nuremberg was that people who are given orders they know are morally wrong are obliged to refuse them. Lessing understands this extremely well, and wants to help the rest of us understand it better. I still can't quite grasp what Lewis was trying to do.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing The Good Terrorist is a 1985 political novel written by the British novelist Doris Lessing. The Good Terrorist is written in the subjective third person from the point of view of Alice, an unemployed politics and economics graduate in her mid-thirties who drifts from commune to commune. She is trailed by Jasper, a graduate she took in at a student commune she lived in fifteen years previously, who sponges off her. Alice fell in love with him, only to become frust The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing The Good Terrorist is a 1985 political novel written by the British novelist Doris Lessing. The Good Terrorist is written in the subjective third person from the point of view of Alice, an unemployed politics and economics graduate in her mid-thirties who drifts from commune to commune. She is trailed by Jasper, a graduate she took in at a student commune she lived in fifteen years previously, who sponges off her. Alice fell in love with him, only to become frustrated by his aloofness and burgeoning homosexuality. She considers herself a revolutionary, fighting against "fascist imperialism", but is still dependent on her parents, whom she treats with contempt. In the early 1980's, Alice joins a squat of like-minded "comrades" in a derelict house in London. Other members of the squat include Bert, its ineffective leader, and a lesbian couple, the maternal Roberta and her unstable and fragile partner Faye. ... عنوانها: تروریست خوب؛ تروریست دوست داشتنی؛ نویسنده: دوریس می لسینگ‏‫؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه دسامبر سال 2010 میلادی عنوان: تروریست خوب؛ نویسنده: دوریس لسینگ؛ مترجم: الهه مرعشی؛ ویراستار: سیامک گلشیری؛ ‏‫‬‬تهران‬‏‫: مروارید‬‏‫، 1388؛ در 498 ص؛ شماره شابک: 9789641910213؛ چاپ دوم 1389؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 20 م عنوان: تروریست دوست داشتنی؛ نویسنده: دوریس می لسینگ‏‫؛ مترجم: حبیب گوهری‌ راد؛ تهران، انتشارات رادمهر، 1389؛ در 511 ص؛ شماره شابک 9789648673746؛ چاپ دوم 1391؛ رمان «تروریست خوب»، نخستین بار در ماه سپتامبر سال 1985 میلادی منتشر شد؛ داستان زنی به نام «آلیس ملینگز» و دوستش «جاسپر» است، که خانه اش مقر گروهی کمونیستهای تندرو شده است، گروهی که نقشه ی پیوستن به ارتش جمهوریخواه «ایرلند» و ... را نیز در سر میپرورانند. گروه در خانه ای متروکه پلاک چهل و سه مینشینند. این خانه آب و برق ندارد. حیاط پر از زباله است، و طبقه بالا نیز از سطلهای پر از مدفوع، پر شده است. همسایگان از ساکنان این خانه، خوششان نمیآید، و مدام با پلیس تماس میگیرند و از بو و زباله شکایت میکنند. همزمان با تلاش «آلیس»، برای حل و فصل تضاد بین ایدئولوژی، و زندگی مرفه خود، همراهانش در مسیر کوشش برای ایجاد تغییرات اجتماعی، علیه خودکامگی، و سرمایه داری، با چالشهای ناباورانه ای روبرو میشوند. «دوریس لسینگ» در این اثر، با نشان دادن نقاط برخورد مسائل شخصی و سیاسی، موفق به آفرینش تصویری هیجان انگیز از قانونمداری، و سرکشی شده است. تمرکز اصلی رمان «تروریست خوب»، بر آسیب شناسی داشتن ایمانی مطلق به یک ایدئولوژی است، اینکه چگونه شخصی مهربان، همانند «آلیس»، چشم خود را بر روی خشونتهای بیدلیل بسته، و آن را میپذیرد. کتاب تلویحا به این نکته اشاره دارد، که انتخابهای سیاسی افراد جامعه، با اراده ی خود آنها شکل نمیگیرد، بلکه کنترل شده، و تحت فرمان است. «آلیس»، شخصیت بسیار پیچیده ای داشته، و داستانش، تصویری روانشناسانه، و واقعیت گرایانه، از ذهن و اندیشه ی بشر است. رمان «تروریست خوب»، پژوهشی شاخص، در حوزه ی نگارش انگیزه های سیاسی، برای خوانشگران است. ا. شربیامی

  5. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Markus

    After the Boston Marathon bombing, I had to reread this book. Everything I could say about it within that context -- that it shows the danger of "the cause" trumping morality; that terrorists are frightening not because they're monsters but because they aren't -- sounds trite and obvious. So I won't focus on those points, other than to say that yes, Doris Lessing does them full justice without being the least bit hamhanded. Many of the Goodreads reviews of this book have mentioned how difficult i After the Boston Marathon bombing, I had to reread this book. Everything I could say about it within that context -- that it shows the danger of "the cause" trumping morality; that terrorists are frightening not because they're monsters but because they aren't -- sounds trite and obvious. So I won't focus on those points, other than to say that yes, Doris Lessing does them full justice without being the least bit hamhanded. Many of the Goodreads reviews of this book have mentioned how difficult it is to enjoy a book whose characters are so unlikable. Lessing reminds me in that respect of Shirley Jackson's early novel The Road Through The Wall. The difference is that Jackson's work is peopled with dozens of characters, every one of whom is at least off-putting and many of whom are positively repulsive. By the end of the book, the reader is forced to wonder what the point was either of reading or writing that book. The Good Terrorist, on the other hand, is populated by weak and often annoying characters; but many are sympathetic in spite of their flaws, and seem bewildered to find themselves in this story. We readers share their bafflement. What could Alice Mellings' parents have done that could possibly be seen as turning their daughter into the title character? Her father and mother are ordinary in many ways, interesting in others. Her mother, Dorothy, is to me the most compelling character. She alone is utterly clear-eyed. Like many women of her generation, she realizes too late that the ordinary choices she made -- not going on to university, marrying very young -- doomed her to a life she's determined her own daughter won't repeat. But Alice refuses to learn the lessons her mother struggles to teach her. She goes to university but refuses to look for work. Choosing instead to be a perpetual child, she lives a mangled copy of her mother's life. Some of Dorothy's insights are disturbingly appropriate to current American political discourse. In a quarrel with a lifelong friend, she says: "Do you realize I have to think twice before I invite you here? You can't be invited with anyone who has a different political opinion on anything, because you start calling them fascists! You won't meet anyone, even, who reads a right-wing newspaper. You've become a dreary bigot, Zoe, do you know that?" And later in that conversation come this observation, which I'm terrified may be true: "People go on [demonstrations] because they get a kick out of it. Like picnics. ...No one bothers to ask any longer if it achieves anything, going on marches or demos. They talk about how they feel. That's what they care about. It's for kicks. It's for fun. ...All you people, marching up and down and waving banners and singing pathetic little songs -- 'All You Need Is Love' -- you are just a joke. To the people who really run this world, you are a joke. They watch you at it and think: Good, that's keeping them busy." Her friend accuses her of wanting to "smash things up." She means that Dorothy wants "to break with all your friends;" but I think Alice, who overheard this entire conversation, takes this idea quite literally. Dorothy has recently told Alice that Dorothy wasted her life cooking for people (family, friends) and is glad she doesn't have to anymore. Alice, who has spent most of the book making "wholesome" food for her "comrades," never makes another pot of soup. She refuses to stay at home preparing food for the returning hungry warriors, and instead insists on accompanying her friends to a bombing that is as senseless as it is destructive. This brilliant book is a difficult read. Many other reviewers have pointed out that for a story about terrorism, it's surprisingly slow-moving and low on action. Which is true until the very end. Nothing happens and nothing happens and then everything happens. But don't be misled by the stretches of seeming calm. Every word, every scene, every conversation is there for a reason. Lessing is too great a writer to waste our time with unnecessary words.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aubrey

