The Golden Notebook

by Doris May Lessing

Paperback, 1994

Call number




Perennial (1994), Edition: Reprint, 656 pages


Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna resolves to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook. Doris Lessing's best-known and most influential novel, The Golden Notebook retains its extraordinary power and relevance decades after its initial publication.

User reviews

LibraryThing member baswood
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
This novel was not a trumpet for Women’s Liberation; claimed Lessing herself in an essay written in 1971, nearly ten years after The Golden Notebook was published and which serves as a preface to the 1993 edition, but I can understand how it might have been
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interpreted as such back in the early 1960’s. It is like many of her early novels drawn from her own life experiences, so much so that it seems autobiographical in places.

‘“Writing about oneself, one is writing about others, since your problems, pains, pleasures and emotions - and your extraordinary and remarkable ideas - can’t be yours alone”
Doris Lessing - essay1971

The subject of the book is Anna Wulf who is a forty something woman living in Earls Court London with her young daughter, she is living on the royalties of a successful novel. She is divorced. She spent the first thirty years or so of her life in Africa (Zimbabwe or perhaps South Africa) where she was a member of the communist party. She is suffering from writers block and although she might not admit it; the need to find a man with whom she can have a loving relationship. She feels adrift and although she has a number of affairs she is lurching toward a severe depression. Her inability to start a new book has coincided with her rejection of the communist party (CP) which has been her ideological and social base for most of her adult life. In an attempt to break out of the downward spiral she starts to write about her feelings, history, day to day events together with an imaginary novel based on current experiences in four separate notebooks. Lessing uses Anna’s notebooks as the basic structure for her novel, linking them with a narrative story called Free Woman which charts Anna’s progress through this painful period of her life.

The notebooks hold nothing back and if at times this reader thought he was wading through seas of menstrual blood then this is exactly what was important to Anna Wulf at the time. The notebooks present an intimate picture of Anna’s life and as she is a single parent coping with the social culture of the early 1960’s (where women are second class citizens and as such their sexual life is to be used and abused by men who are in a position to take advantage), she is not afraid to write about her own needs, both as a women and as a politically aware person. She goes to bed with men as and when it feels right for her to do so, there is no shame and no recriminations. She does not spare her vitriol on the men who cheat about their emotions, those that use their dominant position in society to get what they want and she meets or hears about quite a few of those, therefore it is not surprising that The Golden Notebook was/is seen as a cause celebre for women’s liberation both by women readers who felt the same way and by male critics who may have felt emasculated. However Lessing was writing a novel about one woman’s feelings at a certain point in her life, the book is very subjective it is not a clarion call for anything and although many of the men appear weak and unworthy much the same could be said for the women in Anna’s life.

Lessing has claimed that her book has been misinterpreted that it’s main subject was the disintegration of Anna Wulf, her descent into near madness at a time when the things that were important to her were also falling apart; for example her inability to get past her writers block, the meltdown inside the British Communist party, her fears for a world under the shadow of the H-bomb and the future of her child as well as her need for love. The disintegration is represented by the four notebooks where the only way that Anna can cope is to compartmentalise her life, but they are not the answer as they lead to more fragmentation as issues and stories from her past appear and reappear in different forms.

This is a book that will speak to many people, because of the rawness of it’s emotional content and Lessing may well be right in saying that when an author writes truthfully about herself then others will see their own lives partly reflected. I think that this is why the book does not quite hold together in the way that Lessing wished at the time, because readers were too busy identifying with the characters and failing to see the bigger picture. This may be still true today as for many people times have not changed all that much, but this is not Lessing’s fault. It is certainly not her fault in the way that the book is structured, because its last fifty or so pages are a passionate account of one person’s mental breakdown. Lessing writes imaginatively, saving some of her best prose to describe Anna’s dreams as they become confused with her reality. This writing prefigures some of her writing in her later science fiction novels. It is very effective here.

