Martha Quest

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Martha Quest
First edition
AuthorDoris Lessing
Cover artistPeter Rudland
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherMichael Joseph
Publication date
Media typePrint

Martha Quest (1952) is the second novel of British Nobel Prize in Literature-winner Doris Lessing, and the first of the five-volume semi-autobiographical The Children of Violence series, which traces Martha Quest’s life to middle age. The other volumes in The Children of Violence are A Proper Marriage (1954), A Ripple from the Storm (1958), Landlocked (1965), and The Four-Gated City (1969).[1]

Marth Quest is set in the former British colony of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in southern Africa, where Lessing lived from 1925 until 1949.[2] At the beginning of the novel Martha is fifteen years old, "living on an impoverished African farm with her parents; a girl of passionate vitality, avid for experience and for self-knowledge, bitterly resentful of the conventional narrowness of her home life". She then becomes a typist in the provincial capital where "she begins to encounter the real life she is so eager to experience and understand."[3] Lessing's first novel The Grass Is Singing published in 1950, also It takes place in Southern Rhodesia, and, set during the 1940s, deals with the racial politics between the British settlers and Africans in that country.

Novelist C. P. Snow, in a review of Martha Quest, in the Sunday Times, described Doris Lessing, as "one of the most powerfully equipped young novelists now writing."[4]

Autobiographical novel[edit]

Martha Quest, like much of Lessing's fiction is autobiographical. In it she draws "upon her childhood memories and her serious engagement with politics and social concerns", which "emerge out of her experiences in Africa", and Martha Quest, like other of Lessing's works set in Africa, that were "published during the fifties and early sixties, decry the dispossession of black Africans by white colonials, and expose the sterility of the white culture in southern Africa". In 1956 Lessing's courageous outspokenness, led her to being declared a prohibited alien in both Southern Rhodesia and South Africa.[5]