The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing

The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing, Book Review

The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing

Book: The Grass is Singing

Author: Doris Lessing

Publication: Fourth Estate; New edition (1 March 2013)

Pages: 208

Price: Click the link 


The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing is set at the backdrop of Southern Rhodesia, South Africa torn up in racial Politics of White V/S Black

Though there was no mystery in the murder of Mrs Turner, as the murderer was at hand and the reason was handy, yet the plot opens with the paper cutting of murder mystery.

The mystery was there in the complex hierarchies of relationships between the white and the black, the shifted paradigm of master and servant.


The Grass is Singing
The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing, Book Review


Yes…the title is catchy and unique that demands special attention. Taken from Part-V of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land,

(“In this decayed hole among the mountains

In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing

Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel…”), the title insinuates at the arid landscape with pessimistic human existence.

The Tapestry of Human Fate:

Set at the backdrop of Southern Rhodesia, Dorris Lessing’s, The Grass is Singing is a scathing allegory of racial apartheid.

The novel centres around the dark trajectories of Dick Turner, Mary Turner and Moses, the black servant.

Mary with an unfortunate childhood of drunkard father and embittered mother Mary moves to the city where she leads her life in her own independence.

But later she married Dick and came to his farm that appears bleak and suffocating to him.

She couldn’t adjust to her new life and mostly with the black people working there. She felt an indefinable loathing towards them. Her severe hatred and mistreatment led every black worker to quit their home and finally, Moses was appointed by her husband who was once whipped by Mary herself in charge of impudence.

Gradually Mary lost her sanity in the trench of chronic depression and haunting fear. Her husband’s incompetency in handling the farm, his illness, their poor condition led her to the brink of frustration. She gave herself to the care of Moses in spite of her intense distaste for him. Mary’s too much dependence and intimacy with Moses seemed absurd and eerie in others’ eyes.

But why she apprehended and awaited death at the hand of Moses remained unanswered to me. Yes, she obviously felt sorry for him due to Tony’s rudeness. But I think in her heart there was the gnawing resentment at the continuous clash between her previous abusiveness to Moses and recent dependency.

“And at the sight of him, her emotions unexpectedly shifted, to create in her as an extraordinary feeling of guilt; but towards him, to whom she had been disloyal, and at the bidding of the Englishman. She felt she had only to move forward, to explain, to appeal, and the terror would be dissolved. She opened her mouth to speak…”

But it was too late as she saw “his hands which held a long curving shape.”

The Landscape:

Nature speaks so vividly in the background of the novel and sometimes so rudely that the protagonists feel helpless in their whimsical hands. Sometimes it seems the landscape shapes the characters and their fate. The helpless solitude appeared unbearable to Dick and he even preferred the arrogant and uncompromising wife’s presence in the house desperately. While on the other hand for Mary everything was pathetically unbearable. The barrenness, the monochromatic parade of life made her insane.

Alvina’s verdict:

This book, winner of the Novel Prize for Literature for the author, is really worth reading not for the acclamation but for the painstaking probing into the heart of the characters. The novel explores the inner turmoil, the bleak arid psyche of the human soul poignantly. The social dichotomy, discrimination, futile fever of restless heart all amalgamate beautifully in a single binding.



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