The Golden Notebook is the final notebook in which she writes about her affair with Saul Green, a man who's seems to be suffering from a multi personality disorder. Perhaps it is progress for Anna that she now has only one notebook and even more progress because she can give it away, but when Saul leaves as Anna knows he must taking some strength from their relationship, Anna is once again left with her problems. She still has work to do….

A Book that is passionate and powerful and once again mines the authors own life story for much of it’s content. Perhaps it is too powerful for it’s own good, because it does not quite come together for me, but then again that is one of its major themes and so it may be Lessing being more clever than I think she is. Anyway this is an important book for what it says about a brave and independent woman battling against the culture of her times which threatens her very sanity. Plenty of us will find in those intimate details of Anna’s life much to think about and so 4.5 stars.
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LibraryThing member Luli81
“Art is the mirror of our betrayed ideals” page 385.

Still under the effects of the inebriating The Brothers K, I thought the best way to overcome a book hungover was to get drunk again. Reckless and foolish, I know.
My head still spinning around and my heart wrenched into a tight ball as I write
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these lines. “The Golden notebook” is not a kind book.
It has challenged my patience and tolerance with its apparent non direction. I have even despised Anna, the narrator of the story, thinking her naive, selfish and snobbish.
But being a woman who dwells in constant contradiction, I have irrevocably fallen under the spell of Lessing Anna’s radical voice. A woman, writer and mother who says the unsayable, thinks the unthinkable and puts it all down in her notebooks in all its raw emotional and intellectual chaos.
Four Notebooks pouring with self contempt, full of disillusionment, tolls for searching clues in her past in order to reconcile her unbearably miserable present.

The black recalls Anna’s youth in wartime Rhodesia, her initial involvement with the Communist Party and how her early experiences served as material for her later successful novel. Also a retrospective insight in which Anna can’t neither recognize herself nor her ingenuous expectations on women’s independence and liberation.

”What business has a novelist to cling to the memory of a smile or a look, knowing so well the complexities behind them?” page 115.

The red portrays her political doubts with shocking power and blistering honesty, threading radical exploration of communism together with Anna’s growing need for truth-seeking rather than political ideology.
I found her growing estrangement with The Party especially poignant when she starts feeling dubious about ends justifying means and the cynicism of some “comrades”.

”Yet why do I have a home at all? Because I wrote a book I am ashamed of, and it made a lot of money. Luck, luck, that’s all. And I hate all that – ‘my’ home, ‘my’ possessions, ‘my’ rights. And yet come to the point where I’m uncomfortable, I fall back on it like everyone else. Mine. Property. Possessions.” page 356

The yellow notebook was the one that struck me the most but at the same time also shined out with unexpected recognition. Anna’s futile effort to write as a third person, naming her creation Ella, in an attempt to distance herself from the inadequacy and constant failures of her relationships with men reminded me strongly of D.H. Lawrence’s reflections on sexuality, morality and motherhood.
Anna’s reaffirmed feelings of independence reacting against the vanity, egoism and insecurities of her usually married male partners contrast with her constant displays of traditional female behavior (expecting to stop being the mistress to become the wife). It all sounded so real and sincere to me that I felt Anna’s sufferings and sorrows as my own.

“I am unhappy because I have lost some kind of independence, some freedom; but my being ‘free’ has nothing to do with writing a novel; it has to do with my attitude towards a man, and that has been proved dishonest, because I am in pieces.” page 283.

Finally, the blue notebook appears as an accurate account of everyday life where intertwined switches of mood, rambling thoughts and semi-deranged descriptions of dreams become a crude testimony of existential doubts.

”But-isn’t there something wrong with the fact that my sleep is more satisfying, exciting, enjoyable than anything that happens to me awake?” page 217.

