"Kate Brown is faced for the first time in twenty years with the prospect of being alone, because her husband, a successful neurologist, is going to work for some months in an American hospital. Urged by him to take a job, she embarks a summer of exploration, freedom and self-discovery, during which she rejects the stereotypes of femininity - which, like her conventional clothes, do not fit her anymore. What Kate finds out about herself in this summer of crisis enrages and appalls her, but brings her face to face with herself.
As in The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing is concerned with the situation of present-day woman. But her treatment of the emotional gulf which opens before a 45-year-old woman who is no longer needed as a wife and mother is a starting-point for much more - confrontation with the threat of annihilation, the terrors of old age and death.
When the novel begins, Kate Brown is a fashionable and competent woman in a suburb garden: before it ends she is stripped of everything she believes she is. The Summer Before the Dark resembles the author's first novel, The Grass is Singing, more than any since: it is a simple narrative, simply narrative, simply told, but through dreams, through archetype and myth, the woman is related to the dark impersonal forces that underlie all our lives.
As The Times said, in reviewing her last novel, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 'Mrs. Lessing has become a universal novelist.'"