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Reviewed by:
Claire Sprague. Rereading Doris Lessing: Narrative Patterns of Doubling and Repetition. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1987. 210 pp. $22.00 cloth; pb. $9.95.
Shirley Budhos. The Theme of Enclosure in Selected Works of Doris Lessing. Troy: Whitston, 1987. 128 pp. $15.00.

Central to Claire Sprague's rereading of Lessing's novels is the figure of the double (or to do justice to the multiplicity that Sprague finds in Lessing's work, the doubles). Sprague maintains that "Lessing's extraordinary gallery of doubles and multiples overturns prior models"; the models referred to are primarily in nineteenth-century fiction. My disagreement is with the verb "overturns." Lessing extends the complexity of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century use of character divisions, but she hardly overturns that model.

Although doubling is the chief strategy that Sprague attends to, she also pays significant attention to Lessing's use of numerology, naming, setting, and narrative as strategies in the service of her "profoundly dialectical consciousness." Sprague's own narrative strategy is an interesting one: "For my meditations about her repetitions and her contraries, a pattern of juxtaposition that looks at Lessing whole, without overall chronological armor, seemed most suitable." Such a strategy allows Sprague to range over a number of Lessing's texts and shape a very comprehensive essay "Mothers and Daughters/Aging and Dying" in Chapter Six. It also allows her to be selective about which novels get special attention. Expectedly, The Golden Notebook and The Four-Gated City are analyzed. What is unexpected is the analysis of the out-of-print Retreat to Innocence (1956); therein Sprague argues that "the novel isn't great or good, but it is extremely interesting for Lessing students," but the entire analysis seems too much about too little. That space might better have been given to The Good Terrorist (1985).

The inclusion of a chapter on A Ripple from the Storm (1958) is both unexpected and effective. Sprague's reading of that oft-underestimated novel makes a convincing case for its consequence; she rightly argues that "the politics of race and sex are in fact anatomized in this novel as they are nowhere else in Lessing's novels."

In general, her argument for Lessing as gamester is never fully convincing, and the reader can get lost in the overly long paragraphs about Lessing's multiplying of names. But overall, Sprague's study is an illuminating and original contribution to Lessing criticism.

Shirley Budhos does not offer a particularly original reading of Lessing's fiction in The Theme of Enclosure in Selected Works of Doris Lessing. By now the theme of enclosure is a staple in Lessing criticism, and Budhos adds nothing new. She selects short stories and novels through which to track the various enclosures (mind, marriage, environment, and so forth), but she never makes clear her principle of selection. [End Page 708]

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