Defragmented pieces of unconsciousness create the most truthful and frightening image of a woman who questions the different versions of herself to find her long lost wholeness.
Doris Lessing addresses the conflicts between the maternal and erotic life, of the difficulties to conduct a career, or at least to try to, while raising a child, of the letdown that comes along with exploration of political ideologies, of the hardships of facing a mental breakdown, of the frustration of being a liberated woman but still be dependant on a masculine presence in her life. And she does it all looking at the reader straight in the eye, without blinking.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t see Lessing as some sort of personal feminist hero, I don’t think that is the point. But then, as now, being in my early thirties, this novel has helped to steer me towards knowing which questions to ask and which answers are better left unsought.
Everything. Life, love, death, the myriad beings buried deep inside me. Everything has become Golden clear. Because there has to be a crack in everything so that the light gets in.
The failures and inadequacies of my past.
The bleakness of my upcoming future.
The beauty and the futility of it all, so worth the effort.
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LibraryThing member thorold
Brilliant, complicated, original, occasionally hard going, but always worth it. This is one of the books that made women of my mother's generation see the world in a new way: fifty years on, it isn't quite as shocking and subversive any more — we're slowly getting used to seeing discussions of
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menstruation and female orgasms in print, and we're not quite as excited about Khrushchev and the Twentieth Congress of the CPSU as our parents were. But most of what Lessing has to say about those things still matters, nonetheless.

I was much more engaged than I expected to be by the theme of mental breakdown that runs through the book: from the high praise the book always gets from my mental-health-professional friends, I was resigned to being confronted with a lot of unintelligible Freud/Jung/Lacan jargon, but it isn't like that at all. The description of Anna's tottering on the edge of sanity is alarmingly easy to identify with. I was very struck by the way that is woven in with the different levels of fiction in the novel, and by the implied relations of fiction to real life.

Definitely not just an historical document, but a book it's still worth reading half a century later.
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LibraryThing member Cecilturtle
There are two things that struck me about this book: 1) how difficult it is to read despite fascinating topics written with a crisp and clear style; 2) how incredibly modern it is: it hasn't aged one bit.
Lessing is part intellectual, rational, logical and part raw emotion tapping into the depth of
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the soul. While it is not always evident, it comes in waves through different notebooks, the different perspectives weaving in and out of each other.
My favourite parts were definitely the nostalgic scenes of Mashopi which hold the foundation of the book: relationships between men and women, social inequality - notably racism and feminism - and capitalism, the very themes that we still struggle with today.
A tough read but a masterful novel.
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LibraryThing member SaturdayReadingGroup
Like having a depressed, middle class friend sitting in their new conservatory and rambling on at you for hours about how awful they think their life is, 576 pages in the company of Anna Wulf was about 500 too many. On the one hand I wanted to be empathetic and not denigrate her personal
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unhappiness but on the other was the irrepressible desire to shout "Arrrggg!!!, just cheer the hell up". Whilst there is undoubtedly good writing here and striking characterisation (were men really this obnoxious in the 1950s?) my sympathy and interest rapidly dribbled away. Despite it's vast length I found its world too claustrophobically narrow. The supporting cast of indolent, disaffected communists and intellectuals began to grate early on as the working classes and black Africans hovered in the background trying not to get into the way of all that profound misery. I'm afraid I had to make my excuses and leave early.
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LibraryThing member ursula
I don't really know what to think about this book, but I can tell you one thing - it's a book that refuses to be summed up by a one-sentence description. Instead, here's a list of some of what it's about: friendships between women, Communism, single motherhood, sexual mores, psychoanalysis,
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writing, suicide, marriage, British colonies in Africa, race, class and gender divides, British vs. American tendencies, insanity, independence, love, losing faith in a cause, losing faith in oneself, public vs. private faces. Oh, and apparently it is supposed to be some sort of feminist touchstone, although Lessing says she didn't write it with that intention and I didn't personally read it that way myself.

