Saturday, April 25, 2009

Five best: books with characters on the edge

For the Wall Street Journal, Lynne Sharon Schwartz named her favorite novels featuring characters on the edge.

One title on her list:
The Fifth Child
by Doris Lessing
Knopf, 1983

Doris Lessing has always had her eye on the big picture -- so big that in some of her later works she has ventured into outer space. Her novella "The Fifth Child" is set firmly on Earth but continues Lessing's lifelong preoccupation: Whither humanity? Part fable, part cautionary tale, part social satire, it tells of a self-satisfied young couple who decide to rear a large family. All goes according to plan until the fifth pregnancy. Even in utero, Ben is abnormally restless; at birth, he resembles a goblin. Before long, his malice and violence become a danger to his siblings. He's not quite human, his once smug parents are forced to admit, but a throwback to a primitive era -- a wayward gene erupting into cozy upper-middle-class life. This chilling tale of a family's destruction by the evil lurking within is unforgettable, written in ink laced with acid.
Read about Number One on Schwartz's list.

--Marshal Zeringue