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Lessing's work:
Mara and Dann

Her African life inspired her early books and stories and is also central to one of her more recent books Mara and Dann published in 1999.

Mara and Dann is an adventure story set in the future, after the next Ice Age. A brother and sister in the continent of Ifrik are heading North, trying to escape from drought and war. They were rescued as children from some kind of civil war and in the early part of the story are brought up in a rock village in a semi-savage environment, cared for by Daima, a woman from their tribe. Mara is fiercely protective of Dann, like a second mother to him. But as she grows from a girl into a woman, she becomes extremely vulnerable....

The blood was flowing from inside

As soon as Mara reaches puberty, she becomes very vulnerable. From then on fear of pregnancy is another terror to add to those she already experiences from the terrible conditions of war and drought in which she lives. For Lessing, writing Mara and Dann brought back memories of her childhood in Africa - particularly the relationship between brother and sister. Writing the book seemed to take over her life.

"The whole of the first part I dreamt every night, I was so in that book I was just dreaming about it. That's partly because the relationship between Mara and her little brother was taken straight from my relationship with my brother Harry. He was two and a half years younger than I was, I was very protective towards him and I absolutely adored him when he was little and that made me remember a great deal when I was writing, just the obsessive concern I had for this child when he was small. But you know brothers grow up and become something very different..."
Doris Lessing

Lessing's relationship with her brother was mirrored in the relationship between Mara and Dann. Despite the way in which Mara and Dann look after each other, Dann is scarred by his early experiences and has another side to his personality. On the run, the brother and sister are trapped in a town which Mara dislikes, and she finds herself at her most vulnerable when Dann suddenly becomes addicted to gambling. He has gambled all his money except for six gold pieces he has secured beneath his skin…

I'll stake my sister

publication details

The Grass is Singing (1950), Plume Contemporary Fiction
The Golden Notebook (1962), Harper Collins
Mara and Dann (1999), Harper Collins

life events
key influences and themes
Lessing's work
the next chapter
being a woman writer
  Women Writers
  Ama Ata Aidoo
  Meena Alexander
  Maya Angelou
  Shashi Deshpande
  Margaret Drabble
  Buchi Emecheta
  Jamaica Kincaid
  Bharati Mukherjee
  Michele Roberts
  Helen Simpson

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