Alfred and Emily
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
Alfred and Emily is a book by Doris Lessing, part fiction, part memoir, first published in 2008. The book is structured in two parts and is based on the lives of Lessing's parents. The first part is a novella, a fictional portrait of how her parents' lives might have been without the interruption of the First World War. The second part is a retelling of how her parents' lives really developed.
The novella begins in England in 1902, when Alfred and Emily meet at a cricket match. However, as the story progresses to 1916, the pair do not marry, as they did in real life. The absence of the war from this fictional portrait means that Alfred is spared his crippling war wounds and Emily is spared her real-life role as nurse, enduring the agony of nursing desperately ill soldiers without the aid of morphine. Instead the couple flourish separately. Alfred becomes a farmer and shares a happy marriage with Betsy. Emily marries a doctor, but he soon dies, and she is left a childless and wealthy widow. She channels her financial resources into philanthropic projects such as establishing schools for the poor.
The second part of the book transports Alfred and Emily to the stage in their married life when they were farming, unhappily, in Southern Rhodesia. Their unhappiness is explained in a series of episodes from Lessing's own childhood.
The Guardian described the book as "perfectly crafted" and a "quietly extraordinary meditation on family". The New York Times praised the book: "In its generosity of spirit, its shaped and contained fury, Alfred and Emily is also an extraordinary, unconventional addition to Lessing’s autobiography." The Washington Post applauded the structure: "allowing her readers this insight into the connection between autobiography and fiction, between form and content, she reaffirms fiction's powers and possibilities."
- "Doris Lessing: Biobibliographical Notes". NobelPrize.org. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- Alfred and Emily, by Doris Lessing, Twenty Chickens for a Saddle, by Robyn Scott. The Independent. 16 May 2008
- A family at war. The Guardian. 11 May 2008
- They May Not Mean to, but They Do. The New York Times. 10 August 2008
- A Separate Peace. The Washington Post. 3 August 2008
- Doris Lessing Q and A.. TIME. 11 July 2008