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An unconventional woman trapped in a conventional marriage, Martha Quest struggles to maintain her dignity and her sanity through the misunderstandings, frustrations, infidelities, and degrading violence of a failing marriage. Finally, she must make the heartbreaking choice of whether to sacrifice her child as she turns her back on marriage and security.

A Proper Marriage is the second novel in Doris Lessing's classic Children of Violence series of novels, each a masterpiece on its own right, and, taken together, an incisive and all-encompassing vision of our world in the twentieth century.

Topics: Africa

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062047939
List price: $10.99
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The time and place is South Africa of the 1940's in the early stages of South Africa becoming involved in World War II.I am struck by how constrained the characters are from saying what they really want to say and acting as they really want to act, or even associating with or marrying who they want to associate with and marry. At the end of book 1 Martha drifted into a marriage, and now she is acting in the marriage the way she believes she should, which in large part means not acting like her mother, the complaining female.Martha Quest is a character who is very intellectual, as is the narrator, who seems to be a version of Martha somewhat in the future, but she doesn't seem able to do is to simply ask herself what it is that she wants. Once I was involved in this exercise in a kind of self-actualizing group. One person keeps asking: what do you want. The other person responds with whatever comes into their head. It goes on for quite some time, and does in fact finally result in you getting a pretty clear idea of what you want. I recommend it to Martha, in the series of dialogues that I tend to have in my head with characters in novels that I read.Martha always has a sense that she is meant for something, and that something is different from being in a marriage and having a child. She doesn't really know what it is, but seems to feel closer to it when she is involved with socialist study groups, although, at the same time, she sees that little action is taken. In the South Africa of the 1940's Martha is one of a distinct minority who believe that black Africans are equal to whites. While she believes this, at the same time the unequal world is the one in which she is comfortable, used to, there would be something disquieting about a change in that status quo. This is probably nearly always so to some extent even of the most well-intentioned person, and part of Lessing's honesty that she presents it so, instead of showing Martha totally as we (or I) might want her to be. It's probably also so that most of us have a sense of destiny without knowing what the destiny is.The one thing she feels strongly about his her daughter, Caroline. While she feels tenderness for her daughter, she feels so strongly that parents ruin their children, so it is possible for her to feel the way to save Caroline would be to leave her.So this book is a second stage of Martha's becoming. And while I am impatient and disagree with her choices, even parts of the final one when she seems to be getting back on her own path at last, still I am interested in learning what she is becoming. There is always a kind of irony and even humor in how she is looking over her own shoulder, which is maybe what allows me to like this character in the end.more
Volume two of the Children of Violence series, about the life of Martha Quest. Set in Rhodesia at the beginning of WWII. Martha has married Douglas, who remains one of the boys and continues to work for the (Civil) Service. She's living in a big suburban house, scrimping on the present to pay for their retirement, becoming more and more unhappy but not at all sorry for herself.more
Second book in the "Children of Violence" series. Martha regrets getting married right after her wedding to Douglas. She feels trapped and depressed. The second world war is around the corner. The young local men go away to either train for the war or participate and fresh pale englishmen from the air force come to town. I can't wait to read the next book. So many issues are touched upon...more
Lessing proves a rather personal story (quick marriage, quick child, quick divorce) can be given a more universal meaning. Although the society she describes no longer exists -colonial africa, rhodesia - the story was convincing for me. Her marriage was based on an illusion, she uses another illusion - communism - as a way of escape. She might gain something of it: the start of a more mature personality.more
The first of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series the book charts the coming of age of the eponymous heroine. Doris Lessing's writing is never less than excellent. We follow Martha from her early rural life under the stultifying care of her colonial parents to her struggles to come to terms with her own beliefs in a society that expects more acceptable conservative morals. The book, set in a fictional South African republic of Zambesi but heavily based on what was then Rhodesia, is always socially and politically aware.more
This first novel in the 'Children of Violence' series is a vivid, beautifully written, and at times uncomfortable account of a young girl, Martha Quest, growing up in a British colony in Africa just before World War II. Martha is a wonderful character; stubborn and resilient - and full of bitter adolescent resentment and self-consciousness. Although her ideas are radical for the time, Martha is also subject to her own uncertainty and insecurities, which allow her to be swept along with the tide. Without consciously meaning to, she conforms to the expectations of society and her contemporaries - as a result, she finds herself in a world she doesn't understand, and in the company of those she feels little but contempt for. Inevitably, she succumbs to the way of life that has for so long repulsed her. Simmering beneath the surface is the racism and hypocrisy prevalent in the colonies, and the gradual acceptance that elsewhere in the world, a war is brewing.This is a superb novel and makes for compulsive reading. There is much truth that can be taken from the book, and I highly recommend it: especially for all those who know that sometimes it can be hard to find your place in the world.more
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Reviews

