(CLASSIC: from To Room Nineteen, Flamingo)
Deceptively simple – two ex-lovers bump into each other at a party, 20 years after seeing each other last. Lessing’s genius is to show, painfully clearly, that really nothing has changed, it’s all still there, they’re still in love with each other, despite them both having families. It’s a gut-wrenching demonstration of the idea that time doesn’t really heal – and there is such as thing as the real deal.
(MODERN: from Love of Fat Men, Penguin)
A local girl plays an innocent prank on a village priest, pretending to be in love with him, and he jokingly goes along with it. But when she’s gone, all his loneliness wells up as he realises that no woman has ever looked at him with sincere love and desire – and that his faith doesn’t make up for it. It’s a deep and tragic shot of an ordinary, unremembered, mistaken life – and of the terrible pain that can lie underneath a person’s joviality.
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