Books: Home Is Where the Horrors Are THE FIFTH CHILD

by Doris Lessing; Knopf; 144 pages; $16.95

Most horror stories appeal to a collective memory of childhood, the sense of being small and vulnerable in a world filled with large, mysterious beings. Portrayals of innocence or helplessness stalked by danger produce responses that are largely involuntary and hence all but fail-safe: a reader's skin crawls, a moviegoer looks away from the screen or screams. One variation on this formula is its mirror opposite: an evil child is born into an unsuspecting, defenseless society. This situation crops up in folk literature, with tales of changelings or of sleeping women seduced and impregnated by incubi, and occasionally appears in popular...

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