Johnny Blakeworthy was a polite and gentle bigamist, a vagrant who concluded each of his many marriages with a thank-you letter and ended his life known to the African villagers among whom he lived as The Man Who Has No Woman. Hetty Pennefather was the embattled owner of an equally embattled cat who rejected the traditional occupations of widowhood for the free life of a rag-trader. Ephraim was a middle-aged diamond-cutter who fell in love with the daughter of an Alexandrian merchant and made his life a glittering homage to her. These richly individual characters appear together in The Story of a Non-Marrying Man, perhaps Doris Lessings most enjoyable collection.
Including a modern fable about a polygamous marriage, a chilling account of an abortive interplanetary mission to save a city, a desolate and moving confession of love and an ironical tale in which the author reveals her connections with international espionage, the stories are alike only in the extraordinarily high level of their accomplishment. An outstanding achievement is The Temptation of Jack Orkney, a long, skillfully sustained story about an old socialists encounter with his revolutionary son.
Doris Lessings prominent position in English literature is due as much to her short fiction as to her novels. The Spectator said of This Was the Old Chiefs Country, Magnificent these short stories establish her as a writer of real importance; her book of novellas, Five, won the Somerset Maugham Award, while the New Statesman said of The Habit of Loving: With these stories I am no longer in any doubt that Mrs Lessing is one of the best writers in England. This book will enrich her reputation as it will delight her readers.