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The Golden Notebook (Paladin Books)
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The Golden Notebook (Paladin Books)

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  9,982 ratings  ·  872 reviews
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 year. 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 reviles part of her own experience. And in the blue one she keeps a p...more
Published December 2nd 2002 by Flamingo (first published 1962)
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I came to “The Golden Notebook” because I desired initiation into the glorious mysteries of the female temple, but Lessing found me an unworthy supplicant. Even after I realized that she denied me access at the portal, I kept reading with an admixture of delight and confusion because I wanted to better understand humanity and myself from the perspective of a brilliant and literary woman.

Anna Wulf suffers from fragmentation. “The point is, that as far as I can see, everything's cracking up.'" A...more
Petra SockieX
Given up because although it was well written and the characters developed well early on, I just have no interest at all in the upper middle class who have angst and money instead of housework and jobs. Who pontificate about sex and politics and other people's affairs when the rest of the country were out working and thinking of who was cooking dinner that night and whether or not tuppence on the tax each week was going to make school trips a bit difficult. Just not what I want to read about rig...more
May 06, 2013 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: restless minds and free souls
Recommended to Dolors by: Aitor
“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 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 naiv...more
If before this book you wanted to be a writer, if after you finished it you still wanted to be a writer, then all the power to you.

What concerns us here is an English white heterosexual female, mother, author, communist. Upper-class, unmarried, unconsciously feminist. Neurotic, classist, homophobic, probably racist, there aren’t enough interactions with people of color to tell, but it seems likely considering the upbringing, the upbringing of the English society attuned to her personal attribute...more
“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 Ann...more
I created a new Goodreads shelf, "aborted," specifically for this book (& any future ones that I stop reading). Apparently it's an important novel & has been very influential, but I found it terribly tedious. 126 pages in, I found myself sinking into a foul mood: the characters are minutely analyzed but still feel remote, & the central conflict at that point (the beginnings of the collapse of hope & a sense of purpose among a group of Communist Party members), which would normall...more
Lessing wrote a deeply profound book here, and I'm rather ashamed that I only ever got around to reading her only after the news of her passing.

I've heard The Golden Notebook described as a feminist novel, which is not entirely wrong, but gives only a part of the whole picture. Instead, it could be interpreted as a comprehensive and overwhelming portrait of the minds and self-expressions of women, but also with brutal honesty about emotion and sex being caught within the currents of history. Th...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 02, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, nobel
This most is the influential and most talked-about 1962 novel of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, Doris Lessing. She was the 11th female who received the prize and the oldest (91 y/o) person ever to have won it.

Reading this 634-page dense novel was not a easy thing for me. There were times that I wanted to put it down and create a new shelf "Started But Not Finished" or probably "To Be Continued Someday." However, I have a promise to myself to finish all the books I started. So I k...more
Oct 04, 2010 Weinz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Weinz by: Jessica Treat
And thus ends my summer of "I am WOMAN". Having read only female writers for the last four months (with a momentary departure for Dostoevsky) I feel I have rid myself of the phalocentricities of my normal reading. An egotistical misogynist cleansing.

**warning, teeny tiny spoilers... but not really... but kinda**

This novel is similar to other revolutionary books of the past (On the Road is the first one that comes to mind) I think that we have progressed beyond its original shock value. Its orig...more
I was discussing Flaubert the other day with notgettingenough, and remarked on how surprisingly different all his books are. Salammbô, as I say in my review, is completely different from Madame Bovary. La Tentation de Saint Antoine, which I'm currently reading, is completely different from both of them. But apart from Madame Bovary, firmly established as one of the most famous novels of all time, Flaubert's books are not widely read these days. You get the impression that people wish he'd done m...more
Like every really, really good book I read, this one left me somewhat at a loss for words. Nonetheless, I'll try to do it some justice if I can.

I hesitated to read this book for a long time because of the description it always gets: Anna, a writer, keeps four different notebooks, one about her experiences in Africa, one about the Communist Party, one of autobiographical fiction, and one that's a diary. At the end of her psychic chain and in love with an American writer, she decides to combine th...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Lessing herself came to view The Golden Notebook as a failure, and I think she was right.

What she meant was that the innovation and experimentation she intended as the novel’s central point and raison d’être was misunderstood by readers with an infernally stubborn insistence on wanting to figure out its theme, meaning, intent, and relevance to their own lives.

Readers invested - and continue to invest - it with whatever agenda they bring to it in the first place, and interpret it conventionally...more
I just found out Doris Lessing won the Nobel, and now I feel compelled to explain my one star review of her most famous book.

My gal pals and I read this over the course of a humid Iowa City summer, as part of a short lived and ill-conceived book club. We met once a week in a different apartment (though I can only imagine us at Kiki's place), to drink champagne and discuss the novel. Complain is really what we did--and then I went home with a champagne headache.

None of us liked this novel, and I...more
Fenixbird SandS
Mar 27, 2011 Fenixbird SandS is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, men, relationship-interested
Recommended to Fenixbird by: NY Times Book Review
Setting 1950's London. "Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. Yo...more
Eric Muhr
This book is too often read as a feminist polemic, or as an exploration of madness, or as an overtly political story (mostly communist). That's not the point. The central character, Anna, an artist with a block, demonstrates through her attempts to keep life compartmentalized (her means of getting at the truth of existence) and a resulting breakdown that madness may be the only path to sanity. After all, nothing less than a complete breakdown is strong enough to tear down our artificial walls an...more
Sep 17, 2014 Stela rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Stela by: Llosa (!)
While living under Ceausescu's regime, in those days that even today I'm not able to remember without a combination of sadness and irritation, I used to be very angry with Western Socialist and Communist Parties that dared continue to exist in spite of the big revelations of the Gulags and the murders and the terror. I was thinking then that the persistence of such organizations could be explained either by a naive and blind idealism nurtured under the wing of a comfortable capitalist democracy...more
When I read that Doris Lessing had won the Nobel prize, I decided I should reconsider having laid one of her books aside years ago. The news item said this was among her most celebrated works, so I assumed I'd find the gold I'd missed and delight in having found another literary mentor.

