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At eighteen, Ben is in the world, but not of it. He is too large, too awkward, too inhumanly made. Now estranged from his family, he must find his own path in life. From London and the south of France to Brazil and the mountains of the Andes. Ben is tossed about in a tumultuous search for his people, a reason for his being. How the world receives him, and, he fares in it will horrify and captivate until the novel's dramatic finale.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061967870
List price: $4.99
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Many readers prefer the first book to the sequel, but I see them joined with flawless seam (or maybe I mean seamy flaw). I wanted to know what happened to Ben and I was particularly satisfied that Lessing chose to let us into Ben's head this time, rather than seeing him only through the eyes of his family.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The idea of writing a sequel to "The fifth child" wasn't necessarily all that appealing to me. What was so haunting about the first book was that Lessing didn't take the easy way out - making Ben a victim always easy and pleasant to relate to. Instead the reader is forced to deal with this enigmatic, brutish, cat-killing little troll, having to think about the difficult question: what would I have done?Letting Ben himself lead the story in this book that takes up the thread more or less directly after "The fifth child" is risky. To make him too likeable and starry eyed would have felt out of tune and awkward, and might have sat heavily on the first book. I think Lessing pulls it off, mostly. I'm with Ben every single step of the way in this book. He remains a bit of a mystery to me, and I don't always like him. But the injustices and abuse he's exposed to here still bring tears to my eyes several times, and some of the scenes will stay with me for a long time. At times I feel slightly manipulated though, when Lessing kicks poor Ben around for me to suffer with him.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Doris Lessing demonstrates again the power of her talent in this book. If you have read and enjoyed her novel, The Fifth Child, this is sort of a sequel. The Fifth Child was a dark and disturbing story about a child who was born to a middle class family in London. Ben was a strange and scary child, almost part animal, like a throwback to some earlier time. He is ultimately rejected by his family other than his mother who struggles to care for him and removes him from an institution where he has been brutilized and starved. In the new novel we read about Ben's survival in the world, on his own. The story picks up Ben at age 15, living on the streets of London. The story is heartbreaking but a great read. The action moves from London to Nice to Brazil and like the Fifth Child is a powerful and haunting tale.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is the sequel to The Fifth Child which I also reviewed . That book gave us Ben, born into a large family who welcomed each child with celebration. Unlovable and uncontrollable from birth, freakish in looks, he confuses and frightens everyone around him. He is violent and seems incapable of learning. In the end, though she defends him from others, even his mother cannot love him or even stand to have him around. Ben, In the World begins after he has divided and alienated most of his family and left home in his teens. What becomes of such an angry young monster, lacking control in all matters, uncomprehending the world and people in general, prone to violence and inviting rebuke by his physically threatening appearance? There is always someone who will be a little kind with food or money to a homeless young man, though most will not. Then there are the unscrupulous who will use people like Ben for criminal activities, knowing he doesn't understand what he's doing and is incapable of communicating information about them to authorities if he's caught. Woman are sometimes kind, even tolerant to a point. But he knows they are always afraid of him. He struggles constantly against his own instincts to hurt people when he perceives mockery or even a slight. The only thing that holds him back is nightmarish memories of being institutionalized and the fear that he will be taken back there. He suffers a strong sexual drive that can only lead to trouble. Abandoned in another country by criminals who have no further use of him, Ben is eventually spotted by a film maker who thinks of him as a caveman throwback and takes care of him while he has an interest in making a film with him. He will end up on another continent, driven by a spurious promise to find his own "kind", where he will slowly come to face the reality of what he really is. Well written and brutally honest in the end, Lessing is brave enough to show us what everyone secretly thinks about people like Ben. They are unwanted, and there is no sadder fate for anyone.Highly recommended. But read The Fifth Child first. It's worth it.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read and enjoyed The Fifth Child, it wasn't like anything that I had ever read before. So I was looking forward to the sequel to it, Ben in the World. I enjoyed this sequel and found it to be a very sad reflection of our current society. Everyone seems to be out for only themselves and using anyone they must to get what they want. This was woven nicely into the story. It was heart-breaking reading about Ben and his being unable to find his way in the world. I'll never look at a homeless person the same way again.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing a few months ago, and have just finished it's sequal, Ben in the World. Both novels are short. The first is about two people who marry and want to have a traditional home with many children, which they do. They become a kind of magnet for their friends in the warm, family centered life that they lead. Then their fifth child is born. He is a kind of throwback. His instincts don't fit in the family. They try to preserve the hospitality at holidays, but it is impossible. The new child is a strain on everything. At one point they try institutionalizing the child, which seems to be like a death sentence for him, and the mother goes and rescues him. At the end of that book, the fifth child has managed to find a group of teens with whom he fits to an extent.As I recall, the point of view of that first book, though I believe it was third person omniscient, was mainly through the mother.Ben in the World is also told in third person omniscient, but it's center is Ben and what he experiences. We see him much more trying to adjust and be like others, doing his best, but with a kind of primitiveness to his emotions, needs and perhaps intelligence. He has to struggle to keep his emotions under control. There are things he can't do, such as drive a car, yet he understands a great deal. He tries to please, and responds to anyone who truly likes him, but he is continually taken advantage of by others.Lessing can be quite a stark writer. She never tries to make anything softer or prettier than it is. The book has a few scenes that include the children of Rio de Janeiro who live on the streets and beaches, attacking and preying on others to survive. A note in the front illustrates this: "The authorities have cleared the gangs of criminal children from the streets of the centre of Rio. They are no longer permitted to annoy tourists."So, as you wonder, in fiction, how someone like Ben could survive, you can also wonder what has happened to those children.