Lessing News

Lara Feigel’s memoir, Free Woman

Lara Feigel, of King’s College London, has recently written a memoir that is, in part, a reflection on her experiences with marriage and motherhood but also, in equally large part, a reflection on reading Doris Lessing — Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, in particular. Feigel’s book is titled Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing and is published by Bloomsbury in the UK.

Linked below are the early reviews from the British press; we’ll update this post when the book appears in North America.

Feigel also wrote a companion essay for The Guardian, here.

Joanna Biggs, Financial Times, 2 Mar. 2018, https://www.ft.com/content/cda276f8-1ca6-11e8-a748-5da7d696ccab

Julie Parsons, The Irish Times, 24 Mar. 2018, https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/free-woman-by-lara-feigel-review-a-journey-into-the-life-of-a-feminist-icon-1.3434084

Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian, 27 Feb. 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/27/free-woman-lara-feigel-review-doris-lessing

Patrick French, The Guardian, 3 Mar. 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/03/free-woman-life-liberation-doris-lessing-lara-feigel-review

Ruth Scurr, Prospect, 16 Mar. 2018, https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/arts-and-books/sex-lies-and-communism-finding-freedom-through-doris-lessing

Christina Patterson, The Times, 25 Feb. 2018, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/free-woman-doris-lessing-lara-feigel-review-cwmb2plqf (paywall)

Paula Byrne, The Times, 24 Mar. 2018, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/review-free-woman-by-lara-feigel-searching-for-free-love-with-doris-lessing-czmc93x0p (paywall)


Clancy Sigal, 1926-2017

Last month saw the death of the American author and essayist Clancy Sigal, who was a major figure in Doris Lessing’s life during the late 1950s and early ’60s. Sigal’s novels include Zone of the Interior (1976) and The Secret Defector (1992), and his nonfiction works include Going Away (1961) and Black Sunset, published just last year.

Sigal and Lessing’s intense relationship had a complex influence on several of their writings, including The Golden Notebook — as has recently been explored by Roberta Rubenstein in her book Literary Half-Lives: Doris Lessing, Clancy Sigal, and Roman à Clef. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas also has a page about the pair.

Sigal was a prolific essayist in the literary and political press. Links to some obituaries and remembrances follow. Feel free to cite further write-ups in the comments, or contact us with a link.


Clancy Sigal with Doris Lessing


The Guardian

New York Times

Los Angeles Times


Jenny Diski’s memoirs of life with Doris Lessing

The current issue of the New York Review of Books features a lengthy review, by Hermione Lee, of Jenny Diski’s memoir, In Gratitude, which was published earlier in 2016. Diski died of cancer this spring, just days after the book saw publication in the UK.

96548932-xlarge_transqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8Much of the memoir focuses on Diski’s complex relationship with Doris Lessing. After breaking with her parents, Diski lived several years in Lessing’s care, in the author’s London home during the 1960s. Diski went on to a successful writing career from the 1980s forward. On receiving her cancer diagnosis in 2014, Diski began in the London Review of Books a series of essays that in large part explored her memories of Lessing. Published as In Gratitude, the collection is the most substantial literary reflection on Doris Lessing to appear since her death in 2013.


For those interested in the reception of Diski’s book — particularly its perspective on Lessing — below are links to a range of notices and reviews, in reverse chronological order. Feel free to submit reviews you think should be listed here by contacting us.

Hermione Lee, “The Triumph of Jenny Diski,” New York Review of Books

Andrea DenHoed, “Jenny Diski’s Way of Seeing Beyond the Story,” New Yorker

Heidi Julavitis, “Jenny Diski’s In Gratitude,” New York Times

Martin Rubin, “Book Review: In Gratitude,” Washington Times

Anne Enright, “Writing against the clock,” Irish Times

Hester Abrams, “Review: In Gratitude,” Jewish Chronicle Online

Marion McLeod, “Book of the Week,” The Spinoff (New Zealand)

Jane Shilling, “Life with Doris: the lesser of two evils,” Daily Mail

Tim Adams, “On death … and Doris,” The Guardian

Writer Jenny Diski dies aged 68, BBC News

Jenny Diski interview by Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times (subscription required)

the Doris Lessing collection at the Harare City Library

post today on the London Review of Books blog discusses the Doris Lessing Special Collection at the Harare City Library in Harare, Zimbabwe. Lessing donated over 3,000 books from her personal collection to the library on her death in 2013. The collection opened to the public 3 months ago, as reported here.

Lessing reflected on her early education and spoke about the importance of access to literature, especially in postcolonial societies, in her 2007 Nobel lecture.