I hesitate to rate this because I had such mixed feelings about it.
As I often do, I read the reviews of the book before reading it, and immediately thought that it sounded very 'difficult' and 'clever', and upon reading the preface ,I was not reassured, but I ploughed on and made it to the end. Unfortunately after all that I really can't say whether I liked it or not,or even be sure I understand what it was truly about. I can only describe it as like watching a master illusionist..you see something and afterwards you scratch your head and ask yourself 'what did I just see, and how was it done?'
Doris Lessing said in her introduction that she was trying to capture the spirit of the times, and perhaps that's key ; reading this now in a 'post-feminist' world with a vastly differing political landscape, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, is perforce an entirely different experience to that of its contemporary readers.
My problem was that I found the characters so unlikeable that I struggled to give a damn about what happened to them. Suggestions that this was some sort of 'feminist' work astound me..the protagonist Anna just seems to lurch from one ill advised 'relationship' to another, invariably with married men..most unsisterly. And as she slowly cracks up I feel like shouting .'Get a job, that'll sort you out;put an end to this endless self-examination, and stop defining yourself by your lovers'
As for the politics..I was astounded how easily an ex- communist party member puts her child in a private boarding school..put me in mind of present day 'champagne socialists' in my own country's political scene.I felt that if any of these characters had had to really struggle in life they would have abandoned these political pipe dreams a long time previously. It reminded me of student rebellion hung onto long after it has served its purpose.
I am not qualified to comment on the writing itself..the format was intriguing, but I'm not a student of literature , just a common or garden auto didact. I don't know how to analyse a book or critique its style. I will say that it was dense and at times exhausting..I felt I had to force myself to continue to the end of a section long past the point of proper concentration. Whether this is the fault of the book or perhaps the modern 'grasshopper brain' I have developed due to watching too much Tv or surfing the web, I can't say..
I will leave this book unrated.. as I think personal dislike of it doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of the work.. in the end, it just wasn't for me..