Alfred and Emily
In this profoundly moving book, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing explores the lives of her parents, each irrevocably damaged by the Great War. In the fictional first half of Alfred and Emily, she imagines the happier lives her parents might have made for themselves had there been no war. This is followed by a piercing examination of their relationship as it actually was in the shadow of the devastating global conflict.
“Here I still am,” says Lessing, “trying to get out from under that monstrous legacy, trying to get free.” Triumphantly, with Alfred and Emily, she has done just that.
The Barnes & Noble Review
“In our family, as far as we are concerned, we were born, and what happened before that is myth,” pronounced V. S. Pritchett in A Cab at the Door, the entertaining 1968 memoir about his English childhood.
In the fictionalized first half of Alfred and Emily — a hybrid that sutures together a novella and a memoir — Doris Lessing concerns herself not with what actually preceded her birth but with what might have. She extends Pritchett’s notion by erasing herself from the picture and conjuring mythical versions of her parents, reimagining their lives without World War One. The result is they would never have married and, by Lessing’s admission, would have thus been much happier.