This novel, the story of a middle class British family who are rocked to their smug little core by the arrival of a monstrous fifth child, just didn't work for me. The premise is promising--what is the child? An alien? A throwback? A genetic aberrance? But the whole narrative arc is just too heavy-handed and overbearing. I gather it's meant to be an indictment of middle-class mores and the failure of society to deal with its own darkness, or something, but Lessing just doesn't pull it off.
I wonder if an author with less esteem and longevity would even have gotten this book published, let alone critically acclaimed. Then again, maybe I'm just dumb. Always a possibility I consider when I'm so at odds with the critical establishment.
This is a classic example of the near-miss. This story had so much possibility that was never borne out. Not to mention a lack of ANY believable characterization at all. It's left me very unsatisfied. There's a sequel too, but the reviews are horrible so I'll probably skip it unless it throws itself at me in the used bookstore.