    There are a lot of defenders of the notion that satire doesn't actually have to obviously criticize whatever odious mechanisms are incorporated into its workings in order to call itself such. Those people can stay in their paradisaical lah-dee-dah-I-Live-In-A-Vacuum-Land and far far away from me. If I wanted to engage with normalizing of Everything Fucked Up In The World instead of deconstructing the lot entirely, I'd go nearly everywhere else other than the world of satire. True, not all is wri There are a lot of defenders of the notion that satire doesn't actually have to obviously criticize whatever odious mechanisms are incorporated into its workings in order to call itself such. Those people can stay in their paradisaical lah-dee-dah-I-Live-In-A-Vacuum-Land and far far away from me. If I wanted to engage with normalizing of Everything Fucked Up In The World instead of deconstructing the lot entirely, I'd go nearly everywhere else other than the world of satire. True, not all is written in my vein of goal. True, even some of that which is in my lane does more harm than good. However, thinking's a good thing to do. I like thinking. I'm going to keep on starting there rather than within the brick wall a great deal seem to prefer. The interesting thing about empathy is how easily it is trained. It does not communicate. It does not seek to change itself. What it does is push the empathetic individual to latch on to the most appealing targets that will be the easiest to "fix" when the more painful aspects of the biological capability arise. This compatibility between empathetic and empathized depends on a variety of factors: aesthetic appeal, ideological structure, proneness to violence, etc, etc. In main concerned character Alice's case, we have some special characteristics: civilized hospitality is All, violation of civilized hospitality (spanning from personal to governmental to international depending on Alice's pertaining awareness) is Evil Incarnate, and blind (and memory troubled) adherence to the former will Always End Well. When the successful track record runs long enough, it is hard to remember the holes and the luck. In terms of not being like myself, an armchair critic who continues to reside in a well off suburban area, Alice gets full marks. In terms of her shitting on with one hand and entitling herself with the other to the fruits of capitalism, colonialism, feminism, and any other isms she cannot cure with a batch of soup, Alice is nothing more than a maternal figure with a need for a peculiar breed of urban warfare thrills. Armchair critic I may be, but as a member of a settler state, I am aware of how easily my death (among many) could appear in a chapter that touched upon "The Driving out of the Invaders of the North Americas" in the longer history of things, if the continent would even still be termed said Eurocentric such. Unlike Alice, I do not pretend to be entitled to any more death and destruction for "the greater good." There are huge numbers of protests going around my country right now, and there will continue to be so while politics commits certain groups to the sector of Open Season. Those who see politics as useless, solely the fault of the populace, a mass hallucination of the young, a laughable thought of community in the state of supreme individualism, or solely the act of voting, walk away. Walk away, and only come back when you can tell me why this book is a tragedy, and how it came to be that some forms of slaughtering human beings for nothing are acceptable, and some are not.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    It's been about 2 weeks now since I've finished The Good Terrorist, and so I'm in that place where I feel most compelled but least capable of writing a review. Since that's never stopped me before, here goes. I must applaud Lessing for her skill at creating characters, Alice in particular, who are utterly annoying, petulant, stupid, dangerously immature, and appallingly destructive. These characters wrap their fundamental laziness and selfishness in a cloak of ignorant, misguided, sociopathologic It's been about 2 weeks now since I've finished The Good Terrorist, and so I'm in that place where I feel most compelled but least capable of writing a review. Since that's never stopped me before, here goes. I must applaud Lessing for her skill at creating characters, Alice in particular, who are utterly annoying, petulant, stupid, dangerously immature, and appallingly destructive. These characters wrap their fundamental laziness and selfishness in a cloak of ignorant, misguided, sociopathological ideology, and revel in their victimhood while blaming everyone but themselves for their pathetic lot in life. If I met these people in real life, my inner school-marm would, I know, come blazing forth and I would give them each a right tongue-lashing, berating them for being the spoilt children they are. Okay, I would probably do that later, in the car on the way home, after I thought of something pithy and eviscerating to say without needing to fear any comeback or comeuppance at the hands of these dangerously half-witted revolutionaries. My most damning vitriol I would reserve for Alice, who--unlike the others--does NOT lack for redeeming qualities. She will work tremendously hard to make life better for herself and others (although her efforts are not the least altruistic or selfless). Alice is clever and spooky-smart about people, capable of seeing through them to their real motivations, and then using that--without compunction--to manipulate them and steal from them. She wields her resourcefulness and acuity as tools to 'beat the system' rather than effect constructive change, and so she lost my sympathy about 35 pages in. But Lessing has painted such a remarkable portrait, that despite my distaste for each and every one of the characters, I couldn't help but to keep reading. Oh yes, she hooked me, she did. I spent the remainder of the book searching for some way in to Alice's psyche, to understand her and to excuse her abhorrent, ultimately criminal, actions. I couldn't. Lessing provided proof points to discount every possible reason why the 36-year-old Alice, living in a squat with a closeted gay boyfriend who frequently abandons and abuses her, is everybody's doormat. Mental illness, generational poverty, lack of education, childhood abuse or neglect--none of these likely suspects bore fruit as a logical explanation for Alice's behaviour. So by the end, when Alice's full stupidity and cowardice were revealed--with no reasonable explanation available--I felt both frustrated and horrified. But...I'm questioning myself because smart people, not the least of whom the author herself, seem to think she was "quite mad" (as Lessing says in the The Languages We Use afterword). I certainly saw emotional volatility, odd outbursts, strange behaviour (possibly even delusional), and a definite anti-social inclination without any moral centre. But hell, Alice seemed the sanest of the lot! I therefore didn't see mental illness in Alice. Faye, yes. But not Alice. And, this is Lessing's major accomplishment: as she says, "if a mad person is in a political setting, or a religious one, a lot of people won't even notice he or she is mad." Otherwise, I'd have to question what Lessing was trying to do here--was she trying to show how banal and commonplace evil really is? How easily we can overlook or misapprehend the looming dangers all around us? Specifically, how short a distance it is from armchair Communist (or any other ideological or religious zealotry) and petty thief to cold-blooded terrorist, bomb-maker and killer? Maybe this book was a little ahead of its time, but from the vantage point of 2009, these themes almost seem... oh, I don't know...quaintly simplistic, I guess. The greater accomplishment was the extremely compelling dynamic between the unpleasantness of the characters, the stupidity and hypocrisy of their minor acts of vandalism and thievery and their own petty conflicts with each other versus the stumbling but inexorable march, despite being barely capable of getting themselves arrested along the way, to the final, bloody conclusion. I found the black humour throughout extremely satisfying--visible only now, with some distance and thinking back on what Lessing's true achievement was here. There is not a shred of sympathy for the plight of these characters: they are shown to be hypocritical fools and incompetents, and downright cruel--behaviour that belies the more lofty principles they spout. Lessing was, in effect, putting her own politics under the magnifying glass. A clever feat, and worthy of a solid 4-stars (I'm upping my rating) even though, by the end, I still felt a little tricked into having spent so much time with such unpleasant people.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David

    The story moves very slowly, and things really only start to happen in the final act, yet I was never bored by this book. Doris Lessing's writing is like one of the finer social satirists of the 19th or early 20th century, writing about contemporary events, or at least contemporary for the 1980s, when this book was written. The Good Terrorist is about Alice Mellings, who is, with great and lasting irony, exactly the sort of comfy-making, boo-boo kissing motherly type as her own mother was, even The story moves very slowly, and things really only start to happen in the final act, yet I was never bored by this book. Doris Lessing's writing is like one of the finer social satirists of the 19th or early 20th century, writing about contemporary events, or at least contemporary for the 1980s, when this book was written. The Good Terrorist is about Alice Mellings, who is, with great and lasting irony, exactly the sort of comfy-making, boo-boo kissing motherly type as her own mother was, even though Alice is now a "revolutionary" who spits on everything her horrible, awful, no-good shitty bourgeois parents stand for, when she isn't begging them for money (and stealing from them when they won't give it). The grown woman of solidly middle-class Brits, Alice was given everything by her parents, including a good university education. But we learn that her fractured relationship with both mother and father (who are themselves divorced) is at the root of all Alice's discontents. Now her father is remarried and running a business and trying to wash his hands of his problem child of a grown daughter, and her mother has turned into an impoverished alcoholic. Alice's interactions with her parents are painful because it's one of those situations where an outside observer can easily see that if just one of them would bend, just a little bit, they could make peace, but they always manage to say exactly the wrong things to each other, and neither Alice nor her parents ever have the emotional maturity to talk like grown-ups without verbal knives drawn. When not being reduced to an eternally rebellious teenager in the presence of her parents, Alice is a whirlwind of industriousness and hard work ethic, even though it's all applied to keeping an "approved tenancy" in which she and her fellow communist "revolutionaries" are squatting from being demolished by the council. Her co-revolutionaries are all freeloading under-achievers like Alice, the difference being that she could easily make something of her life, while most of her "comrades" are just plain losers. But amidst all their "organizing" and "protesting" and "sticking it to the fat capitalist pigs," a plan gradually emerges to work with either the IRA or with their revolutionary Russian comrades. At first this seems like as much a joke as any of their other plans, since Alice is the only one who ever actually does anything, and she's mostly doing housework and den-mothering all these wanker wannabes. What would the IRA or the Soviets want with a bunch of idiots like these? But if you insist on being a useful idiot long enough, someone will use you, and like shadows at the edges of a campfire, the real actors out there begin to come circling. The Good Terrorist isn't a suspense novel or a spy thriller or a crime caper. It's a character drama, with a bunch of interesting characters who are all much alike except in that they are each individuals with their own problems and quirks, and they're all kind of unlikable idiots, even before they start getting in over their heads with real bad guys. Only Alice is sympathetic, and she's still as much of a fool and a naif as the rest of them, it's just that in her case, we can see all the wasted energy and potential. Her entire life has been spent in a kind of dreamworld, living for other people, being shaped by other people's opinions of her, and deliberately looking away from ugly reality. She's too good for the people around her, but she also pretty much deserves what she gets. I might have wished there was a bit more action, maybe a twist or two, but The Good Terrorist held my attention and Doris Lessing's writing had no real weakness other than a leisurely in-no-hurry-to-get-anywhere pace. This wasn't an exciting book and the plot is only there to make the characters do things while we get to know them, but the day-to-day mundanity of the story is deceptive, and if that's all you see, you're missing the point, which is the banality of evil and the obligation of anyone who wants to consider themselves a "good" person to not do nothing when other people are doing things you know are wrong. I'll definitely read more by Lessing; she delivers wonderful characterization with sharp, straight-faced black humor. This book is like a verbal confection of delicate (and indelicate) interpersonal dialog and nuanced character studies. With a bomb at the center.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Neal Adolph

