• The Fifth Child

  • By: Doris Lessing
  • Narrated by: Sue Pitkin
  • Length: 5 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (174 ratings)

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The Fifth Child  By  cover art

The Fifth Child

By: Doris Lessing
Narrated by: Sue Pitkin
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Publisher's Summary

Doris Lessing's contemporary gothic horror story - centered on the birth of a baby who seems less than human - probes society's unwillingness to recognize its own brutality.

Harriet and David Lovatt, parents of four children, have created an idyll of domestic bliss in defiance of the social trends of late 1960s England. While around them crime and unrest surge, the Lovatts are certain that their old-fashioned contentment can protect them from the world outside - until the birth of their fifth baby. Gruesomely goblin-like in appearance, insatiably hungry, abnormally strong and violent, Ben has nothing innocent or infant-like about him. As he grows older and more terrifying, Harriet finds she cannot love him, David cannot bring himself to touch him, and their four older children are afraid of him. Understanding that he will never be accepted anywhere, Harriet and David are torn between their instincts as parents and their shocked reaction to this fierce and unlovable child whose existence shatters their belief in a benign world.

©1988 Doris Lessing (P)2016 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Recorded by arrangement with A.A. Knopf, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

What listeners say about The Fifth Child

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

60's, English Family Drama

It is hard to review this with out giving the story away. I understand why this was in the Horror Section, but it is not scary. This is a hard story to pigeon hole. It has a very sixties mood, involving a man and a woman, who are not exactly normal to begin with. One of them has rich parents who pays for their house. They decide that they want as many children as possible. The lead female has problems with all of her pregnancies, yet keeps having kids. It seems like people are always coming over and staying with them. Their life is so different from mine, it was hard to relate.

I think anyone who has had an abnormally difficult child and who has worried about their normal children because of this child, might relate. The book also takes a close look at how our society treats those who are different. I did listen to the whole thing, but it is not long. If you get it, just don't expect a horror novel.

79 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful story about how random chance can wreak havoc

Doris Lessing pens a tale about a couple who, after four perfectly well-behaved children, seemingly out of nowhere parent a loathsome child. Partly a cautionary tale and partly just bad luck, this almost novelette is spare in the details but will give any parent pause, including myself.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

demon child

This book really kept me on the edge of my seat Both author and narrator were excellent. You didn't know what to make of this child...the anti Christ , sociopath, psychopath, soulless being.etc. I was hoping to know who or what is this or it. The narrator voice did not take away from the story. Well worth my time. It is thought provoking that there are "people" out there like this.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Demon?

After finishing this book I have to say that I did like it. I did though however think it would have more of a "demon like quality" to it. There definitely was but I was expecting a bit more. To me the book was a great read though. I would recommend it and listened to it in one day it was very short. I do like a book that has more of a creep factor to it but although this one did have it just not as much as I was hoping for.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great story!

Dark & surreal in the vein of The Stepford Wives. Perfection goes very wrong. Also a great commentary on the stories we all tell ourselves.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Hard to believe it's Lessing!

Hard to believe it's Lessing - let alone a Nobel Prize winner! Doesn't begin to approach her previous books. The story build to a slow sub-boil and then it's like someone suddenly turns off the heat! Plus it was more like half of a book - the ending fizzled unexpectedly. Like a balloon that instead of popping - the air slowly leaked out of it. Plus again the narrator left a lot to be desired.!

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Not at all Horror

This was an interesting story that shows the struggles of a family with their child unlike the others. It wasn't scary. Instead it was eye opening.

1 person found this helpful

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Wait, that was the book?

Pretty sure this is a book about a mother unable to love her son and insisting that he must not be human. She also refers to a child with Down's as a "mongrel" repeatedly. I think we were supposed to sympathize with her and hate the boy, but...she was just an incapable parent.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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Expected More

There's really no story, developed characters, and nothing to root for or cry for. The writing was mediocre, at best. I just don't see the point?

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Sad tale with no value!

Horrible story! Narration is horrible too! I could not wait until it was over. I can’t imagine who a story like this was meant to entertain.