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Many readers prefer the first book to the sequel, but I see them joined with flawless seam (or maybe I mean seamy flaw). I wanted to know what happened to Ben and I was particularly satisfied that Lessing chose to let us into Ben's head this time, rather than seeing him only through the eyes of his family.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The idea of writing a sequel to "The fifth child" wasn't necessarily all that appealing to me. What was so haunting about the first book was that Lessing didn't take the easy way out - making Ben a victim always easy and pleasant to relate to. Instead the reader is forced to deal with this enigmatic, brutish, cat-killing little troll, having to think about the difficult question: what would I have done?Letting Ben himself lead the story in this book that takes up the thread more or less directly after "The fifth child" is risky. To make him too likeable and starry eyed would have felt out of tune and awkward, and might have sat heavily on the first book. I think Lessing pulls it off, mostly. I'm with Ben every single step of the way in this book. He remains a bit of a mystery to me, and I don't always like him. But the injustices and abuse he's exposed to here still bring tears to my eyes several times, and some of the scenes will stay with me for a long time. At times I feel slightly manipulated though, when Lessing kicks poor Ben around for me to suffer with him.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Doris Lessing demonstrates again the power of her talent in this book. If you have read and enjoyed her novel, The Fifth Child, this is sort of a sequel. The Fifth Child was a dark and disturbing story about a child who was born to a middle class family in London. Ben was a strange and scary child, almost part animal, like a throwback to some earlier time. He is ultimately rejected by his family other than his mother who struggles to care for him and removes him from an institution where he has been brutilized and starved. In the new novel we read about Ben's survival in the world, on his own. The story picks up Ben at age 15, living on the streets of London. The story is heartbreaking but a great read. The action moves from London to Nice to Brazil and like the Fifth Child is a powerful and haunting tale.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is the sequel to The Fifth Child which I also reviewed . That book gave us Ben, born into a large family who welcomed each child with celebration. Unlovable and uncontrollable from birth, freakish in looks, he confuses and frightens everyone around him. He is violent and seems incapable of learning. In the end, though she defends him from others, even his mother cannot love him or even stand to have him around. Ben, In the World begins after he has divided and alienated most of his family and left home in his teens. What becomes of such an angry young monster, lacking control in all matters, uncomprehending the world and people in general, prone to violence and inviting rebuke by his physically threatening appearance? There is always someone who will be a little kind with food or money to a homeless young man, though most will not. Then there are the unscrupulous who will use people like Ben for criminal activities, knowing he doesn't understand what he's doing and is incapable of communicating information about them to authorities if he's caught. Woman are sometimes kind, even tolerant to a point. But he knows they are always afraid of him. He struggles constantly against his own instincts to hurt people when he perceives mockery or even a slight. The only thing that holds him back is nightmarish memories of being institutionalized and the fear that he will be taken back there. He suffers a strong sexual drive that can only lead to trouble. Abandoned in another country by criminals who have no further use of him, Ben is eventually spotted by a film maker who thinks of him as a caveman throwback and takes care of him while he has an interest in making a film with him. He will end up on another continent, driven by a spurious promise to find his own "kind", where he will slowly come to face the reality of what he really is. Well written and brutally honest in the end, Lessing is brave enough to show us what everyone secretly thinks about people like Ben. They are unwanted, and there is no sadder fate for anyone.Highly recommended. But read The Fifth Child first. It's worth it.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read and enjoyed The Fifth Child, it wasn't like anything that I had ever read before. So I was looking forward to the sequel to it, Ben in the World. I enjoyed this sequel and found it to be a very sad reflection of our current society. Everyone seems to be out for only themselves and using anyone they must to get what they want. This was woven nicely into the story. It was heart-breaking reading about Ben and his being unable to find his way in the world. I'll never look at a homeless person the same way again.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing a few months ago, and have just finished it's sequal, Ben in the World. Both novels are short. The first is about two people who marry and want to have a traditional home with many children, which they do. They become a kind of magnet for their friends in the warm, family centered life that they lead. Then their fifth child is born. He is a kind of throwback. His instincts don't fit in the family. They try to preserve the hospitality at holidays, but it is impossible. The new child is a strain on everything. At one point they try institutionalizing the child, which seems to be like a death sentence for him, and the mother goes and rescues him. At the end of that book, the fifth child has managed to find a group of teens with whom he fits to an extent.As I recall, the point of view of that first book, though I believe it was third person omniscient, was mainly through the mother.Ben in the World is also told in third person omniscient, but it's center is Ben and what he experiences. We see him much more trying to adjust and be like others, doing his best, but with a kind of primitiveness to his emotions, needs and perhaps intelligence. He has to struggle to keep his emotions under control. There are things he can't do, such as drive a car, yet he understands a great deal. He tries to please, and responds to anyone who truly likes him, but he is continually taken advantage of by others.Lessing can be quite a stark writer. She never tries to make anything softer or prettier than it is. The book has a few scenes that include the children of Rio de Janeiro who live on the streets and beaches, attacking and preying on others to survive. A note in the front illustrates this: "The authorities have cleared the gangs of criminal children from the streets of the centre of Rio. They are no longer permitted to annoy tourists."So, as you wonder, in fiction, how someone like Ben could survive, you can also wonder what has happened to those children.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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