I seesawed frequently between being intrigued and being bored. There's no doubt that Lessing's writing is engaging, but it didn't overcome the subject matter of some sections for me. I am not that interested in reading 50 pages on the future of Communism in the wake of realizations that Stalin was a monster. I'm not that interested in reading 3 pages of headlines that our main character, Anna, has clipped from newspapers and pasted into her journal. (Those 3 or 4 pages *felt* like 50 to me.) The structure of the novel was intriguing, although I admit I didn't entirely get it until near the end - I have no idea if a reader is supposed to have picked up on it before that.

My attention was held by the relationships between Anna and the major players in her life - her friend Molly and Molly's ex-husband, Richard, and their son, Tommy. Anna's relationship with her daughter, Janet, had some moments and expressions of emotions that any parent will recognize. Anna's relationships with men and her reflections thereupon were like the rest - sometimes interesting, sometimes so much tedious navel-gazing and justification.

Recommended for: anyone who wanted confirmation that bohemians are just as miserable as anyone else, people who think eating your vegetables before getting dessert makes dessert more rewarding, people with more patience for abstract whining and over-analyzing than me.

Quote: "She seems to me so fragile that I want to put out my hand to save her from a wrong step, or a careless movement; and at the same time so strong that she is immortal. I feel what I felt with sleeping Michael, a need to laugh out in triumph, because of this marvelous, precarious immortal human being, in spite of the weight of death."
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LibraryThing member NaggedMan
My wife was unsure about this because 'the author is too obviously a communist'. My reading of this brilliant novel is quite different. Yes of course only someone with direct experience could write from such an insider perspective, but the perspective of the novel is deeply sceptical about
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communism as indeed about many other things. Don't read if you don't like women (or wimmin); but otherwise don't miss it!
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LibraryThing member Acia
I found this book initially very difficult to read. The first notebook went on and on. I remember thinking to myself that I couldn't possibly read it. However, as it is considered a 'must read' I forced myself to persist and I am really glad I did. Still current and insightful all these years later.
LibraryThing member xinyi
A breath-taking, overwhelming, everlastingly signficant and important portrait of 'free and independent' women's struggles - however, it would be against Lessing's wish to simplify it as a feminist pioneering book so we want to be careful about it. It is a book written by an author who couldn't
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help with her front-line left-wing, intellectual, and cold-war upbringing who indulged all of this into this too clever, thorough, highly analytical and intellectual book. I found myself wanting to highlight almost every sentence Lessing produced - reading it is also a most self-indulgent experience!
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LibraryThing member leslie.98
Although I can see that this novel may have been seen as feminist when it came out in 1962, it isn't actually very feminist in content - it just has women who are outspoken about every aspect of their lives including sexual and emotional relations. Apparently it was viewed as shocking that Anna and
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Molly were critical about men, Richard in particular; this, as with most of the other 'feminist' aspects, is now routinely found in contemporary novels.

The real heart of the novel in my eyes was Anna's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to integrate her desire to live by ideals with politics; the dichotomy of wanting to do work which will improve the world versus helping individuals to a better life. Lessing has captured the growing disillusionment of the Western communists in the years following WW2, not in the philosophic ideal of communism but with the reality of the political party.

Another major theme was the fragmentation of Anna, and by implication society as a whole, leading her into a state of mental breakdown. The 4 notebooks in which she tried by different methods to capture "the truth" each ended up being false just as different aspects of personality are not true representations of the whole person. Different versions of this concept were popular at this time (late 1950s, early 1960s), and if I had read this book during my twenties I think I would have been much more interested. Coming to it later in life, I found the political idealogical theme more compelling.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
1041 The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing (read 21 Jan 1970) This is another book listed by Time as a Notable Book of the Sixties [the complete list is in my review of The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn here on LibraryThing]. Set This House on Fire [which I read 31 Aug 1969 and did NOT
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like] was a veritable masterpiece compared to this trash. This book is just nothing. it doesn't have anything. Boring, scatological, inane, disorganized--it is just junk. Notable? Ugh. I must be awful stupid. The book got worse and worse. The part on the "I"--Anna Wulf--and Saul Green took the cake. Stupid, ignorant, asinine people--how can anyone care anything about such impossible moronic people?
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LibraryThing member plenilune
The Golden Notebook is a thought-provoking, if occasionally meandering, page-turner set mainly in England in the 1950s. It is primarily about Anna Wulf, writer of one successful novel, and her fight with writers’ block as she struggles to put the absolute truth (and only the truth) into words.
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While I did find the pace of my reading slow down in the last 1/5th or so of the book, it was absolutely worth pushing through and finishing.