    It was around March 5th that I discovered it was Women's History Month. I was reading a book back then - a leftover of Black History Month - that I wasn't much enjoying. I quickly set it aside. There is a lot of literature I want to read that is written by women. But I could tell that no fiction was going to lift me out of whatever reading malaise it was that I acquired after finishing James Baldwin's lovely "Go Tell It On The Mountain". I picked up Naomi Klein's latest book and read two hundred It was around March 5th that I discovered it was Women's History Month. I was reading a book back then - a leftover of Black History Month - that I wasn't much enjoying. I quickly set it aside. There is a lot of literature I want to read that is written by women. But I could tell that no fiction was going to lift me out of whatever reading malaise it was that I acquired after finishing James Baldwin's lovely "Go Tell It On The Mountain". I picked up Naomi Klein's latest book and read two hundred pages. I wasn't impressed just yet, but I can see it is building towards something. At least, I think I can see that. Anyways, this is a review of the book that I picked up after those two hundred, unsatisfying pages, suddenly feeling like I needed to really let my mind settle into fiction again. The book was The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing. There is much to be said about this book and its exploration of terrorism in the late twentieth century. It is a satire, perhaps. Or, perhaps it is more specifically an insulting depiction of radicalism, its disorganization, its dependence upon incomplete, broken humans who desire so much but are convinced that they desire nothing. Does this make any sense yet? I'm not sure. Doris does it so well though that, all of a sudden, somehow, it does. And it is beautiful. As many reviews have shown, though, the real triumph in this book lies in the characters rather than the plot. It centres around a commune/squat in London and its rotating membership. And these characters are interesting, tragic figures. Spurned by life. Seeking success. Fomenting hatred. Getting along and refusing to get along. Lessing clearly recognized that they needed to be well-developed because, in the end, not much really happens in this book. Lots of small events, sure, but things only really pick up in the last hundred pages. That doesn't mean the first 250 are bad pages. In fact, I think they are my favourite pages - the last few, while still very good, clearly moved the book in a different direction and, to my mind, the book was weakened somewhat as a result. That said, if the book started in satire, it also ended in satire. The middle was devoted to the characters. And one character in particular. Alice Mellings, the narrator and protagonist. And the reader vacillates in their judgement of her. Sometimes she is the calm, precise, intelligent, thoughtful figure. The maternal character in the home who is caring for everybody when they need caring and preventing catastrophes when they need to be prevented. Also the figure who is most frequently overlooked, despite her incredible contributions to the community. Alice is also the character with whom you grow most impatient. She makes silly choices, and abuses the wrong people in her life. She is terribly weak in all the wrong ways. And when she falters she seems to falter in all the wrong moments. And, in the end, you decide she is an unreliable narrator, and you have to wonder if what she has told you is true or just some falsified memory. The thing is, Lessing builds her up to have these flaws right from the get go, but they are dominated, rather than balanced, by the many great things that Alice does for her community. So you are a bit disappointed in your own judgement of her character when you reach the end. The frustrating thing was that I understood Alice so well. I related to her perfectly. I saw myself in her, and then momentarily recognized myself in her band of friends. But Alice, above all others in this novel, may be one of the great characters of all the novels I have read. This is my second Lessing novel, but I'll definitely be reading more. A Briefing for a Descent into Hell or Shikasta will be next, and hopefully before the end of the calendar year. I was impressed by what I saw - a controlled, brilliant mind was at work here. One whose opinions are clear and precise, and whose understanding of humanity is equally refined but entirely conflicted.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    As a lefty and former squatter this book contains dozens of painful home truths familiar to all of us involved in radical politics. The tiny left group removed from reality. The bragging about violence on protests. The lazy 'vanguard thinkers' who let everyone else do the work. All are present and correct in Lessing's unforgiving assault on a hapless bunch of middle class revolutionaries drifting from squat to squat in an attempt to escape from the real world. Alice, intelligent but consumed by As a lefty and former squatter this book contains dozens of painful home truths familiar to all of us involved in radical politics. The tiny left group removed from reality. The bragging about violence on protests. The lazy 'vanguard thinkers' who let everyone else do the work. All are present and correct in Lessing's unforgiving assault on a hapless bunch of middle class revolutionaries drifting from squat to squat in an attempt to escape from the real world. Alice, intelligent but consumed by her hatred of her parents, narrates this tale of pathetic naive idiocy as the band of brave class struggle warriors attempt to form dangerous alliances with the IRA and the Soviet Union. Jasper, Alice's whinging, bullying partner, is one of the most loathsome characters I have ever come across. Lessing said that if she wrote the book now it would have a religious rather than political dimension. Well, Chris Morris has dutifully produced that film already, with his Four Lions, which depicts the doomed efforts of a group of British Jihadists. My one complaint - this book is so consumed with its attack that it forgets to depict any positive aspects to progressive politics - there are no sympathetic characters, no-one working for real change, which as we know, so many genuinely want to fight for.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I requested my library get this book after listening to an abridgment of this story on BBC Radio 4. Wow! The story held my attention. The main character is compelling. She drives you crazy, and then you root her on. The description of England at this time and how it made the youth quite disaffected is absorbing. I loved it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Foyle

