As a devoted fan of Doris Lessing for many, many years, I found Alfred and Emily extremely disappointing; in fact, I wonder if it had not been better for her literary image if she had never written it. It was a book that I kept putting to one side, wondering whether or not I would eventually have the energy to see it through to the end. The prose is laboured and the two parts - the real and the fictional - work against each other to cause confusion. The idea of writing two stories about her parents, both as they were and as Lessing would have liked to them to have been, did not work for me; it is possible that the book may have gained by being completely factual or completely fictional but not as a mixture of both. I also felt that Lessing used the book as a platform to expound on her own talents, which, for me, seemed very out of sync with what one would expect from Lessing. There is a point where the dancer hangs up his/her dancing shoes, and, perhaps, there should also be a point where the writer lays down his/her pen.
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