Adam's Reviews > The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
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's review
Jan 14, 2010

really liked it
Read in July, 2005

I've read this book three times over 25 years, and each time it has said something different, which testifies to its power and complexity. My first read as a callow youth I saw the struggle to articulate a new kind of womanhood, determined to be independent of men but still caught within their orbit. It made me understand better the yearnings of my mother, also a writer with a family, to express herself beyond what was expected of her, and see her writing as a central part of her drive for freedom and independent decision-making. Her analyst was central to her role in allowing that, so, who knows, she may have read and got some of her motivations from the book itself.

The second read was at at time when I was heavily engrossed in inner-city politics as a schoolteacher, very committed to empowering working-class children beyond the benign expectations of liberal educationalists, and the book seemed an expression of a similar political struggle in the 50's and 60's, albeit in a much narrower sphere, as Anna fought to redefine her politics, and feelings about conventional Marxism. Then it seemed very much like an internal political manifesto.

And having read it only a few years ago,it was the mental confusion that seemed to predominate, the mixed-up relationships and attempts to ward off mid-life breakdown - the concept of the 5 diaries Anna keeps, however unrealistic in practice ( I find it hard to keep a single one going!) seem to embody that - it became a very personal book, despite the constant bickerings and repititions and introspections that are so commonly referred to in all the reviews. If you feel like giving up, keep going - it rewards over time.
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