    I found the staccato, pile-up syntax grating at first, but by the end of the book I was engrossed. That restless, angular, off-putting voice, I soon realised, not only conveys the world, ‘raw and dismal’, through Alice’s eyes, but also Alice and her world through Lessing’s. A Communist who hasn’t read Marx, a hostile daughter who steals from her own family, yet also a driven homemaker and fearless opponent of bureaucratic injustice, Alice’s triumphant judgements of others are simultaneously Less I found the staccato, pile-up syntax grating at first, but by the end of the book I was engrossed. That restless, angular, off-putting voice, I soon realised, not only conveys the world, ‘raw and dismal’, through Alice’s eyes, but also Alice and her world through Lessing’s. A Communist who hasn’t read Marx, a hostile daughter who steals from her own family, yet also a driven homemaker and fearless opponent of bureaucratic injustice, Alice’s triumphant judgements of others are simultaneously Lessing’s stinging condemnations of her central character’s moral blindness. The book was criticised in the NYT for not allowing Alice greater self-awareness, but the situation she creates for herself was highly unlikely to permit that – the greater the violence one indulges in, the more one needs to defend one’s behaviour. Rather, the book offers passages which peel away the abrasive layers of her personality like old wallpaper, giving us brief glimpses of Alice’s searing empathy for vulnerable others, but also of the lonely, unfulfilled woman she can never – without flaring up in angry self-pity - acknowledge. I found her emotional displacement far more tragic and realistic than any psychological breakdown or guilt-ridden revelation on her part would have been. In a sense a disquisition on social and political violence, the book prises open a jarring complex of abusive behaviours - state violence, childhood trauma, emotional blackmail, terrorist atrocity - and tracks their mutual dependence. ‘Battered babies grow up,’ Roberta insists. Sometimes into not very likable people - but that’s all the more reason to care what happens to them.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    16/5 - I'm a bit scared to start this because it looks deep and complicated and I'm worried I won't understand it. The plot sounds interesting, but the language could be difficult. A bit like what happened with Blood Meridian. Okay, here I go... To be continued... 18/5 - I'm not a fan of well and truly adult women (she's 36!) behaving like innocent 17-year-olds. For the last 39 pages Alice has behaved like a fool; begging for handouts from her parents (50 pounds), verbally and nearly physically a 16/5 - I'm a bit scared to start this because it looks deep and complicated and I'm worried I won't understand it. The plot sounds interesting, but the language could be difficult. A bit like what happened with Blood Meridian. Okay, here I go... To be continued... 18/5 - I'm not a fan of well and truly adult women (she's 36!) behaving like innocent 17-year-olds. For the last 39 pages Alice has behaved like a fool; begging for handouts from her parents (50 pounds), verbally and nearly physically abused by her petulant, idiotic boyfriend Jasper and being generally annoying in her naïve belief that the council will ever take the side of some scruffy-looking squatters over the chance to make more money. Council greed, narrow-mindedness and stupidity is pretty much universal and unchanged by the passing of the years. Mum says I should, but I just can't work up enough energy to feel any empathy for a woman crying over a blocked toilet ('evil men' filled the bowls with cement in attempt to make it impossible to use the house as a squat). Why is she with Jasper? Her internal monologue suggests a strong, intelligent woman (despite getting teary over toilets), so why is she allowing Jasper to treat her like dirt. At least the language has been normal, so that's a hurdle I don't have to worry about. To be continued... Later on page 58 - She wants to abolish fascist imperialism? How can anyone abolish a way of thinking? Take Nazism, for example, if any 'ism' has been 'abolished' or anything close to it, it's Nazism. And yet, there are still pockets, or communities, of Nazis all over the world, thinking the way they want to think and no public or government movement is going to change their minds. One minute Alice is determined to achieve her goals (mostly unattainable though they may be) and the next she's saying/thinking the stupidest, most naïve thoughts a 36-year-old has ever thought. If I didn't know any better I'd thinks she's been borrowed from one of the rubbish YA novels that kindly Khanh reads for public amusement and edification and safety. To be continued... 22/5 - Alice is beginning to grow on me, plus she hasn't behaved like a whiny teenager for at least 50 pages, so my annoyance with her is fading. I don't understand what Andrew from next door put in the pit in their yard, but Alice did. It's unclear to me whether the reader should have known or not. Hopefully it's revealed more transparently later in the story. To be continued... Later - I have to ask again, what does Alice gain from her relationship with Jasper? She hasn't come out and stated it to the reader outright, but it seems clear to me why Jasper is with Alice, but I don't see what she gets out of it. He takes the majority of the money she begs, steals, and borrows; he treats her like crap, and all for what? She claims she loves him, appears to have romantic and intimate thoughts about him but is well aware of his proclivities. He rebuffs any show of affection from her and shows almost none at all toward her. She feels lucky if he allows her to sleep in the same room, even if it is in sleeping bags on opposite sides of the room. That's not love, that's not even plutonic friendship. That's one person using another's emotions against them, emotional blackmail. To be continued... Later on page 179 - Alice is transforming before my very eyes. The more times she spends with Comrade Andrew from next door, the more I see how truly dangerous she could be. The other inhabitants of No. 43 just seem to be playing at the game of being revolutionaries - going to the picket line because it's fun, or it's the least that's expected of a CCU member, doing small stuff like getting arrested at a protest rally - while Alice sits at home cleaning up the squat and putting on an innocuous, mothering front. All the while she's watching people, reading their true natures on their faces, and deciding who will be useful at a later date. If she does decide to do something I hope she starts with drop-kicking Jasper right out of the squat, and her life. She's just played a game of 'what if' with herself, imagining her life without the millstone that is Jasper dragging her down. I cheered, but then she reminded herself that she loves him, and I booed. To be continued... Later on page 234 - Who or what were Cruise (pretty sure she's not talking about Tom), Trident and the Women of Greenham Common? Have to look them up. Alice is so blind! She hates the bourgeoisie, but has no problem taking and spending their money. Does it never occur to her to wonder where the bourgeois class gets their money? They work for it. It's not handed to them by their wealthy parents, as often seems to be the case for Alice and those she supports. Why do they eat out or get takeaway so much? Were the 80s a time when home brand spaghetti and home brand Bolognese sauce cost more than fish 'n' chips? Otherwise, it just seems wasteful. The same with all the cigarettes. If they were really feeling the crunch those are some luxuries, some middle class luxuries they could have been going without to save money. To be continued... SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT 25/5 - Phew, finished it! It was so DNFy that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to. It picked up in the middle, but then the last 30 pages or so, got a bit weird and left me wondering what was really going on. The conclusion was confusing and seemed to be purposefully tempting the reader to disbelieve what they'd read, to think that maybe Alice had been experiencing some kind of breakdown, and the majority of the book was all in her head. I don't know what the summaries from the backs of the other editions of The Good Terrorist say, or infer, about the story, but mine was very misleading: 'In a London squat, a band of revolutionaries unite in their loathing for the waste and cruelty they see in the world around them. But soon they become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence. Only Alice, motherly, practical and determined seems capable of organising anything. She likes to be on the battlefront: picketing, being bound over and spray-painting slogans. But her enthusiasm is also easy to exploit and she soon becomes ideal fodder for the group's more dangerous and potent cause. When their naïve radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, they realise that their lives will never be the same again.' 'But soon they become involved in terrorist activities far beyond their level of competence.' This is only true if 'soon' is defined as being 300+ pages into a 397 page book. The first 300 pages are focused on Alice and her efforts to clean up the house and look after the other squatters. 'her enthusiasm is also easy to exploit and she soon becomes ideal fodder for the group's more dangerous and potent cause.' That sentence makes it sound like Alice is tricked into providing assistance with a mission without realising the danger she's in, but that's not what happens AT ALL. The most danger Alice is in is of being taken advantage of because she's so good at looking after people and sorting out crises. The other squatters quickly begin to look in her direction whenever there's a household or personal duty to take care of. They never think of doing anything themselves. A couple of them (Faye) say "Oh, I don't care if you fix up the house. So, it's all your responsibility to look after and it needs to be your money that gets spent." but I'm never going to believe that people would rather pee and poo in buckets that never get emptied, they just sit there polluting the second level of the house with the smell, than have the toilets and water restored for the princely sum of 50 pounds. 'When their naïve radical fantasies turn into a chaos of real destruction, they realise that their lives will never be the same again.' The 'chaos of real destruction' happened with less than 20 pages to go, not giving the characters time to think of their futures. One by one, over the next eleven pages, Jasper, Bert, Caroline, Jocelin, and Roberta left No. 43, leaving Alice six pages to quietly unravel through an internal monologue running her head. I call false advertising - that blurb bears very little resemblance to what Lessing wrote. Not a lot happened in The Good Terrorist, I was expecting a story where Alice was a revolutionary who didn't really want to be a revolutionary. She joined, not really understanding what she was getting into, and then once she did see she did everything she could to keep the others calm and turn them away from acts of violence. It only works to start with and eventually she is forced to participate in the main goal, mass destruction. She does everything she can to spoil the plans or get the police involved (she doesn't want her friends arrested, she just doesn't want innocent people to die), but they don't listen or don't believe her and the final climax would feature the 'mass destruction', Alice's role in it and the aftermath. That's the kind of book I was expecting, not a domestic drama; what I got was much more, perhaps too much, focused on Alice's 'renovations on a budget'. 3.5 stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cwinters02

    I hated this damn book. I was forced to read it for class, and now I have to write a fucking 10-page paper on it by Wednesday. Every page was torturous to read. Nothing happened until the very end, and even that sucked. I recommend that you never read this book. There was not one character or plot line worth investing a second of your life on. Thanks for listening.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 Extra: Episode 1 of 2 A band of inept revolutionaries in a London squat are trying to court the IRA while Alice is homemaking. Stars Olivia Vinall. Episode 2 of 2 Faye is found bleeding after a suicide attempt, but Alice has promised not to involve the authorities. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09s... From BBC Radio 4 Extra: Episode 1 of 2 A band of inept revolutionaries in a London squat are trying to court the IRA while Alice is homemaking. Stars Olivia Vinall. Episode 2 of 2 Faye is found bleeding after a suicide attempt, but Alice has promised not to involve the authorities. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09s...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Whybrow