Despite characters that are mostly unlikable, or at the least, unsympathetic, I found the book to be engrossing. The utilization of the story-within-a-story narrative is expertly done. As the stories develop and come together, I came to more than one realization. The first was that there were even more levels than merely stories-within-a-story. The second was that perhaps none of it had been the truth the whole time, and that perhaps Anna was right when she recognized that the truth is something that automatically becomes untrue once you’ve written it down.

Coming to that second realization (that it was likely that nothing in the previous 600+ pages was “true” per se) would normally make a reader feel that the endeavor had been a colossal waste of time, or at the least feel cheated. However, TGN is so well-done that despite this, you still feel fulfilled and rewarded for having read it. Maybe everything that Anna has told us is untrue, but those details are of little consequence when compared to the experience of TGN as a whole—and it is something you have to experience; you will never get an honest feel for this book by reading reviews or synopses.

Notwithstanding my general praise of TGN as a creative work, the feminist in me finds the general mood of unhappiness in the book problematic. Anna and her friend Molly are “free women” (i.e. they are independent and do as they please) yet neither seems terribly happy with her life. Anna jumps from relationship to relationship (and frequently, married man to married man) and never seems happy; she bemoans the lack of faithful men she’s been able to find, yet never does anything to break out of it. And internally she’s falling apart, as evidenced in the multiple notebooks she keeps. I might describe Molly as content, but we don’t have access to her internal workings as we do with Anna. This gloom may be simply something used to capture the mood of what a electively single woman faced at that time, but I still find it disconcerting.

