In The Fifth Child
, her most widely acclaimed novel of the past 15 years, Doris Lessing told the story of Ben Lovatt, a physically and mentally deformed boy whose brutal strength and asocial behavior ruptures the circumscribed world of his proper English family. In her new book, Ben, in the World
, Lessing continues Ben's story in a powerful, spellbinding tale that pits the boy's ageless purity against the opportunism and greed of our time.
As the novel opens, Ben is now 18, essentially homeless and surviving on the streets of London. A poor old woman named Mrs. Biggs has taken pity on the misfit youth, giving him food and shelter. Ben tries to earn his keep but is cheated by the few people who offer him work. When Mrs. Biggs falls ill, Ben leaves her haven and wanders into the city. There he befriends a kindhearted prostitute, Rita, who is drawn to Ben's animal virility and emotional vulnerability. Rita's pimp, Johnston, recognizes an opportunity to exploit this bewildered boy. He devises an elaborate plan using Ben to smuggle drugs into the south of France and then quickly and callously cuts him loose. Left on his own, in a country where he cannot speak the language, Ben captures the attention of an American filmmaker, Alex, who is fascinated by what he perceives to be a primitive man. Planning to feature him in a film, Alex takes Ben along with him to Brazil, where Ben is taken under the wing of another woman, Teresa. Alas, no one can insulate Ben from the fate that must inevitably befall him, from the tragedy that is his life.
Original title: Ben, in the World
Genre: Fiction→ General Fiction