    A book does not need to be enjoyable to have a valid message, and to explore deep and significant themes. It does not have to be enjoyable to be a literary masterpiece. It does not have to be enjoyable to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It does, however, have to be enjoyable for it to be enjoyed. That should be quite self-explanatory. And, for me at least, 'The Good Terrorist' was not enjoyable. The blurb (I really should learn not to trust blurbs) described a group of Communist radicals get A book does not need to be enjoyable to have a valid message, and to explore deep and significant themes. It does not have to be enjoyable to be a literary masterpiece. It does not have to be enjoyable to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It does, however, have to be enjoyable for it to be enjoyed. That should be quite self-explanatory. And, for me at least, 'The Good Terrorist' was not enjoyable. The blurb (I really should learn not to trust blurbs) described a group of Communist radicals getting way out of their depth trying to become involved in terrorist activities, before eventually carrying out an attack and being unable to cope with the aftermath or the true cost of their actions. That's not what the book is about at all. It's about a group of Communists squatting in a house. Cleaning this house. Selling rugs. Painting. Getting a new water tank. Thrilling. Completely enthralling. That's not to say the book is bad. None of this is the fault of the book itself, more the fault of the misleading blurb, and me myself for not being a fan of slow paced books. But, after reading over three hundred and fifty pages of house renovation, it probably makes more sense to cap it all off with fifty more pages of house renovation than some superfluous terrorist attack which as far as I can tell, does nothing to develop the characters in the novel's final few pages. So, what point is 'The Good Terrorist' trying to make? That most hard-line leftists are middle-class activists engaging in demonstrations more for their own enjoyment than any ideological reasons, have little to no chance of any long term success and are completely out of touch with the people they claim to stand up for, railing against a Conservative administration that was in all likelihood voted in to power by the very Proletariat class they claim to draw support from? Because I'm reminded of this uncomfortable fact every time I read a newspaper and see Jeremy Corbyn's miserable, humourless face. The situation has not improved since this book was published. So 'The Good Terrorist' remains relevant to this day, even if I myself found it boring. I'll give it that much.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Book Club pick for April. 80's London--what a different place! Frustrating book, the main character is so annoyingly misguided and she makes us worry about all sorts of things that aren't her problem. She is stressing me out! It doesn't really get any better. At the end it is revealed that what's her name (pretty bad when I can't remember the main character's name one week after I finish the book) is basically nuts, but what about all the other characters? She doesn't seem much more insane than Book Club pick for April. 80's London--what a different place! Frustrating book, the main character is so annoyingly misguided and she makes us worry about all sorts of things that aren't her problem. She is stressing me out! It doesn't really get any better. At the end it is revealed that what's her name (pretty bad when I can't remember the main character's name one week after I finish the book) is basically nuts, but what about all the other characters? She doesn't seem much more insane than they are, just deluded. They are all pathetic. I don't know, it is well-written, but just not that interesting. I think it would have been a better short story. I will try something else by Lessing--a sort of disappointing introduction, though.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I read this whole thing on a plane from Helsinki to New York. THE STYLE. I don't think I've ever read a book that does quite what this one does with style. Alice Mellings is appreciably manic in a way that's absolutely intentional, and yet that is and isn't what the book is about. As she flits through life and the events of her days, making them both more and less significant than they should be, but never at the right times, you become exhausted when she's tired and energized when she's energize I read this whole thing on a plane from Helsinki to New York. THE STYLE. I don't think I've ever read a book that does quite what this one does with style. Alice Mellings is appreciably manic in a way that's absolutely intentional, and yet that is and isn't what the book is about. As she flits through life and the events of her days, making them both more and less significant than they should be, but never at the right times, you become exhausted when she's tired and energized when she's energized. I skimmed the other goodreads reviews and yet didn't see one that touched on the possibility of Alice having a mental illness, which is something I thought of nearly immediately upon picking up the book. I have no idea if that's intentional or not.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eleni

    The Good Terrorist is Alice Mellings, a mid-thirties London radical who puts her heart and soul into restoring a derelict home as the base for her group, part of the Communist Centre Union, a small political party of activists in the middle of Thatcherism in Britain, who aspire to join the IRA (or even the Soviets). Alice blazes with energy and bursts with conflicts. She passionately declares she HATES the middle-class that serves the “shitty fucking filthy lying cruel hypocritical system”, The Good Terrorist is Alice Mellings, a mid-thirties London radical who puts her heart and soul into restoring a derelict home as the base for her group, part of the Communist Centre Union, a small political party of activists in the middle of Thatcherism in Britain, who aspire to join the IRA (or even the Soviets). Alice blazes with energy and bursts with conflicts. She passionately declares she HATES the middle-class that serves the “shitty fucking filthy lying cruel hypocritical system”, but she’s a college graduate with studies on politics and economics and comes from a bourgeois family in freaking Hampstead. She considers herself a committed Communist, but she hasn’t even read Marx or Lenin. Conflict and ambiguity is also the focal point of the book in general: collective interest against personal ambitions, revolutionaries versus the upper-class and actuality against idealism. That’s not to say that Alice and her comrades are stupid or unsure of what they are after; they know what they are after, but sometimes people get caught in the web of the idea of life and reality instead of living their actual lives and that’s exactly what's happening to the young activists in this novel. They’re not stupid; they are naive. In the context of the above, what I found unique about this book is that the portrayal of the complex and contradictory personality that is Alice Mellings goes to incredible depth and that’s done with simple words! Doris Lessing's prose is clean, intense and straightforward, but while there’s nothing over-sophisticated about it, the message that goes through is a very sophisticated one. And I couldn't help the parallelisations between Alice Mellings and Alice in Wonderland and that was a wicked effect of the reading experience ..or maybe side-effect; who knows if this was Lessing’s intention in the first place! However, there’s a hitch. In addition to all that, Alice and her friends are beyond incompetent and superficially knowledgeable. It's almost getting suspicious. They are inept to the extent that sometimes it feels as if the book was only destined to offer relief to the upper class --> So, there’s nothing to worry about folks, because all those radical thinkers are just pathetic useless wankers and we couldn't be bothered. *clap clap clap*. Therefore, as insane as the character portrayal is (of Alice mostly; the others are more or less two-dimensional), I found that the exceptional literary value is somewhat undermined by the not-so-successful (I wouldn't say failed ; she doesn't fail) depiction of that unknown to the reader corner of society, in a way that’s believable. The problem is not the lack of objectivity. On the contrary, for me that’s desirable. I want fiction to reflect the author, so I’m always looking for emotion and subjectivity and I will look for objectivity elsewhere. When I read history. The problem is oversimplification. It makes things less convincing. And I know this is a common criticism of the book, but it is so for a reason.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    My mother and I have resolved to read prize-winners. Note all of the ambiguities and catch-savers in that sentence. We did not resolve to only read prize-winners, nor did we specify what prizes fell into our category, nor did we specify whether we meant any book from the oeuvre of prize-winning authors or particularly a single prize-winning book. (See, e.g., my very first review on this site, in which I granted only one star to a Golden Dagger Award winner (detective novels get prizes too!)). In My mother and I have resolved to read prize-winners. Note all of the ambiguities and catch-savers in that sentence. We did not resolve to only read prize-winners, nor did we specify what prizes fell into our category, nor did we specify whether we meant any book from the oeuvre of prize-winning authors or particularly a single prize-winning book. (See, e.g., my very first review on this site, in which I granted only one star to a Golden Dagger Award winner (detective novels get prizes too!)). In the future, you may expect more reviews of prize-winners from me, and when you see me reviewing non--prize-winners, you will either know that I am CHEATING on my mother, or that I am taking advantage of the ambiguities and catch-savers in our resolution. This being said, The Good Terrorist, by Nobel-Prize winner Doris Lessing, is the first book that I've read that is a product of our resolution. My, oh my. This book tells the story of a hopelessly contradicted young middle-class British woman named Alice, set in Thatcherite London. Alice is tremendously skilled at building up and tearing down. She very efficiently makes a cozy, functional, comfortable home out of a filthy, abandoned house in disrepair that -- when she first arrived -- had its entire top floor filled with buckets of human shit. She makes this home for the squatters who live there, of which she numbers one and most of whom are self-styled revolutionaries of one political stripe or another. Alice is a British communist who wants to support the IRA. Yet while she builds this home, and feeds her comrades with nourishing soup, and soothes their souls and smoothes their ruffled feathers, she is tremendously destructive to her family, to society at large, and ultimately towards her comrades as well. I found myself hating Alice for her political activities and her treatment of her mother and father, while my inner Martha Stewart (deeply buried these days, I can assure you) thrilled at the way Alice played house. One of the most interesting characters turns out to be Alice's mother. It is she, more than any other person in the novel, who is a sharp foil for Alice. Her memories and recollections illustrate the breadth and depth of Alice's myopia, something that the reader has begun to suspect but has not yet fully grasped. And it is she, a former leftist political activist, who mercilessly skewers Alice's favorite political activities: namely, demonstrating and graffitti-painting. Besides being well-written, this book made me think. It forced me to question what I believe, and has made me pronounce the most banal of self-truths: I am against terrorism. How astonishing that it took a novel to make me articulate that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    The Observer wrote about this book that: 'Doris Lessing writes about the parts that other novelists cannot reach', and I would have to agree. Her characterisation is so in-depth and subtle, and written in such plain language that you almost have a deep therapist-like knowledge of the main character. I found myself constantly analysing the characters in order to determine what would happen (or rather what they would allow to happen) next. Unfortunately for me a group of spoiled, middle class commu The Observer wrote about this book that: 'Doris Lessing writes about the parts that other novelists cannot reach', and I would have to agree. Her characterisation is so in-depth and subtle, and written in such plain language that you almost have a deep therapist-like knowledge of the main character. I found myself constantly analysing the characters in order to determine what would happen (or rather what they would allow to happen) next. Unfortunately for me a group of spoiled, middle class communists who become accidental terrorists trying to make their choice of life have meaning didn't hold my interest that much. I will stress that this was because of the subject matter and not Lessing's amazing skills as a writer. I would have liked the story to move a little faster, or for some characters to have a moment of realisation, but I know that this would have sacrificed the realism of the novel. Worth the read, and contains so many points for discussion.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09s... Description: The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. With a nuanced sense of the intersections between the personal and the political, Nobel laureate Doris Lessi https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09s... Description: The Good Terrorist follows Alice Mellings, a woman who transforms her home into a headquarters for a group of radicals who plan to join the IRA. As Alice struggles to bridge her ideology and her bourgeois upbringing, her companions encounter unexpected challenges in their quest to incite social change against complacency and capitalism. 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. Good to encounter now that Brexiteers are steering to tear open hard fought peace - learn from history. The Clash 2* Golden Notebook 2* The Fifth Child 3* The Grass Is Singing 3* The Good Terrorist

