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The Good Terrorist

Year First Published: 1985
First Published by:Jonathan Cape Ltd
This Edition:British first edition

From the book jacket:

The Council, to discourage squatters, have sent in workmen to make the place uninhabitable, but that will hardly stop Alice. She is a veteran of some fourteen years experience in squats and communes and here is a house which, judging by the smell coming from upstairs, can use her talents. Jasper is grudgingly proud of the way she knows how to confront officials, to wheedle the connection of water and electricity, to eliminate squalor - though predictably some of their new comrades make snide remarks about Alice's bourgeois domesticity, saying she cares more for curtains than issues. No one, however refused the delicious soup she concocts so economically and can expand to unthinkable quantities when a party congress is called.

According to an established pattern Jasper lets Alice look after him (though he never allows any physical closeness) and then complains that other people exploit her. The fact that they have been living off Alices mother for the past four years is ignored, a matter of expediency for which they are far from grateful. When Alice sees no alternative to stealing money from her father, Jasper is enraged to discover that she holds any back for emergencies.

Still, Alice cannot imaging life without Jasper and she sees herself as a committed revolutionary. When she isnt so busy nesting, she liked to be on the battlefront: picketing, being bound over and, best of all, spray-painting slogans. She is aware that the latest aim of the C.C.U. (Communist Centre Union) is to help the I.R.A., but is increasingly concerned about activities in the squat next door - what is buried in their garden and why there is a whiff of slick K.G.B. professionalism amidst their bungling English zeal. She is barely conscious of her deeper alarm about the plans hatching under her won roof: the dabbling with explosives, the ill-formed objectives, the disregard of consequences.

Doris Lessing has superbly portrayed the tensions and ironies of a certain kind of militant left-wind living today, drawing her characters with eloquent subtlety. She is attuned to the accents of the commune - posh tones slipping out when least appropriate. (Alice suspects that at least one accent was modelled on Coronation Street.) Individual idealism is nicely balanced against the behaviour of the group; English communism against manipulation from outside; the impulse to revolution against the dangers of amateurism. The Good Terrorist is a novel of enormous power, demonstrating Doris Lessings unusual insight and narrative abilities at their very best.

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