The Fifth Child is the story of a child born into the 'perfect' family. A family of dreams and hopes made up of a couple who long to have a family of as many children as they can. Both from dysfunctional families, Harriett and David through their idea of what a family should be start their married life together buying a three-storey house that they cannot possibly afford and are obliged to ask for financial assistance from David's father. The happy couple move in and are soon breeding like rabbits.
Not one Christmas passes without either a birth or the announcement of one on the way. Their families are totally disapproving yet feel the love and desire between the couple and are happy to spend many an Easter and Christmas filling up the bedrooms for weeks at a stretch. David and Harriett are overjoyed at being the core of the two families and although signs of tiredness and strain are starting to show on Harriett and in spite of their families' disapproval at so many kids, she and David are still happy and delirious with the family they have got.
As beautiful a picture author Doris Lessing paints for us towards the middle of the book, she shatters it completely with the birth of David and Harriett's fifth child. The birth of this "goblin neanderthal alien" leaves little of him to be loved by anyone even his own mother who is left terrified with what she has brought into this world.
A frightening and gripping novel that will chill you to the bone not for its vivid contents but also for its chilling ordinariness and believability. The sequel, Ben In the World, is already on its way in the post. I can't wait.