  23. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Amazing. I got really into it. Alice is a great character, good at picking up body language but also great at ignoring inconvenient truths. I became really invested both in her attempts to fix up the squat and also their plotting to 'help' the IRA. Which is really weird because I'm a peace-loving slob. Like, I barely look after myself, I'm not going to steal curtains or get involved with roofing tiles unless I something is about to cave in. The climactic car bomb scene (and the shaky comedown) a Amazing. I got really into it. Alice is a great character, good at picking up body language but also great at ignoring inconvenient truths. I became really invested both in her attempts to fix up the squat and also their plotting to 'help' the IRA. Which is really weird because I'm a peace-loving slob. Like, I barely look after myself, I'm not going to steal curtains or get involved with roofing tiles unless I something is about to cave in. The climactic car bomb scene (and the shaky comedown) actually gave me a bit of an adrenaline spike. Though I can't help but wonder if that's because I read the relevant passages just hours after a similar car ramming attack in Toronto. I hate to say it because they're all terrible people but I actually had fun hanging out with the squatmates and comrades, which makes me feel pathetic because that definitely wasn't the point of the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    S Moss

    Woman Adrift Alice Mellings, product of a comfortable bourgeois upbringing, has turned violently against that upbringing and the people who created it: her parents and the British middle-class in the mid-1980s. Her dislike has mutated into a simmering rage that seeks outlet through protest groups for various causes, some Communist inspired, others aligned with the IRA, at that time openly violent against Britain. At age thirty-six, she seems a bit old for this behavior, but her life is stalemated Woman Adrift Alice Mellings, product of a comfortable bourgeois upbringing, has turned violently against that upbringing and the people who created it: her parents and the British middle-class in the mid-1980s. Her dislike has mutated into a simmering rage that seeks outlet through protest groups for various causes, some Communist inspired, others aligned with the IRA, at that time openly violent against Britain. At age thirty-six, she seems a bit old for this behavior, but her life is stalemated in a non-sexual relationship with an exploitative, sometimes physically aggressive, homosexual, Jasper, whom others dislike. She stoutly defends him, because she loves him and admires what she considers his leadership ability. For the past fifteen years, the length of her relationship with Jasper, she has moved from squat to commune to squat (condemned or unoccupied housing scheduled for demolition) furiously busying herself with obtaining official recognition of the squat as temporary housing for its usually unemployed, dissident occupants, and securing bourgeois amenities, such as electricity, water and garbage collection, from London utilities. She prides herself on her bourgeois look and behavior which enable her to exploit and convince reluctant bureaucrats that she will fulfill obligations to pay, when in fact she intends to enjoy the resources and move on when the money fails. The novel begins as Alice and Jasper move into a new squat, a solid old house, scheduled for demolition at some indefinite future time, the result of housing development schemes that lost steam when the profit in them died out. Its occupants are a lesbian couple, Roberta and Faye, Pat and Bert (Jasper’s friend), and Jim, a young, black printer, who can’t find a job because his training was on older printing methods no longer in use. Not only can’t Jim find a job despite his best efforts, he’s been rejected by previous tenants in the squat, who moved on because they wouldn’t accept Bert’s plan to offer their “services as an England-based entity” (9) to help the IRA. Jim sits in his room drumming and ignoring the floors above him which are filled with buckets of feces because the toilets were blocked with cement to prevents squatters. Alice and Jasper have just been thrown out of her mother’s house after four years of comfortable bourgeois existence at Dorothy’s expense; Dorothy and Jasper violently dislike each other, and she is finally exhausted paying their bills and receiving scorn in return. Alice’s father, whom she dislikes even more adamantly, had divorced Dorothy about six years previously, and now has a new wife, two young children and a comfortable new house. Periodically Alice rages violently over trivial incidents, but her attitude toward Jasper is submissive and acceptive of his sometimes violent peculiarities, which include occasional homosexual forays (that she discreetly ignores) and an attraction to older men with whom he adopts a younger brother role. They sleep in separate sleeping bags, and Alice is abjectly grateful when he permits her to sleep in the same room. She thinks of him almost maternally, as she does several other members of the squat, especially slender, defenseless Philip, ejected from his girl friend’s apartment. He moves in and sets to work fixing the plumbing, electrical and roof, the only person besides Alice who spends time repairing the house. Roberta and Faye are a closed, neurotic couple that allows Alice no role in their relationship, as Faye makes hysterically clear when they first meet. Roberta’s role with Faye is similar to Alice’s with Jasper, defending her and taking care of the practical details of their survival, which are minimal as their dirty room shows. Pat and Bert, another couple, have an active sexual relationship, which is Pat’s only enticement to remain because she is serious about her revolutionary activity; Alice is attracted to Pat’s seriousness but repelled by her sexual liaison with Bert. Bert and Jasper form an alliance that ensures for the most part they do no real work to support the squat’s survival and instead concentrate on various political protests, ultimately shown to be foolish and rejected by real revolutionaries such as the IRA and the KGB. Later Mary and Reggie move in, an economic convenience as she’s actually employed by a London bureaucracy, so can be a helpful contact; however, she and the recently fired Reggie are so completely bourgeois in their attitudes that they even bring in a large double bed for their room, a TV and make clear they see the squat as a way to save money on rent until they can move elsewhere. While Alice, Jasper and Bert form a revolutionary core, based on their own version of a communist group (CCU—Communist Centre Union), the squat’s inhabitants are ill-matched in terms of interests and needs, thrown together by economic forces and their unwillingness or inability to find satisfactory roles in British society. The middle-class members like Jasper and Bert affect working-class accents, while Faye uses a Cockney accent at times, and only Jim is really Cockney. Everyone is trying to be something they are not, which further compounds the difficulty of working together. They have little concern for each other, quickly forgetting Jim when he abruptly leaves and lacking interest to attend Philip’s funeral, although they create a fleeting semblance of a warm, unified family when they gather in the kitchen to eat one of Alice’s frequent soups. As the novel develops, Lessing slowly reveals background, usually through the characters’ actions as seen by Alice; there are no introductory passages to present characters’ past history or psychology, except for a brief explanation that Jasper was outraged at his father’s bankruptcy due to “dubious investments”; because he was “very clever” he was given a scholarship that he saw “as charity” (31). Incident by incident, details about the characters emerge. Alice has willful blind spots in her perceptions, which result in internal confusion that she represses and ignores by taking on the endless chores of maintaining the house. Her inconsistencies and contradictions come to a head at the end of the novel when she is confounded with the difficulty of deciding whether the agent who demands the matériel (dissembled guns) is the Irish-American he claims to be or a KGB agent. Usually relying on her instincts, backed up by an intuitive ability to read a person’s body language, when she meets real revolutionaries with their trained ability to show nothing distinguishing or to present incorrect signals, she is at a loss, without realizing she is out of her depth. Because he is English and not Russian, she is warmly attracted to Peter Cecil, who suddenly appears asking about a neighboring squat’s mysterious member (probably under KGB control). The squat has finally decided their English culture doesn’t fit in with the rigid Russian mentality, so she considers discussing the bombing that she has just participated in, because this new Englishman would certainly understand, rejecting “a doubt … she could not pin … down to anything, so suppressed it” (450). Later she realizes Peter must belong to Britain’s “MI-6 or MI-5…or one of those bloody things” (453), begins to despise him as upper-class and fascist, and wonders what she had said to him the previous day. “Alice did know that she forgot things, but not how badly, or how often” (454), Lessing warns the reader because Alice is about to be caught between Scylla and Charybdis, and all she can do is revert to childhood fantasies of being “a good girl” (454). So “the poor baby sat waiting for it to be time to go out and meet the professionals,” an ironic reflection of her previous sentimental reflections on the bourgeois “ordinary people….Alice sat with tears in her eyes, thinking. ‘Poor things, poor things, they simply don’t understand!’--as if she had her arms around all the poor silly ordinary people in the world” (451). By the novel’s conclusion it is clear that Lessing is not on either side in the ideological struggle. Yes, the squatters are correct about the failings in Britain, but the choices they make to effect change are mainly ineffective or tragic errors, like the bombing of the hotel and Alice’s desire to explain their actions to a stranger just because he is British. The machinations of the IRA and the KGB are equally reprehensible, as their solutions revolve around violence and destruction without real concern for the innocent people who will be involved and in general stiffen British resistance, as even the squatters realize when they insist their brand of revolution rises from their unique British culture, even though no one ever explains exactly what this cultural difference entails. Just as the lives of all the members of the squat are dysfunctional reflections of their families or the way they have been treated when they tried to find work, so too their understanding of their political philosophy and how to achieve their goals is incoherent and inconsistent, as they try to unite those who want to save the whales with those who want to promulgate Leninist theories of social development (268). When they hold their conference to develop a coherent CCU philosophy, they never get past the second agenda item as everyone really just wants to attend the party after the conference. While Lessing portrays the squatters objectively, sensitive to the personal and social issues that have caused them to oppose the situation in Britain, as the novel progresses it becomes apparent most will have no effective role in social change, being “useful idiots, [with] vague and untutored enthusiasm for communism” (300). There is a hint of Lessing’s ironic distance when she describes Alice’s naive reflections on what she had learned since coming to the squat several months ago: that throughout the country there were networks of people, trained revolutionaries, “Kindly, skilled people [who] watched and waited, judging when people like herself...could be really useful. Unsuspected by the petits bourgeois who were in the thrall of the mental superstructure of fascist-imperialistic Britain, the poor slaves of propaganda, were these watchers, the observers, the people who held all the strings in their hands...everyone with any sort of potential was noticed, observed, treasured...It gave her a safe, comfortable feeling” (305). When she later petulantly refuses to take a transit shipment of matériel, which turns out to be dissembled guns, she discovers the angry KGB agent could easily kill her for disobedience. But until that incident, she and Jasper achieve naive thrills by painting dissident slogans on walls or joining a group in a fierce downpour to toss fruit and eggs at Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, while others, like the more serious Pat, have been silently selected for real training and sent to “spy universities” in Lithuania or Czechoslovakia, as Alice finally realizes. As well as describing the range of people who live in a squat, along with their issues and expectations, Lessing’s main focus is on the emotional and intellectual dynamic that drives Alice’s erratic behavior. Operating on instinctual responses, an ability she doesn’t fully understand and can’t back up with logical analysis, she is emotionally driven as her frequent rages and tearful outbursts indicate. The root of her internal, unresolved conflict is that she feels a “violent derision, like a secret threat” to “suburban affluence and calm…At the same time, parallel to this emotion and in no way affecting it, ran another current, of want, of longing” (27). This is one of her blind spots, as is her refusal to accept any criticism of Jasper’s behavior toward her, because she has an intense need to mother and support him, although his aims are cloudy and ultimately kept secret from her. Similarly, she blindly expects to find the money needed to keep the utilities operational in the squat, although her family has now broken all ties with her, and she doesn’t even turn her attention on the other members of the squat, adopting a laissez faire attitude, seemingly willing to have them live there even if she must take on all the burden of providing the minimum of physical necessities, which is exactly what her mother had done for the past four years that she and Jasper lived with her. Without realizing it, using the model of her mother’s activities while she was growing up, Alice tries to recreate a facsimile bourgeois environment from which to attack bourgeois society; the only differences are that the squatters are recycling, using rejected items, surviving on social security benefits and skirting paying for utilities. The irony is lost on Alice and the others, who have picked their causes and pursue them blindly. Lessing avoids sentimentalizing or ridiculing the squatters and uses little moralizing or commentary, except when Dorothy accuses her daughter of being “spoiled” by her upbringing and in the book’s final incidents when the author’s sympathy for Alice’s imminent, uncomprehended peril is apparent. Mostly Lessing has enabled the reader to see the squatters as human refuse and Alice as a dedicated if ineffective worker trying to right the social flaws that have crippled her comrades and herself. Alice, despite her ability to nurture others by aping her mother and providing large pots of nourishing soup for the squat and their meetings, which results in admiration for her and a sense of her necessity for the survival of the group, is internally tormented. She fears “being excluded, left out. Unwanted” (122), which she tries to overcome by making her role indispensable for the survival of the squat. The origin of this feeling is found in childhood memories of being displaced from her room whenever her parents had their frequent, large parties. This caused a feeling that her parents had no real place for her, which may have been true to a certain extent as they were absorbed with their friends. On the other hand she shared their comfortable existence, which she learned to despise only after it had vanished. When the family fell on hard times and the money and parties ceased, her internal contradictions began to surface, resulting in her rage at them and her blind exploitation of their help and money. At one point she prides herself that as a child she had never stolen anything from her parents (228), but this is just after she has stolen from her father’s new house and been thrown out of her mother’s; she does not see these events as contradicting her image of herself as a child, because that is what she still is internally. The picture that emerges is an immature woman, too emotional to clearly analyze herself and the people closest to her, reliant upon instincts that are shaped by social prejudices, including those she has taken over from the socialist, revolutionary movement. She despises Muriel, also a member of a squat, because she’s from a higher social level, just as she had vowed to despise all higher-class girls at her school, showing her own blind class prejudice, no different from bourgeois scorn of the working class, and her inability to see these contradictions. As her father comments, she lives in a “dreamworld” (248), with little connection to reality, her family or even her putative friends in the squat. For anyone who is injured or incapable of helping themselves, such as Philip or Jim or even ultimately hysterical Faye, she applies all her skills to help them and makes significant personal sacrifices, but she cannot understand her own emotional needs and limitations, even though she routinely tries to console herself by remembering that most people in the world have much less than she has had—most in fact never have a room of their own. Ironically, because she is displaced from her comfortable family home, which she is blindly replicating in the squat, she is now determined to destroy the bourgeoisie and ensure that everyone will live in shared, communal housing, which she magically believes will ensure in the future that no one is ever subjected to a harsh childhood, denied employment or exploited. Because Lessing so skillfully takes the reader inside Alice’s upside-down world, through the looking-glass into the revolutionary universe that is a mirror image of the ineffective bourgeois world, the reader is required to navigate between sympathy and realization of Alice’s limitations, an understanding even she achieves partially as the novel progresses. She sees that the squat isn’t a cohesive family when all refuse to attend Philip’s funeral, and that she is deliberately left out of Jasper’s and Bert’s plans to bomb a hotel because she would likely have a different view, which might cause the squat to oppose the men’s plans. For all her efforts and mothering, she remains an outsider as she has been all her life, a willing servant to their needs, just as her mother later reveals she had been throughout her life--sacrificing herself to fulfill the needs of her husband and family. The novel contains so many levels, so many ironic reflections of behavior by different characters (Alice and Dorothy as mirror images, Alice and Roberta, Alice and Pat, perhaps Jasper and Cedric), and such an objective, distanced and mildly despairing view of Britain that the reader is left without an easy explanation of why and how well-intentioned youth decide that terrorism will remedy the wrongs they perceive. The book’s ironic title completely exemplifies the paradoxes that Lessing has exposed, even if she too has not been able to unravel and explain them, or show how they can be avoided.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steven Gonzales

