The Queen of My Self

Doris Lessing’s wonderful book, Summer Before the Dark is as insightful, articulate, and compassionate an account of the process of a midlife woman’s transformation into the Queen of Her Self that I have ever read. She was 64 when it was published in 1983, and clearly, she knew what she knew about the process. This book had a profound effect on me and was a tremendous inspirational influence on The Queen of My Self.

As the summer begins, Kate Brown — attractive, intelligent, forty-five, happily enough married, with a house in the London suburbs and three grown children — has no reason to expect anything will change. But when the summer ends, the woman she was — living behind a protective camouflage of feminine charm and caring — no longer exists. This novel, Doris Lessing’s brilliant excursion into the terrifying stretch of time between youth and old age, is her journey: from London to Turkey to Spain, from husband to lover to madness: on the road to a frightening new independence and a confrontation with self that lets her, finally, come truly of age.
– From Summer Before the Dark book jacket notes

At first Kate Brown resigns herself to the realization that this would be the last summer before her family goes their own ways and she is left with an empty nest and the start of a new stage of life — aging — sets in. But the summer brings her unexpected experiences through which she discovers a new sense of Self that is not defined by her roles of wife or mother. She emerges rejuvenated and centered, which results in a new sense of social dynamics with her family, friends, coworkers, and strangers.

Do read this book. Do, do read this book!

Doris Lessing was a marvelous chronicler of the inner lives of women and wrote candidly of our deepest emotions, including anger and aggression. She was attacked as “unfeminine” in doing so. Her response to her critics: “Apparently what many women were thinking, feeling, experiencing came as a great surprise.”  

In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy described her as the “epicist of the female experience, who with skepticism, fire, and visionary power has subjected a divided civilization to scrutiny.”

Queen Doris’ most famous novel and, perhaps her strongest legacy, The Golden Notebook, published in 1962 when she was 43 years old, inspired a generation of feminists. She was adamant that women should be free to lead independent lives as the sovereign rulers of their own destinies.

“Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself”

Today HRM Lessing lives in London. She is 88 years old and still feisty, a brave and impeccably honest shero of the first order.

“I have found it to be true that the older I’ve become the better my life has become.”

May it continue to be so. Long live the literary Queen!

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to

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