"When The Golden Notebook was published in 1962, it was greeted by The New York Times Book Review as a "coruscating literary event." It's enduring place in modern letters was at once foreseen. Irving Howe said of it, "This novel will be discussed repeatedly in the years to come. It is the most absorbing and exciting piece of new fiction I have read in a decade: it moves with the beat of our time and it is true."
The Four-Gated City is Doris Lessing's most important work since The Golden Notebook.
The City of the title is London...or is it? The book is about the last twenty years - but it bursts like a Japanese water toy into an ending like space fiction. Is it a social chronicle? Yes, Autobiographical? Perhaps. Reportorial? In parts. The familiar categories are dissolved by a major writer at the height of her power - in a novel as wholly unprecedented as the Notebook of seven years ago.
It will provoke disquiet and questioning. Mrs. Lessing's view of recent politics is not everyone's. Her view of the future (inevitably brutish and painful) is that it is the present: that we are all hypnotized, awaiting cataclysms which we are in fact living through now; that we are now - as we run and read - in the process of a rapid evolution; that we are mutating fast but can't see it, the chief characteristic of our race being its inability to see what is under its nose; that historians and scientists, in their timid traditionalism, feed our fantasy view of ourselves - suppressing truths about the human condition, about madness, about sanity, about the essential nature of the mind.
In four previous novels, set in Africa and looking back to the past, to the violent heritage that shapes our social and psychological present, Doris Lessing has explored the end of an epoch. Now, in this immense visionary novel, she carries her protagonist, Martha Quest, to London and the world - into the present and the future. The power of her vision, its very shock and anguish, should prove liberating for the generation she defines as the Children of Violence."