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Dorris Lessing’s novel is a brilliant representation of the fallacy of the mixing of the ideals of communism/socialism and the unfortunate faultiness of human nature. Although the actual story of a group of revolutionaries living in a squat, fixing up a house and attempting to get into contact with various higher-up communist groups doesn’t exactly peak interest, the message behind the novel suffices in entertaining its audience. Furthermore, the characters portrayed throughout the story are mos Dorris Lessing’s novel is a brilliant representation of the fallacy of the mixing of the ideals of communism/socialism and the unfortunate faultiness of human nature. Although the actual story of a group of revolutionaries living in a squat, fixing up a house and attempting to get into contact with various higher-up communist groups doesn’t exactly peak interest, the message behind the novel suffices in entertaining its audience. Furthermore, the characters portrayed throughout the story are mostly nothing but childlike adults who seem to know very little of their so called Cause, but, again, their character does reflect very well on the fruitlessness of their efforts as viewed by the audience. Lessing’s main character, Alice Mellings, provides excellent parallels within the novel towards the idea of this fruitlessness. Communism, the idea that all peoples are equal and have equal rights along with the idea that work should be rewarded in direct relation to the amount of work done, is severely challenged, whether Lessing’s purpose was to do so or not in a wonderful fashion. The argument that socialist/communist ideals written on paper as opposed to being lived out has always been a personal favorite, the former always seeming to be a wonderful idea until the latter proves that it cannot work and Lessing makes that painfully obvious in her work. Alice herself being a prime example of the one simple fact that makes the living of a commune so difficult: selfishness. The audience observes this all throughout, first seeing Alice’s attitude towards her parents, and later with the way she fusses about the house that is found by Bert. She first breaks her own ideology by stealing money from her father, and then goes on crying in a pitifully childish way to have the lights and gas turned on, always forcing her emotions onto others to attain what she wants. These actions are used by Lessing to show the contradiction of how young communists living in England got through daily life by becoming thieves and parasites on cultured society by refusing to contribute as working class citizens, yet preaching and complaining about the parasitic upper-class that feeds on the proletariats. Lessing uses the actions of this group of revolutionaries to send another statement as well, as throughout the novel the smaller inner group constantly debate the acceptance of characters such as Jim and Phillip and then later the couple of Mary and Reggie. Lessing excellently uses these scenes to contradict the first part of the definition of Communism, providing characters that cannot seem to understand that they are creating a class filled system by stating that some people cannot be like them if they deem them unfit. Overall the novel has a knowledgeable political and moral message to convey to its audience, though the story that follows the characters is quite dry and unentertaining until about halfway through the tale. I would recommend the book to anyone who has plenty of time on their hands because reading this book in only a few sittings would not wholly be enjoyable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tiredstars

