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The golden notebook by Doris May Lessing
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The golden notebook (original 1962; edition 1962)

by Doris May Lessing

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,432521,572 (3.64)1 / 284
Member:thorold
Title:The golden notebook
Authors:Doris May Lessing
Info:London, 1962. 567 p. ; 8vo.
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction, 1960s, feminism, communism, Southern Africa, diary

Work details

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)

  1. 31
    The Two of Them by Joanna Russ (lquilter)
    lquilter: While reading The Two of Them by Joanna Russ, I was persistently reminded of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. The female protagonist's articulated rage, the psychoanalytic approach, the insurmountability of the patriarchy. For readers across genres who liked either of these novels, I would suggest trying the other.… (more)
  2. 00
    Orwell and Politics (Penguin Modern Classics) by George Orwell (DLSmithies)
    DLSmithies: Alright, this one's tenuous, but bear with me! Orwell has lots of interesting things to say about the socialist movement of the 30s and 40s in Britain and elsewhere, especially in Stalin's Russia. Similarly, the Communist Party in 1950s Britain looms large in the background of The Golden Notebook, and the main character is deeply troubled by the situation in Russia under Stalin (along with everything else that's happening on the world stage at the time). So, you see, there's a link!... ...or maybe it's just me.… (more)
  3. 01
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (readerbabe1984)
  4. 12
    DORIS LESSING CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE (geneven)
    geneven: This five-book series is great, though depressing in spots. (I haven't read The Golden Notebook.)
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English (46)  Spanish (3)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I wanted to love this book, and at times it held me captive, but with weak arms, it let me go too often to keep my affections. For one thing, a lot of people who's opinion I highly respect loved the book far more than I did. I've read a lot of fascinating things about the book after finishing with it. I won't try to delve into what the author's intentions were, what readers find or search for instead, whether the book was "successful" at accomplishing those intentions. I don't feel qualified to do so at this point.

What I can say is that I found the language, the 'voice' of the novel to be tiresome. It's published in 1962, and clearly comes from that era. I'm beginning to suspect I don't do well with books around then, and after writing this, I intend to filter my book list to see how I've rated other books around the same time.

However, there were a number of scenes and feelings I did connect with strongly, and certainly I can see how many people would love the book. Unfortunately, I'm just not one of them. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
I wanted to love this book, and at times it held me captive, but with weak arms, it let me go too often to keep my affections. For one thing, a lot of people who's opinion I highly respect loved the book far more than I did. I've read a lot of fascinating things about the book after finishing with it. I won't try to delve into what the author's intentions were, what readers find or search for instead, whether the book was "successful" at accomplishing those intentions. I don't feel qualified to do so at this point.

What I can say is that I found the language, the 'voice' of the novel to be tiresome. It's published in 1962, and clearly comes from that era. I'm beginning to suspect I don't do well with books around then, and after writing this, I intend to filter my book list to see how I've rated other books around the same time.

However, there were a number of scenes and feelings I did connect with strongly, and certainly I can see how many people would love the book. Unfortunately, I'm just not one of them. ( )
  wjmcomposer | Nov 5, 2014 |
More of a 4.5 really, because of a few issues. However, I'm still fairly certain this is a masterpiece. Review to follow. ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
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 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. ( )
1 vote leslie.98 | Jan 18, 2014 |
Big thick book. Bigger than I usually read, but I was committed after not very many pages. About the novel, about politics, about women and men. The structure was fascinating, the way the different parts of the book talked about one another. I read Lessing's introduction maybe three times and found it deeper each reading. ( )
  mykl-s | Dec 7, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Doris Lessingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Valentí, HelenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vink, NettieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The two women were alone in the London flat.
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Ella decides to write again, searches herself for the book which is already written inside her, and waiting to be written down. She spends a great deal of time alone, waiting to discern the outlines of this book inside her.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006093140X, Paperback)

Much to its author's chagrin, The Golden Notebook instantly became a staple of the feminist movement when it was published in 1962. Doris Lessing's novel deconstructs the life of Anna Wulf, a sometime-Communist and a deeply leftist writer living in postwar London with her small daughter. Anna is battling writer's block, and, it often seems, the damaging chaos of life itself. The elements that made the book remarkable when it first appeared--extremely candid sexual and psychological descriptions of its characters and a fractured, postmodern structure--are no longer shocking. Nevertheless, The Golden Notebook has retained a great deal of power, chiefly due to its often brutal honesty and the sheer variation and sweep of its prose.

This largely autobiographical work comprises Anna's four notebooks: "a black notebook which is to do with Anna Wulf the writer; a red notebook concerned with politics; a yellow notebook, in which I make stories out of my experience; and a blue notebook which tries to be a diary." In a brilliant act of verisimilitude, Lessing alternates between these notebooks instead of presenting each one whole, also weaving in a novel called Free Women, which views Anna's life from the omniscient narrator's point of view. As the novel draws to a close, Anna, in the midst of a breakdown, abandons her dependence on compartmentalization and writes the single golden notebook of the title.

In tracking Anna's psychological movements--her recollections of her years in Africa, her relationship with her best friend, Molly, her travails with men, her disillusionment with the Party, the tidal pull of motherhood--Lessing pinpoints the pulse of a generation of women who were waiting to see what their postwar hopes would bring them. What arrived was unprecedented freedom, but with that freedom came unprecedented confusion. Lessing herself said in a 1994 interview: "I say fiction is better than telling the truth. Because the point about life is that it's a mess, isn't it? It hasn't got any shape except for you're born and you die."

The Golden Notebook suffers from certain weaknesses, among them giving rather simplistic, overblown illustrations to the phrase "a good man is hard to find" in the form of an endless parade of weak, selfish men. But it still has the capacity to fill emotional voids with the great rushes of feeling it details. Perhaps this is because it embodies one of Anna's own revelations: "I've been forced to acknowledge that the flashes of genuine art are all out of deep, suddenly stark, undisguiseable private emotion. Even in translation there is no mistaking these lightning flashes of genuine personal feeling." It seems that Lessing, like Anna when she decides to abandon her notebooks for the single, golden one, attempted to put all of herself in one book. --Melanie Rehak

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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