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Next Up: The Golden Notebook

So there’s a woman who writes in four different notebooks covering four different periods of her life. Each of the notebooks has a different color.

But then there’s a fifth notebook. It’s golden. And in the fifth, golden notebook, this woman, Anna, attempts to tie together all of those periods of her life, as recorded in the other four notebooks.

That’s The Golden Notebook.

The story involves themes of Stalinism, The Cold War, feminism, and the spread of nuclear weapons. Sounds like another light read!

Here are a few facts about The Golden Notebook and its author, Doris Lessing:

  • Published in 1962, The Golden Notebook was Doris Lessing’s third of nearly 20 novels.
  • In The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Margaret Drabble labeled the novel as “inner space fiction”—a realm that deals with mental and societal breakdown.
  • In 2007, Lessing won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 87, making her the oldest winner of the literature prize and the third oldest Nobel winner in any category.
  • Lessing, 93, was born in Iraq (then known as Persia) and currently lives in London. (Hooray for authors on the Time list who are still alive!)
  • Lessing has said that The Golden Notebook is about much more than feminism, even playing down that theme. In 1970, she said “I’ve got the feeling that the sex war is not the most important war going on, nor is it the most vital problem in our lives.”
  • The University of Texas is home to the largest literary archive of Doris Lessing’s work (the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center).

This is a long novel. It might take me a while.

Wish me luck. And, please someone, tell me it’s good. I can’t handle a 600 page stinker.

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve not read Lessing, but I’m fairly certain I’ve got at least one of her books coming up in the near future. This one sounds intriguing so I’ll definitely have to check it out. Have you ever read any of her works prior to this?

    Like

    February 28, 2013
    • This will be the first time I’ve read Lessing. Not too bad, so far.

      Like

      February 28, 2013
  2. Tea #

    I’ve always seen this book and wondered about it. Had a feeling it might be too heavy for my little brain. So, I’m glad to see you reading it. This way I can learn more about the title. I enjoyed this review. Thanks.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  3. It’s good, but i fear it may seem very dated. Would your mum or her friends have read it as they might have interesting thoughts about it? I know lots of women in their late 60s who were massively influenced by this book when they read it, but when I first came across it, aged about 19 (in the mid 1980s) I felt quite let down that it didn’t make me think, “yes, this is my eureka moment”. I’m still happy to be called a feminist though, so maybe something stuck.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
    • I’m about 100 pages in. Not bad so far, but definitely has a “dated” feel, as you said. Maybe it’s because communism seems so irrelevant these days.

      Like

      February 28, 2013
  4. I really want to read this one someday. Perhaps your experience and review will prompt me to do it quickly. I can’t wait to see what you think. And I am glad the author you are reading is a woman. It doesn’t seem like there are many of them on the Time list, not that I have counted.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
    • Emily, you are absolutely correct about that. Only recently have women authors begun to break though the barrier of the male canon. Robert, since you are reading Doris Lessing this might be a worthy post topic?

      Like

      February 28, 2013
  5. I have only read her short stories which I enjoyed a great deal. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  6. I have to read Doris Lessing before I die to assuage my lifelong guilt about the first and last time I plagiarized. When I was 10 or so, I had to write a report on my favorite author. I had no idea who that was at the time (hadn’t read my first Hemingway yet, or even Tolkien or LeGuin), and the only encyclopedias we had in the house were volumes L, M, and O (we never racked up enough A&P register tape for the whole series) and Lessing was the first entry on a writer that I came to. I copied the entry and handed it in. The teacher totally caught me, natch!, and I was so utterly mortified that I vowed to read her work and write a real report about her.

    So good luck to you! I’m eager to see how you react to it so I know if this is the book of hers I have to read or if I should look elsewhere.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  7. I read Lessing’s The Grass is Singing in my second year of university (three years ago now) and really enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read this title of hers ever since but still haven’t gotten around to it. I look forward to seeing what you think!

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  8. I bought the book eons ago, but I’ve never opened the covers. Perhaps you can persuade me to do so—that is, if you like it. :o)

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  9. Teresa #

    Definitely dated. Like the Great Gatsby her characters have upper class sensibilities. But unlike with Gatsby, I didn’t warm up to the characters or their situations. I am sympathetic to her cause but her message did not speak to me.

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  10. I’ve heard good things about this book and it is on my list to read in the future!

    Like

    February 28, 2013
  11. She was a very big influence when I read her, but I agree,, this may seem dated now. What I loved about her writing was her fluidity, she wrote outside of her comfort zone, so reading her was knowing a different side of her each time. If I were to read her now, I would go to her later works, because she seemed to stay abreast with the times. Her memoirs were v interesting.

    Like

    March 1, 2013
  12. The Golden Notebook was the first Lessing book I read. I’m not sure it’s a novel I’d say I enjoyed but it did captivate me with the originality of its structure. That is what got me through the dull parts.

    Obviously I’m a guy and so any feminist message would probably speak less to me. That said I don’t think it’s about feminism at all. Yes some of the characters are feminists but the novel is not about that. For me this is one of the greatest novels about novels, about the process of writing. The story is from the point of view of an author piecing together her new work, going over the memories that influenced her first book, wrestling with new ideas and gradually breaking down.

    I think it is very much a novel of and about its time but I don’t think that necessarily makes it dated. Modern concerns are different and it is no longer a great act of defiance to be a single mother but the politics and social aspects of the novel remain interesting.

    The Golden Notebook is like several of Lessing’s books an experiment. Like most experiments it isn’t entirely successful but it is, at the very least, original and interesting. It did take me a long time to read though.

    Like

    March 3, 2013
    • The more I read of this book, the more I totally agree with you. The novel definitely is a novel about writing. The structure is so interesting.

      Like

      March 12, 2013
  13. Dominick Sabalos #

    If you like the Golden Notebook, bear in mind that Doris Lessing also writes.. sci fi!

    [/neversaydie]

    Like

    March 4, 2013

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  1. The Golden Notebook As A “Feminist Bible” | 101 Books

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