    Skimming over some of the reviews below, I feel like I might have sympathised more with the characters in The Good Terrorist, and may have liked the book more as a result. As an account of a radical subculture in 1980s Britain, I can't say how accurate the book is. I would guess that it is, because in every other way it is relentlessly grounded and realistic. It's a book where the quest of the main character Alice is basically fixing up a house. Digging pits to pour shit into. Repairing the roof, Skimming over some of the reviews below, I feel like I might have sympathised more with the characters in The Good Terrorist, and may have liked the book more as a result. As an account of a radical subculture in 1980s Britain, I can't say how accurate the book is. I would guess that it is, because in every other way it is relentlessly grounded and realistic. It's a book where the quest of the main character Alice is basically fixing up a house. Digging pits to pour shit into. Repairing the roof, getting the plumbing working, scrounging a boiler. Alice is a reminder of the (mainly) women working away behind revolutionaries and visionaries, experts at the day-to-day things that their compatriots ignore. Are all women who confine themselves to this role the same as Alice, limiting themselves, with no-one to care for them? The commune/political party Lessing describes, along with its members, are petty, pompous, vicious, intellectually vacuous, politically impotent (if not counter-productive)... But at the same time the rest of the world is a harsh place, full of good houses destroyed while people are homeless, violent, childish police, unscrupulous bosses, officials who are uncaring or doing things they don't want to. Lessing seems to almost takes these facts about the existing system for granted. Who would want to integrate with an become part of this system? What can be done against it, though? The Good Terrorist shows emphatically what not to do. What do we need? Courage, compassion, self-awareness? More mundanity and practicality? Less self-negation? More pleasure? (Lessing distinctly link Alice's aversion to sex with her refusal to face up to things.) Somehow care for people has to mix with reform or revolution of the existing system. The council officials or police willing to throw people out of empty houses onto the streets in the name of the system mirror the revolutionaries willing to blow up random pedestrians in the name of revolution. But Alice is almost the other extreme, an intense care for the people around her - does this intensity lead inevitably to a detachment or hatred of others? If there's one criticism of the book, I found the author's judgement in the ending a little harsh, and her assessment of the intelligence services as "the professionals" - given the way other officials in the book operate - a little surprising. I found the Good Terrorist enthralling but consistently sad, even upsetting. The effort put in to maintaining such a fragile world, where setbacks are always lurking, and failure is inevitable. A postscript to the book: from this week, the sort of tolerated squatting, putting empty houses to use, that it describes is over in England and Wales. Squatting in vacant residential property has become a criminal offence. Today, the characters would be criminals from the outset.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Martin

    The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing is a very unique book. Personally I do not know much about the IRA or the other groups Lessing mentioned. I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book for the first time. After I began reading it I could not put it down. It was a quick, easy read that was very interesting. I actually enjoyed reading this novel despite the emotional exhaustion. The entire novel was a rollercoaster of emotions. The cause of the emotional part of this novel was Alice a The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing is a very unique book. Personally I do not know much about the IRA or the other groups Lessing mentioned. I did not know what to expect when I picked up this book for the first time. After I began reading it I could not put it down. It was a quick, easy read that was very interesting. I actually enjoyed reading this novel despite the emotional exhaustion. The entire novel was a rollercoaster of emotions. The cause of the emotional part of this novel was Alice and her constant crying and anger throughout. She never could figure out what she wanted in life or how to make her situation any better. Consequently, she was either crying or having a bipolar moment with her anger every other page. Her character was on the fence about how to feel about the new “family” she had after leaving hers. You can definitely tell that she doesn’t completely agree with everything being done and that she really did belong in the middle class that she had known her whole life. Something that is common no matter the age or social standing is the concern of money. How will I get more, do I have enough, and how will I spend what I do have were questions that were posed throughout this novel. This allows whoever is reading to be able to relate to the characters since a main concern of everyone’s is money. The question that will run through your mind is why money is a concern of people who aren’t supposed to care about social standings, which includes money. Another brain teaser that is in this novel comes with the character Faye. Faye is another emotional character and the real reasons are left to the imagination. One thing that is not is her wanting to die. When reading you always have a feeling that she is in a calm before the storm moment. She plays a huge part in when and where the bomb is going to be. With the twist that comes with her not getting out of the car so do the questions. What was her real reasoning for staying in the car? Was it on purpose? Was it on accident? That is something that is never answered and will mess with your mind until you determine what your opinion of the matter is. Overall this is a novel worth reading. I think it reminds everyone how precious things in life are from possessions to people to life. It also reminds us how society can be cruel. It is definitely an eye opener on how people are treated and the things that can be done to prevent these types of events from happening.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shaima Faisal

    "No one bothers to ask any longer if it achieves anything, going on marches and demos. They talk about how they feel. That's what they care about. It's for kicks. It's for fun." The story revolves around a group of people in London during the 1980s whom they call themselves "revolutionist/communist". They go on demonstrations and organize operations to vandalize public utilities and buildings, thinking that it will help the Cause and bring the Fascist system down. The group depends on Alice to pr "No one bothers to ask any longer if it achieves anything, going on marches and demos. They talk about how they feel. That's what they care about. It's for kicks. It's for fun." The story revolves around a group of people in London during the 1980s whom they call themselves "revolutionist/communist". They go on demonstrations and organize operations to vandalize public utilities and buildings, thinking that it will help the Cause and bring the Fascist system down. The group depends on Alice to provide money, food, and accommodation. While she struggles to fulfil their needs (mothers them), they seem to be ungrateful and careless. Something goes wrong towards the end of the story and the group falls apart and scatter, running away and not wanting to be held responsible or to be blamed.. I found the pace of events very very slow and weakly composed, specially in the first 200 pages. I wish Doris have put more effort in the mindset and aspirations of the characters instead of how to make building 45 livable.. I think that would've given the plot more richness and depth, adding to the political dimension of the plot and reflecting more on the title of the novel. The Good Terrorist is a 1985 political novel by Doris Lessing, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and won the Mondello Prize and the WH Smith Literary Award. Doris Lessing was a British novelist, poet, playwright, librettist, biographer and short story writer. Lessing was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. Lessing was the eleventh woman and the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Øystein Bjaanes

    Seems you do judge a book by its cover, or, at least: I do. I have no idea where my wife bought this book (neither does she, by the way), but it's a book club edition from the 80's, and the cover screams "boooring" at me. But I have resolved to read all works of fiction currently in our living room that I have not previously read. That includes this book. And I loved it. I found it to be a very well written look at the inner life of a radical. Now Alice, the protagonist, is probably not your typic Seems you do judge a book by its cover, or, at least: I do. I have no idea where my wife bought this book (neither does she, by the way), but it's a book club edition from the 80's, and the cover screams "boooring" at me. But I have resolved to read all works of fiction currently in our living room that I have not previously read. That includes this book. And I loved it. I found it to be a very well written look at the inner life of a radical. Now Alice, the protagonist, is probably not your typical radical. She's smart (many radicals are, don't get me wrong), but she isn't really a "fringe nut", if I may charachterize freely. Mostly, she is your archetypical mother hen. Fixing food, fixing electricity, cleaning, getting rid of the garbage, keeping the police off the lawn (ok, that last bit isn't really archetypical). She does not seem like your communist terrorist at all - and, mostly, she isn't. She's angry, very angry - but mostly she just tries to make things ok. On the other hand, she simply can't see her parents' situation. They're borgeous. Part of the establishment. And rich. In her mind. The protrait of Alice Mellings is really fascinating. A very complex person, good and kind but willing to employ violence. Always trying to make sure everyone is all right. Kind and forthcoming, yet judgemental. It may feel a bit dated. England in the 80's was, from what I've read, ... a different place. Still worth reading - well worth it!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fulya İçöz

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is my first reading of a Doris Lessing novel. I knew her from her short stories. The Good Terrorist would rather be a short story, too. As a novel, it avoids the economy of words. The beginning of the novel, the cause Alice has been fighting for and Jasper, is sucking her body and soul like a ferocious parasite, the beautiful delineation of theirs, for the lack of a better word, symbiotic relationship goes so well at the very beginning. All of a sudden, the novel loses its tempo and for a f This is my first reading of a Doris Lessing novel. I knew her from her short stories. The Good Terrorist would rather be a short story, too. As a novel, it avoids the economy of words. The beginning of the novel, the cause Alice has been fighting for and Jasper, is sucking her body and soul like a ferocious parasite, the beautiful delineation of theirs, for the lack of a better word, symbiotic relationship goes so well at the very beginning. All of a sudden, the novel loses its tempo and for a few chapters, the reader is exposed to some double-talk which genuinely does not contribute anything either to the discourse or the plot of the novel. Until Philip's death. The most vital point to me was the heart-to-heart dialogue between Alice and her mother. Dorothy's heartbreaking story as a woman and an incomplete individual was a kind of foreshadowing for Alice's future. Their similarities but most of all their differences would make them the figures of their somehow vicious circle.

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