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The Good Terrorist

Year First Published: 1985
First Published by:Alfred A. Knopf
This Edition:American first edition

From the book jacket:

"The scene is contemporary London, where a loose-knit group of political vagabonds comprises an ill-defined and volatile underground. Drifting from one cause to the next, they occupy abandoned houses, demonstrate and picket, devise strategies to fit situations that may or may not arise. But, within this worlds, one particular commune - one small group of men and women whose deepest conviction seems to rest in a sense of their own largely untested radicalism - is moving inexorable toward active terrorism.

At their center is Alice Mellings, who, though not the leader, is nevertheless the engine of the group. A brilliant organizer, Alice (in her mid-thirties) knows how to cope with almost anything, except the vacuum of her own life. And so we find her - in this latest of the countless squatters' communes she's inhabited during the past fifteen years - once again taking charge, taking care, being practical. Alice: fixing, replacing, conniving, convincing, cooking. Alice: always there, always reliable, giving her time and effort to running the house so that the others are free to take part in the demonstrations that are the motivating force of their lives. Alice: making herself indispensable - and invisible,; earning a precious sense of belonging by denying her own sense of self.

Suddenly, however, the stakes are rising. Some of the group appear to have ties to insurgents in North Ireland and even to Soviets who are "recruiting" ... a small bomb set off on a deserted street leads to ideas that are dangerously ambitious.. a crate of guns is left at the house for reasons Alice and her companions don't want to understand fully... and there is a man, a "professional," who is eager to meet with Alice and discuss her future with his organization.

Now there is dissension within the commune, a dissolution of the already tenuous focus and spirit that has so far kept it whole, and Alice finds herself at the center again. But this time it is the center of a circle on the verge of collapse, and it falls to her to make decisions that entail a kind of terrorism - political and personal - that she has never really meant to involve herself in, but which, finally, she may be helpless to avoid.

In The Good Terrorist Doris Lessing has given us not only an extraordinarily vivid picture of communal life and lives (the leader, who guards his lair with oppressive jealousy; the imposing female "lieutenant," whose strength goes far beyond those she serves; the madwoman, whose political actions may be the only vent for her severe emotional turmoil; the hangers-on, the intruders, the abusers, the abused), but also a profoundly intuited and timely portrait of the kind of personalities - who they are, how they function, what makes them tick - that can be drawn to this dangerous and frightening way of life."

    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and received The W.H. Smith Literary Award and the Mondello Prize in Italy.

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