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Doris Lessing: The Good Terrorist

Back from space, Lessing gives us an excellent novel about terrorism, well before George Bush and Tony Blair got hold of the concept. The good terrorist of the title is Alice Mellings, an upper middle class woman, with a university degree, who lives in a squat with Jasper, a determined homosexual. Despite this Alice is a good mother to Jasper and the others in the squat, stealing curtains from her mum and making nice soup for everyone, though not averse to challenging the local council when they want to cut the water or to demonstrating against Margaret Thatcher. Alice and her people tend to muddle through. However, when they try to get involved in helping the IRA, they are soon out of their depth. Of course, Lessing is eager to paint these would-be middle-class terrorists as inept and not real revolutionaries. Depending on your point of view, she has a point. Lessing, of course, tells her story well.

Publishing history

First published 1985 by Jonathan Cape