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The Cleft

Doris May Lessing, Author
Doris May Lessing, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (260p) ISBN 978-0-06-083486-9
Reviewed on: 06/04/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Hardcover - 260 pages - 978-0-00-723343-4
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-06-083487-6
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-146689-2
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 272 pages - 978-0-06-146692-2
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-146694-6
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-00-725037-0
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-186826-9
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-00-725929-8
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Eminent novelist Lessing offers an alternative origin story for the human race, indirectly recalling the alternate world speculations of her Canopus in Argos SF novels. Positing that the primal human stock was female rather than male, Lessing invents a cult of ancient women called the Clefts, a name derived, in part, from that essential part of female anatomy. The story of the Clefts is bookended by the journal of a Roman historian, who interprets ancient documents stating that females were originally impregnated by “a fertilizing wind or a wave,” to give birth to female children. But one day a “deformed” baby is born, with a “lumpy swelling” never seen before. The first rape and the first murder follow soon enough, as do the first instances of consensual intercourse and the babies—the first of a new race, with a nature derived from both sexes—that are the result. Humor, which may or may not be intentional, is introduced into a generally lethargic text when women and men discover they can't live with or without each other, and the battle of the sexes commences. The novel has elements of a feminist tract, but the story it tells doesn't present a significant challenge to that of Adam and Eve. (Aug.)

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