The Cleft: A Novel - Doris Lessing I must say, when I started this book, I didn't quite realize what I was getting myself into. Half the time I don't quite take the time to know what my school books are about. So finding out I was reading something along the lines of a fictional novel depicting how the human race first began and what it was like for them to exist is one thing. A completely altering addition is that Doris Lessing, our author, stood by the claim that women were the first people to have existed--not men. This odd twist of things makes so much sense in her reasonable, thoughtful, provoking method of writing. But we enter a completely new and strange dynamic as well when we realize that our narrator is the historian who was given these documents to decipher for the world telling us this story. But that's not all. He's a Roman. An ancient Roman, in the times of Rome's military conquests and world-wide expansions in an attempt to become the greatest empire in the world.

What a dynamic we're thrown into! Doris Lessing does her best to twist our viewpoint into something unfamiliar and uncomfortable--every which way she turns our eyes!

Why then, with this peculiar, intriguing concept did I give the book only a three out of five? The writing is simple and easy to follow. It's provocative and brings out various reactions from the reader--there it has no want. The storyline itself is gripping and unusual, so that cannot be the cause. Simply placed, it is not in the line of my fancy. While I enjoyed the novel--yes, very much so! I was not dulled by a moment of it!--neither was I thrilled and engaged to the extent I felt that I could have been. Perhaps it is only me, and perhaps others will find this a novel much worth the fussing and fretting over. In my case, however, I read it with the casualness of one hearing someone ramble about a viewpoint that you don't necessarily agree with, but you don't want to be rude about and so you nod your head and make sure not to interrupt. Did I find it intriguing and entertaining? Yep. You bet I did. I still feel something was lacking from it though.

Perhaps it is her casual phrasing? Perhaps it was that it was written through this historian's view, giving us facts and suppositions, events as they happened and changes. But that is not enough to draw someone in all the time, even if the subject has allure. I get it. She was trying to make a point and going for the aspect of credibility rather than a riveting method of storytelling, taking for granted or purposefully knowing that her subject was what she wanted people to focus on, not the adventure of the book itself. And I feel that does take away an essential aspect from a book. You can sit back and casually read it, practically flip through it, and come away and say, "Well that was a beneficial read. What's the next thing on the list?" It doesn't leave you wanting, mulling, anything. It's done the moment the story ends. You don't spend all that time wondering about what could have happened afterwards, because there is very little emotional attachment to the characters within the tale. Even our narrator doesn't give us anything to hold on to half the time. And what he does portray is strange and bewildering. Which makes me believe that this is how Doris Lessing wanted the novel to be written, and to come across to us readers.

Story and concepts appreciated, Mrs. Lessing! But I'm afraid that I hunt for more engaging rather than argumentative and educational reads. Thank you for your efforts though. They were interesting, for the duration.

If you'd like to try this book, readers, give it a go in a library first, or pick it up used. But I don't recommend you going out and buying it. Not at all. You may find you enjoy it, or that you like it more than I did. But this is a book I wouldn't advise you to take the risk on initially, before you know what you're getting yourself into.