Ben Lovatt can never fit in. To those he meets, he seems awkward: too big, too strong, inhumanly made. He baffles and he terrifies: those who do not understand him want him locked up.
His own mother locked him up; then, guilty, she liberated him. But her unyielding love for him corroded their family; this fifth child broke the home into bits. And now he has come of age and again finds himself bewildered and alone. He searches in the faces of those he meets to see the hostility there, or the fear, or more rarely the kindness. Occasionally a gentler, less fearful person to fit understands his need, how hard he is trying it in. Mostly people make use of him, and he finds himself in the south of France, in Brazil, and in the mountains of the Andes, where at last he discovers where he has come from and who his people are.
The Fifth Child is one of Doris Lessing's most powerful and haunting books. In this sequel, Ben Lovatt is loosed on the wider world; how that world receives him, and how he fares in it, will keep the reader of Ben, in the World enthralled and on tenterhooks until its dramatic finale.