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sarahf1984

Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

The Good Terrorist by Doris Lessing

The Good Terrorist - Doris Lessing

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 SPOILER ALERT SPOILER

 

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'.