The Golden Notebook- Doris Lessing

 

 

“I see I am falling into the self-punishing, cynical tone again. Yet how comforting this tone is, like a sort of poultice on a wound.”
— Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

This big book is well worth the effort. Having started my foray into Lessing’s work through her non-fiction, I was curious how her intellect would feature in her fiction writing. This definitely wasn’t a light read; the subject matter was pretty serious- life, feminism, politics, Africa and so on. The story revolves around Anna Wulf, single mother and best-selling author of one popular book, who is suffering from writer’s block and is seeing a psychiatrist. The book follows Anna through her marriage, divorce, early years in Rhodesia, her countless love affairs, and her quest to find the right balance as a woman while being a mother, while recording various life events in a series of colour-coded notebooks.

Generally I liked the candidness of this book though I felt some aspects were too graphically described. I kept thinking all the way through the book about how impactful it must have been when it was first published over 60 years ago especially as it dwelt on the subject matters of feminism and female sexuality.

Because I  live in a relatively emancipated age, the feminist parts didn’t interest me as much as the political and historical content. The section on European life in colonial Southern Rhodesia was intriguing. Also, seeing how how communism was treated was interesting especially as  I don’t think communism has such a great stigma these days. Politics were definitely a large part of this book.

Did I like Anna? I found her slightly  infuriating for the most part but at the same time as a woman I can definitely sympathize with  her, issues that affect many women. Trying to find balance mostly.
The book was written in a fragmented style, which I quite liked because it kind of ties in with Anna and her fragmented persona:

“We’re driven by something to be as many different things or people as possible.”

I put off writing this review for so long because there was so much content  and points for discussion in the book. This is the perfect book to discuss with others; too bad it’s too long for my bookclub.

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5 thoughts on “The Golden Notebook- Doris Lessing

  1. I wish I could remember this book – I disliked it but I was too young and silly to understand it well I fear.
    I know that Lessing was very surprised to have this book hailed as a groundbreaking feminist text, perhaps because she was a Marxist and surrounded by women friends who took the basics of feminism for granted. She also disliked the idea of people writing essays about her books, not because she was precious about its ‘true meaning’ at all, but because she preferred people to read, enjoy and move on to more glorious books. She cared so much about the pleasure of reading = )

    1. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book had I been much younger. I don’t think I would have understood the need of the feminist revolution in as much detail as I do now. And anyone who advocates reading for pleasure gets my vote 🙂

  2. An excellent review, sometimes leaving it for a while allows the important aspects that you got out of it or the impressions it makes to rise to the forefront, clearly, as this is such a succinct review. Have still to dust off this one!

  3. Reblogged this on agnesmizere and commented:
    “The book {Golden Notebook] follows Anna through her marriage, divorce, early years in Rhodesia, her countless love affairs, and her quest to find the right balance as a woman while being a mother, while recording various life events in a series of colour-coded notebooks.”

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