I didn't finish it. And I tried, in several sittings. The main character seems to loathe herself, and her personal relationships range from dysfunctional to downright vicious.

Her memories are fond and fuzzy, and t...more
Abeer Hoque
I still don't think I got my head around the wrapping conceit that Ms. Lessing used for this book, but I do know that it's the first time I finished a book and started it all over again. I'm halfway through the second read and it's as psychologically brilliant as the first read through. Her introduction alone is worth your time. Of course, it's arrogant to assume that the present has the monopoly on philosophical progress, but I am yet in awe as to how some things (about our consciousness and ne...more
Kimberly Willson - St. Clair

The other great Sufi writer, Doris Lessing, makes more sense to my world view in regards to how she breaks the atom so to speak in The Golden Notebook. This book changed my life the first time around in graduate school at American because the main character disintegrates through her writing and completely remakes herself through her writing. The reader goes through this experience with her, thus Art. When Madonna remakes herself, she goes it alone then looks for a reaction from the audience, thu...more
Prior to reading this I gathered from various conversations with various people that it has a fierce power to divide opinion that is ironically characteristic of its narrator who places the different aspects of her life into separate notebooks that precede the conclusive and eponymous final book into which it all pours together. Its critics seem to simplify it and read too much into the feminist passages; whereas Lessing herself wrote as much for the mental healing and creative aspects.

The story...more
There are so many things to talk about in this book, that I almost have brain freeze and don't talk about anything. I have to say, though, that I've never read anything that I remember having so much to do with the idealistic beginnings of the Communist Party. It's almost like people were even afraid to write fiction about it or they would be blackballed.

There were two introductions in my edition, one from the seventies, and one from the nineties. I read them after I had finished and found them...more
I finished this one months ago and have put off reviewing it simply by virtue of my astonishment with it. Oddly enough, the first hundred pages were torture; I was about to give it up, but happened to be trapped on a 6-hour busride and had only this novel and a volume of a poet's letters with me at the time. Needless to say, the letters kept me amused for an hour or so, but I ended up pushing through my frustration with the novel, and from that afternoon on, could not put it down. I stayed up la...more
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
Apr 01, 2008 Lara Messersmith-Glavin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lara by: My two mothers
Shelves: women-gender
Like so many others in these days since the controversial awarding of the Nobel prize to Doris Lessing, I am reading The Golden Notebook. I read another novel of hers last month, The Sweetest Dream, and I have to admit, I am not wild about her prose. I enjoy it – I smile bitterly along with thousands of others at the fact that apparently all one must do to receive such honors is to treat women as if they were important and worth thinking about with the same rigor we examine male motives and intr...more
Emir Never
“Don’t read a book out of its right time for you,” Doris Lessing once advised students who, in the course of their education, are compelled to spend inordinate amount of time on a book. It was a jab at the prevalent educational system and the restrictions fostered therein. If anything, Lessing’s life showed that we all have our own different “right times” for many things and that is how it should be. She was the oldest to win the Nobel Prize for Literature at 89 and she was not afraid to refuse...more
Carmen Daza Márquez
El cuaderno dorado de Doris Lessing ha sido siempre un libro polémico, en primer lugar para su propia autora, que se rebela contra la etiqueta de “feminista” que se suele aplicar a esta obra. Nunca fue su intención, afirma, escribir un libro sobre la guerra entre los sexos. El tema de la creación literaria, en cambio, es fundamental en la novela. En el prólogo ya dijo la autora que la elección como personaje principal de una escritora con bloqueo literario fue algo muy consciente, y sospecho que...more
Oct 17, 2007 Mimi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Even though I read this book over 30 years ago, I remember how affected I was by its writer protagonist, and her various notebooks. I was a single mom, working and going to junior college, and Lessing's book was one I read in my first "Feminist Lit" course. It inspired me to try writing in various journals: I named one "Rage & Anger," another one "Dreams & Visions," and another "Magic & Madness." There were others, but I eventually went back to one journal when all those spirals were...more
Jan 18, 2014 Leslie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: AAB Group Fiction BoTM January '14
3½ stars.

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...more
I'm not going to rate this book because listening to it on audio, even narrated as it was by the exquisite Juliet Stephenson, in fits and starts over a 3 month period, was not the way to do justice to this complexly structured novel.

As it as, this book - which I long assumed to be, based on the comments of people I respect, to be both a great novel and an important feminist milestone - mostly irked me. While some chapters were amazing, particularly the African episodes, both the politics (to lea...more
In spite of all the efforts to include issues like the development of the Communist Party in the UK and the liberation of Africa, this still feels like 636 pages of kvetching about men. The basic problem seems to be that married men keep going back to their wives and promiscuous, insensitive men are promiscuous and insensitive.

This book is interesting because it is the signature work of a Nobel Prize winner not because it provides a lot of pleasure. It starts with a successful investment banker...more
What I learned from this book: Sometimes boredom propels me to do things I wouldn't usually do, i.e., finish crappy books such as this. Page after page, it never got better or impressed or entertained me or anything of the sort. The only angle of appreciation that I can muster for it is that it expresses the viewpoint of a "free woman" in 1950's London. Wow. Everyone in the book was having an affair or multiple affairs with multiple mistresses or married men without much concern. Some might say...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
More about Doris Lessing...
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“What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better.” 2403 likes
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: 'You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” 1366 likes
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