[Lessing] reads like a nineteenth-century novelist with a twentieth-century sensibility, exercising a generously detailed, old-fashioned realism to delineate modern types (professionals, hippies, housewives) and modern dilemmas (women's place in society, third-world diplomacy, class mobility). All this Lessing gives without the strait jacket of ideology, for although she was involved in radical politics for years, she believes above all in fidelity to the human complications of her originals….
At its best, her language has a simplicity and clarity which gives it the illusion of being a common language, without quirks of personality or special education. She wants her words to seem transparent, holding reality as if in a glass bowl, containing but not interfering with the vision of it. She creates neither endearing Dickensian eccentrics nor stock types, but aims to describe people who, however English, have universal souls….
Certainly these stories [collected in Stories], with their cats and flower gardens, have that national flavor…. Her Englishness is there in the quality of socialization: none of her characters loses control without watching with a part of themselves the effect on others…. Although there are some Lawrentian moments, involuntary stirrings of the blood, for the most part Lessing writes about movements of the intellect and reserves her mysticism for unusual psychological or spiritual states….
Sometimes her will to simplify makes her prose clumsy, but she never willfully obscures what she knows for effect…. And occasionally she realizes a situation or a character so perfectly (and surely this is a test of literature) that it lodges in the mind as experience, trusted as knowledge, and one feels, "I know him, or her," rather than, "I know that story."…
Lessing does not try for the pure uplifting strains of Tolstoy, to give epic stature to the emotions of everyday men and women. Nor does she manage the perfectly poised...
(The entire section is 831 words.)