The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If The Old Could
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The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If The Old Could (The Diaries of Jane Somers #1-2)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  42 reviews
These two novels show Lessing returning to an earlier narrative style with fresh power.
Paperback, 502 pages
Published October 12th 1984 by Vintage (first published 1983)
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The Diaries of Jane Somers is actually 2 short novels, written by famous author Doris Lessing under the pen name of Jane Somers as part of an experiment to see if her writing could get published without her famous name. The stories are written in a diary format by Jane, a widowed editor of a glossy London fashion magazine. Jane is in her mid-50's and exudes competence, not only in her job, but in her impeccable appearance, home and relationships. In the first story, The Diary of a Good Neighbor,...more

Like many, I loved the first book and am very ambivalent about the second. Not, I hasten to add, that I found the second any less well written than the first , but that I hated the strange passivity into which the heroine Jane/Janna falls , and the way in which quite lesser characters patronise and use her, despite owing her any amount of loyalty and respect .
Janna has never mourned her mother or her late husband and, regarding the former at least, she carries much guilt about h...more
These are two novels by Lessing (first published pseudonymously) with the same main character, packaged together.

I much preferred "Diary of a Good Neighbor," which is the story of how a middle-aged woman who finds herself drawn into the lives of some elderly and dying women. Perhaps it's because the themes of aging and mortality are less dated, and the issues she struggles with more universal. "If the Old Could" deals with Jane's meeting a stranger on a train platform and immediately "falling i...more
I have just finished the first volume in this book, entitled "The Diary of a Good Neighbour". I was given it by a friend who implored me to read it, saying "this is an important book". And rightly so. A frank, face-to-face encounter with old age and dying through the eyes of the narrator, Janna Somers (the Jane Somers of the title), which leaves the reader reeling with the brutal honesty of some of the descriptions. The passage where Janna comes across the old lady, Maudie, standing in her kitch...more
The 4 stars is an average; 5 for the first novel (The Diary of a Good Neighbour) and 3 for the second (If the Old Could...). I was very impressed with The Diary of a Good Neighbour. I loved that it dealt with issues that are rarely mentioned realistically in fiction; namely, death, aging, and solitude. It was difficult to read, for the narrator is often prickly and contradictory, and her aging friend, Maudie, is stubborn and angry. But by the end, I cared deeply for both of them as characters, e...more
Aug 02, 2011 Ana added it
The book left me speechless at moments, particularly the first part of the diary. It speaks of ageing with such intensity and humanity that I believe I will forever feel the impact of it in me.
Jayanna Roy-Bachman
Nov 19, 2007 Jayanna Roy-Bachman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody
Shelves: fiction
This is a WONDERFUL book. It is out of print so it will be hard to find. It looks at old age in a way that is realistic and understanding. I recommend it to EVERYONE.
Azza Raslan
Excellent - It changed my life and influenced forever the way I look at older people.
This volume collects two novels named ‘The Diary of a Good Neighbour’ and ‘If the Old Could…’ which Doris Lessing published in 1983 and 1984 respectively under the pseudonym of Jane Somers. Apparently she did this to draw attention to the difficulty of getting published not only for an unknown author but for a woman writing in the personal, confessional vein. And if we approach these as novels with Jane’s name on the cover, the implication is that these are actually works of non-fiction; but lik...more
I grew up surrounded by old people. Age, its frailties and complexities, as addressed by Ms. Lessing have never really fazed me. This, I realize, is an immense advantage. I was moved by how Ms. Lessing placed her narrator in the middle of it all, and how real it all had to become to her while remaining inexplicable to the younger people who surround her.

Did I like Jane Somers when I was done with these novels? I don't know. I saw in her the template, the beginning of Maudie, Eliza, sh...more
Acabé con el corazón destrozado, acabada, aún me siento triste, la discusión del libro me parte en dos y vuelvo a llorar, un llanto incontrolable, un dolor muy profundo, una huella. Me siento triste, muy triste.

Este es un libro entrañable, crudo, real, muy sincero, muy honesto. Es un diario en el que te sientes en comunión con la protagonista, donde sientes su sentir, te haces sus mismas preguntas. Es un libro que llega al corazón y lo parte en dos.

La historia se centra en Janna, en sus 50. Es u...more
This novel is actually two books in one. I'll admit that I only made it through the first book, The Diary of a Good Neighbor. The book, while interesting in many ways, just didn't grab my interest enough to make me slog through another 200+ pages.

Good Neighbor tells the story of Jane Somers through the keeping of a diary. (That it is written as a first-person, diary-like narrative is my first complaint but I don't want to dwell on how I hate endless introspection in novels.) Jane, or Janna as s...more
There was a very negative review of Martin Amis's Yellow Dog that people were talking about earlier this week, where the reviewer commented that, in England, some authors are published no matter what they write. It's unfortunately true. Doris Lessing didn't like this, and decided to see what would happen if she submitted a manuscript under another identity; these two books are the result. She did indeed get rejected a few times, before the publisher who took her first novel accepted it. But I'm...more
These two books are some of the best I've ever read, and I never would have expected it from the description. This is why I continue reading through the 1001 books, because sometimes I get these wonderful surprises. The books are set up as the diary of a middle-aged, successful woman living alone in London since her husband died. In the first book she befriends an old woman and finds out how it is to be old, sick and helpless, and in the second book she falls in love with a man who is already ma...more
This duo is actually greater than the sum of its parts.
I like to think that even if I hadn't known that Somers was a nom du plume I would have identified at least a hint of the work of the ever insightful and fearless Doris Lessing. I think I would have said she is like the upper-middle-class offspring of Margaret Laurence, Doris Lessing and Sylvia Plath, but there is no way to know. It's a fierce experiment, and I like the questions and the uncertainties that it invites.
It is also a harrowing...more
My "only reading Nobel laureates" kick isn't quite as stern as it used to be---Lessing and Bellow did make that tantrum easier than it might otherwise have been---but there's still something radically more satisfying about reading forty-year-old books from acknowledged masters, rather than chase Eggers/Franzen/Moore/whoever else is the "it" author of the moment. Hype endures for a season or two, but it takes real talent to last a generation.

