This is the high-tension story of a woman whose life was changed by a few careless words.
Even though Mary Turner had led a somewhat limited life in her sleepy South African town, she was happy until she overheard some friends say that she would never marry. At those words, her delicately balanced little world overturned, and she suddenly realized that it was desirable to have a husband, to be like the rest of her circle. Unconsciously she began to look for a man to marry, and she found one. He was a farmer - a hard-working sensitive man with an intense love of his land, a stubborn pride - but with a fatal weakness.
When Dick took her to his farm in the veldt, Mary stepped into a life completely different from anything she had ever imagined. She hated the stuffy little house; she hated the natives; she hated Dick at times and most of all she hated the burning heat and the loneliness. After one attempt to return to her life in town, she stayed on the farm, listening to the strident din of the cicadas and fighting against the realization that the security and happiness which she and Dick needed so desperately might never come.
Little by little the years worked their slow poison. And then finally one heat-laden afternoon, without even realizing what she had done, Mary Turner lit the fuse that led to a shattering explosion of violence and tragedy.
Doris Lessing's novel is a remarkable piece of work. At times as violent and harsh as the brown earth and arching blue sky of the veldt, The Grass Is Singing is mercilessly penetrating and casts a spell all its won. At times, too, it is angry at the festering question of black against white which broods over the land like thunder. But above all, it is the story of Mary Turner who was a victim of conflicting forces within herself set up by a few casual, overheard words.
Although born in Persia, Doris Lessing spent most of her childhood on her father's 3000-acre maize farm in Southern Rhodesia. Following her education at the Dominican Convent in Salisbury, she held a variety of jobs - nursemaid, telephone operator, chauffeur, and stenographer. Determined on a writing career, Mrs. Lessing, armed with £20 and the manuscript of The Grass Is Singing, arrived in England in the spring of 1949. Her novel was accepted immediately by Michael Joseph of London. Published there earlier this year, The Grass Is Singing was the March Daily Graphic Book Find of the Month.
Mrs. Lessing has been writing short stories and poems, many of them published in South African magazines, since she was seventeen. The Grass Is Singing is her first published novel.