The time and place is South Africa of the 1940's in the early stages of South Africa becoming involved in World War II.I am struck by how constrained the characters are from saying what they really want to say and acting as they really want to act, or even associating with or marrying who they want to associate with and marry. At the end of book 1 Martha drifted into a marriage, and now she is acting in the marriage the way she believes she should, which in large part means not acting like her mother, the complaining female.Martha Quest is a character who is very intellectual, as is the narrator, who seems to be a version of Martha somewhat in the future, but she doesn't seem able to do is to simply ask herself what it is that she wants. Once I was involved in this exercise in a kind of self-actualizing group. One person keeps asking: what do you want. The other person responds with whatever comes into their head. It goes on for quite some time, and does in fact finally result in you getting a pretty clear idea of what you want. I recommend it to Martha, in the series of dialogues that I tend to have in my head with characters in novels that I read.Martha always has a sense that she is meant for something, and that something is different from being in a marriage and having a child. She doesn't really know what it is, but seems to feel closer to it when she is involved with socialist study groups, although, at the same time, she sees that little action is taken. In the South Africa of the 1940's Martha is one of a distinct minority who believe that black Africans are equal to whites. While she believes this, at the same time the unequal world is the one in which she is comfortable, used to, there would be something disquieting about a change in that status quo. This is probably nearly always so to some extent even of the most well-intentioned person, and part of Lessing's honesty that she presents it so, instead of showing Martha totally as we (or I) might want her to be. It's probably also so that most of us have a sense of destiny without knowing what the destiny is.The one thing she feels strongly about his her daughter, Caroline. While she feels tenderness for her daughter, she feels so strongly that parents ruin their children, so it is possible for her to feel the way to save Caroline would be to leave her.So this book is a second stage of Martha's becoming. And while I am impatient and disagree with her choices, even parts of the final one when she seems to be getting back on her own path at last, still I am interested in learning what she is becoming. There is always a kind of irony and even humor in how she is looking over her own shoulder, which is maybe what allows me to like this character in the end.more
Volume two of the Children of Violence series, about the life of Martha Quest. Set in Rhodesia at the beginning of WWII. Martha has married Douglas, who remains one of the boys and continues to work for the (Civil) Service. She's living in a big suburban house, scrimping on the present to pay for their retirement, becoming more and more unhappy but not at all sorry for herself.more
Second book in the "Children of Violence" series. Martha regrets getting married right after her wedding to Douglas. She feels trapped and depressed. The second world war is around the corner. The young local men go away to either train for the war or participate and fresh pale englishmen from the air force come to town. I can't wait to read the next book. So many issues are touched upon...more
Lessing proves a rather personal story (quick marriage, quick child, quick divorce) can be given a more universal meaning. Although the society she describes no longer exists -colonial africa, rhodesia - the story was convincing for me. Her marriage was based on an illusion, she uses another illusion - communism - as a way of escape. She might gain something of it: the start of a more mature personality.more
The first of Doris Lessing's Children of Violence series the book charts the coming of age of the eponymous heroine. Doris Lessing's writing is never less than excellent. We follow Martha from her early rural life under the stultifying care of her colonial parents to her struggles to come to terms with her own beliefs in a society that expects more acceptable conservative morals. The book, set in a fictional South African republic of Zambesi but heavily based on what was then Rhodesia, is always socially and politically aware.more
This first novel in the 'Children of Violence' series is a vivid, beautifully written, and at times uncomfortable account of a young girl, Martha Quest, growing up in a British colony in Africa just before World War II. Martha is a wonderful character; stubborn and resilient - and full of bitter adolescent resentment and self-consciousness. Although her ideas are radical for the time, Martha is also subject to her own uncertainty and insecurities, which allow her to be swept along with the tide. Without consciously meaning to, she conforms to the expectations of society and her contemporaries - as a result, she finds herself in a world she doesn't understand, and in the company of those she feels little but contempt for. Inevitably, she succumbs to the way of life that has for so long repulsed her. Simmering beneath the surface is the racism and hypocrisy prevalent in the colonies, and the gradual acceptance that elsewhere in the world, a war is brewing.This is a superb novel and makes for compulsive reading. There is much truth that can be taken from the book, and I highly recommend it: especially for all those who know that sometimes it can be hard to find your place in the world.more
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