Anyway, this is an expert work about a serious theme, o...more
This is my favorite book of all time. The main character is, like many of Doris Lessing's female characters, a careful and clear-eyed observer of other people and herself, and it's really this intelligent observation that keeps me coming back to the book. The books (it was originally published as 2) are about how she re-examines her life in the light of her role as the accidental caretaker of an old woman, and then later her role as the lover of a married man. The book isn't particularly plot dr...more
The Diary of a Good Neighbour is the best book I have ever read about the experience of ageing...and caring for a vulnerable elderly person. It was written in such a realistic way, rich with detail that is both beautiful and ugly, but with incredible tenderness and compassion. Having been a caregiver myself, for many years, the truth and tenderness of this book touched me immensely. Doris Lessing is an amazing, wonderful writer, and this is an unforgettable book. The second book is also beautifu...more
I don't really know how to rate this book, as the first part (the diary of a good neighbour) is very well written and portrays diverse realities coming together with intensity and style, while the second part (if the old could...) must be the dullest thing I have ever read. The portrayal of niece Kate is infuriatingly stupid, and the impossible love story with Richard is recounted with a naivetè that is all bore and no ingenuity whatsoever.
I'm truly sorry to write this, but Doris, dearest: if t...more
Enrique Peña
Esta adictiva novela nos lleva de la mano a través de una hermosa relación entre una mujer que lo tiene todo en la plenitud de su edad y una anciana en el fin de sus días y en el más absoluto abandono. ¿En dónde reside su magia? En la apreciación de lo que nos da acerca de la dignidad. Una verdadera joya que ataca el feminismo, se alza frente a la decidía, nos antepone unos valores desechos de una manera honesta. Era obvio conseguir una pieza así de la pluma de Doris Lessing
While I admire the care Lessing takes to describe old age and its implications for both the individual and society, this book took forever to get through (very descriptive, as I am learning of Lessing reading the Golden Notebook now), and didn't really have a discernible plot. I also find the main character to be on the whining/annoying side.

This book might be one I would appreciate more if I was older, but I don't think I'll be reading it again.
Paul Jellinek
Recommended to me by Mary Jane Koren at Commonwealth. This is actually two books in one, although they are linked. The first is especially good, reminding us--as only Lessing can--of the realities of actual life. She makes it painfully clear that charity can be a very complicated undertaking when you become personally involved in the lives of those you seek to help. What I like best about Lessing is her unflinching honesty.
Magda ali
من اجمل الروايات التي قد تغير طريقه تفكيرك و تحرك مشاعر داخلك لم تحركها اي روايه من قبل ارشحها للجميع
مذكرات جين سومر ... او مذكرات جاره طيبه
روايه مليئه بالسعاده والحب والحزن والاشمئزاز والغضب والفقر والرفاهيه والعطف و الكره في نفس ذات الوقت ... تتحدث ببساطه عن المسنين و ذكرياتهم وتحول حياتهم من النشاط و الصحه الي عدم القدره حتي علي الاعتناء بأنفسهم .. هناك جزء تان منها ( ان العجوز استطاعت )
And a half. I whipped through the first half. Beautiful writing. The second half dragged and was...odd in spots. Nevertheless, I will miss Janna.
Joy Shinerock
First of all I guess that I would have to say that I am a Doris Lessing fan. Then next, I felt so linked to the subjects of these two books, especially when observed through the lens of personal experience. She has the ability to distill the essence of personalities and character, then bring them into focus so that you feel like you are inhabiting their skins while you read.
Hmm, well what can I say, Janna or Jane is an interesting character, on one hand she's successful, works in the fashion world. She knows how to dress and travels for her job. In her private life she seems lonely and ends up seemingly adopting a series of strays,(human ones). The niece was irritating, the sort of relative you want to pretend isn't related by blood.
Kirsty Darbyshire
I keep trying to get on with Doris Lessing but her books just seem to miss the mark with me. They always seem interesting but somehow I never quite get into them. This was a two-in-one volume book and I gave up after the first book - actually I think I skim read the end of that as it just wasn't keeping my interest at all.
The Diary of a Good Neighbor was the first of Doris Lessings' books I read, the beginning of my love affair with her. It's difficult to read about the lonliness of an elderly woman and her struggle to remain independent, but Lessing's writing is so visual that you are unable to put it down.
I used to work with the elderly, social services. Not an easy job. This book helped me then. Recently I read it again, because now I'm an old lady. Still helpful and interesting. I don't care for all her writing, but I like this book a lot.
Lauren Cartwright
After reading Ayn Rand (Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged) I shifted my attention to Doris Lessing. The plot clearly takes a backseat to Lessing's brazen social and political commentary. Still, this is a book that I will re-read at least once more.
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Both of her parents were British: her father, who had been crippled in World War I, was a clerk in the Imperial Bank of Persia; her mother had been a nurse. In 1925, lured by the promise of getting rich through maize farming, the family moved to the British colony in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Like other women writers from southern African who did not graduate from high school (such as Oliv...more
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