Nevertheless, the voracious reader (and hopeful one-day writer) in me feels like TGN is just SO good, calling it a novel is almost an insult. This book is a work of master craftsmanship. I recommend it to any smart, voracious reader, and to all writers and would-be writers.
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LibraryThing member iansales
I admit it, I had thought this would be extremely hard-going. I’d read a couple of Lessing’s other novels and not been taken with them – and even if the first book of her sf quintet, Canopus in Argos Archives, Shikasta, felt to me like being beaten about the head by Ursula K Le Guin. The
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Golden Notebook, Lessing’s most celebrated novel, I expected to be a bit of a chore – especially given its 576 pages… So I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was an engrossing read. I’m only glad I read it after writing All That Outer Space Allows, as some structural elements of my novel might well have changed and in hindsight I’m not convinced they’d have been improvements. The Golden Notebook is a novel titled ‘Free Women’, about Anna Wulf, writer of a single successful novel based on her years in Africa during WWII, who is now living in London. She is also a communist. Between Sections of ‘Free Women’ are Wulf’s notebooks – black, red, yellow and blue. In the black notebook, she describes her time in Africa – on which her one published novel, ‘Frontiers of War’ (and which I kept on mis-thinking as Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War) was based – and later, her life in London. The red notebook details Wulf’s politics and her interactions with the Communist Party. The yellow notebook is a fictionalisation of Wulf’s own life, title ‘The Shadow of the Third’, in which Wulf’s part is played by a woman called Ella. And the blue notebook starts out as a diary, but at times is more of a scrapbook, filled with newspaper cuttings. The five narratives, despite covering similar ground, don’t actually confuse The Golden Notebook‘s story, they actually deepen it and successfully show different aspects of Wulf’s character – as a writer, as a communist, her sex life (especially her affairs, none of which last) and her relations with her friends. The more observant among you will have noticed that the title of Lessing’s novel refers to a notebook not yet mentioned. This only appears near the end, opens by describing Anna breaking free of her then-boyfriend, before becoming that boyfriend’s own novel (a précis is given only), since writing is the catalyst the two use to part amicably. I really liked The Golden Notebook, and I honestly hadn’t expected to. I can see how it might have shocked in 1962 – Lessing is very forthright about Wulf’s sex life – and the sharp criticism of the lives women were expected to live can’t have gone down too well. I expect the communism would be more of a turn-off to twenty-first century readers than the sexual politics. But The Golden Notebook does read like a book ahead of its time. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member vaellus
Lessing herself has referred to this book as 'narcissistic'; it is also disillusioned, depressed and lacking in grace and wisdom. To wade through stacks of slapdash, tired self-centered nonsense only to find a few tiny good bits along the way is just not worth it. Disappointing, mindnumbing.
LibraryThing member jwood652
This book explores the Communist Party, relationships, treatment of women in society and mental illness. Although there are amazing insights into membership in the Communist Party in the'50s and the male/female dynamic, the book seems disjointed, often hard to follow and, at times, somewhat boring.
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The author's feminist viewpoints are amazingly current considering they were written over 50 years ago. I expected the contents of the four notebooks to be more clearly defined bringing it all together into a cohesive "Golden Notebook". That didn't happen.
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LibraryThing member Mdshrk1
While this book seems scattered, and the end doesn't seem to justify the means, it is an interesting read that has given me much to think about.
LibraryThing member pokylittlepuppy
I will probably never manage to read this book again so I thought maybe I should write what I remember. It was one of those reading experiences where I remember lots of moments sitting and reading it. It took a while, the better part of a year I think.What made it so difficult to read was being so
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immensely psychological that practically every sentence needed time to properly land in my brain and resonate. Impact, impact, impact. It's terrifyingly insightful. Lessing is merciless while exploring the women's sexual and familial lives, mental breaks, and lost political hope.Tellingly, I have a paragraph of notes I took while I read it (I never do that) and they are incoherent now: "Children of a man who doesn't love you." "Sex: making room for him when he doesn't deserve it." "Calling yourself free and love when you are buying, sheltering, effacing." That's kind of how it felt to read.I worked hard to get a grasp of the existential feminist need in the book and it was meaningful. Though, Lessing doesn't accept that; this edition includes her 1971 introduction about the book's unintentional involvement in "the sex war" and "Women's Liberation," except this is not "the right way" to read it.Appropriately, my used copy crumbled all to pieces as I got to the end.
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LibraryThing member bexaplex
Anna the novelist writes in four notebooks, one of which (yellow) is a novel about a novelist, Ella.

I think many people find this book self-absorbed or over-analytical. That seems to me the story that is being told: a woman who has essentially divorced herself from her own creativity cannot stop
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sifting through her life for meaning. Each notebook looks futilely for a different kind of meaning.

I like the black notebook best, which I doubt is uncommon. It's ostensibly about money and the profession of writing, although everyone ends up associating it with Africa, the setting of Anna's first novel. There's interesting stuff going on in the black notebook — the stories about Zimbabwe are very compelling, and yet Anna dislikes them intensely because of the nostalgic feeling. It's sort of like reading Conrad with a postscript at the end letting you know that he's well aware of all that "dark continent" cultural undertone he's tapping into and he finds it sickening. And then there's Anna's attitude about the publishing business, here shifted onto the TV/movie adaptation business. Again, it's compelling — the hostility is bare in an almost-awkward way.

If The Golden Notebook were being written today, I'd expect the blue notebook to come in 140-character installments. Obsessive diary-writing is one cultural phenomenon that we have definitely not left in the 20th century :)
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LibraryThing member decidedlybookish
This could be a little hard-going in places but this was more the result of the intellectual content than the quality of the writing. This is a profoundly political, psychological and philosophical novel. The themes, as I understood them, centred around: gender roles and relationships; 20th century
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politics (war and Communism in particular); writing; and madness and the (dis)integrated self. Much of the politics whizzed merrily over my head, I fear, but I found some of the discussion of writing – why one writes and why one does not – quite revelatory. You can see that, in terms of content, this is an extraordinarily dense work, which is partly why it took me so long to read. (That, and I misplaced it for a time.) If all that weren’t enough, it’s also revolutionary in terms of structure: a freestanding short novel interspersed with excerpts from four notebooks kept by the central character. I feel this novel to be an important one, in terms of 20th century literature and history. It is well worth the effort and deserving of its Nobel Prize.
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LibraryThing member TheBentley
The Golden Notebook is not a task to be undertaken lightly. It's a very dense and complex book, much of which is basically in stream-of-consciousness. The structure alone is daunting, comprised as it is of five different documents--the main character's four different journals, which she keeps
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simultaneously on four different parts of her life (one of which is a fiction within the fiction) and the omniscient narrator's exposition. It's satisfying, perhaps partly because it is so difficult, but also because the literary quality--especially the historic value--is very high. Think of The Golden Notebook as the aggressive feminine response to James Joyce--both in content and in style. Like Joyce, it often devolves into neurotic navel-gazing, but at least it's navel-gazing of high quality and intelligence.
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LibraryThing member lee-mervin
Some bits were fascinating - but I found others dull and some very irritating
LibraryThing member Rocky_Wing
i find it strange that of all the works i've read thus far in my life, i should most relate to the main character here. it has given me much to chew on in my own personality, shortcomings, insecurities. the form is unique. the end shook me. she is a literary genius deserving of her nobel prize.
LibraryThing member flydodofly
A great chunk of hostory, yes, I realise that. It documents and sorts out some of the issues of an important time. Still, here is something about Lessing's writing I simply do now enjoy. It reads to me heavy and troublesome, an effort and a chore. Perhaps she is more of a historian than a novelist?
LibraryThing member amerynth
I was so disappointed in Doris Lessing's novel "The Golden Notebook"; having recently read and loved her debut novel "The Grass is Singing", I was looking forward to reading her most challenging and well-regarded work. However, I found the 600-page tome to be nothing but a chore, populated by
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unlikable, selfish characters.

The novel's central character is Anna, a writer, who has been scribbling notes about her life, her politics, her plans for novels and her past work in Africa. She is depressed and allows a number of weak and selfish men into her life. In a way, I felt I was being browbeaten with these details... every couple of pages, I said "Yes, I get it she's depressed... Yes, I get it, she has horrible choices in men."

The novel is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, that at least appears to be semi-autobiographical (I'm not sure if it really is.... perhaps this is Lessing's genius and it had nothing to do with her own life.) I kept wondering are these the types of people who live in Lessing's life? Selfish, self-absorbed and with few redeeming qualities?

I don't mind reading a novel that feels like work if there is a payoff in the end with some revelation or satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, "The Golden Notebook" just seemed like work for work's sake.
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LibraryThing member Britt84
Have decided to give this 4 stars in the end; it's a book that I loved and hated at the same time, and yet it really speaks to me, so 4 stars it is...
I really liked Lessing's writing; though I found the first part a bit hard to get into, I really got drawn in by the second part and very much
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enjoyed her style. I also really liked how the separate books discuss different aspects of Anna's life, and yet all come together and are intricately connected to eachother.
I think Lessing touches upon some very important issues in this novel, and though it sometimes gets somewhat long-winding, I generally think she makes good points in her discussions. She discusses racism and inequality, feminism and relationships, capitalism and communism, and the emptiness of modern life with great detail and some great thoughts that leave you with something to ponder.
What made me hate the book though, was the overall negativity: it seems like Lessing's world is a pretty hopeless place, where men and women are always fighting and happy marriages don't exist, and where capitalism is terrible, but communism really isn't that great either, and where prejudice and discrimination abounds. Though in some cases I agree with the points she makes, it gets rather depressing, and I think she often gets a bit too negative...
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