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The Golden Notebook

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  17,735 ratings  ·  1,492 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
Paperback, Perennial Classics edition, 640 pages
Published February 3rd 1999 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1962)
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Tytti This book didn't get the Nobel Prize, it isn't awarded to books.

It is given to an author who "has produced in the field of literature the most…more
This book didn't get the Nobel Prize, it isn't awarded to books.

It is given to an author who "has produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" and the work here means the author's work as a whole. Nowadays it is also "awarded both for lasting literary merit and for evidence of consistent idealism on some significant level".(less)
Eric Jay Sonnenschein I am not sure what you mean by "they take a personal insult from it." Do you mean that reviewers are insulted by the book, itself, or that other…moreI am not sure what you mean by "they take a personal insult from it." Do you mean that reviewers are insulted by the book, itself, or that other readers are insulted by bad reviews of a particular book that they like?

In either case, I guess that people have a right to feel the way they do about what they read and to express their responses. Are they fair-minded in what they say about books or, for that matter, about other people? Quite often, not. Humans are aggressive animals and the Internet is a safe place for many people to discharge their less attractive emotions.

Ultimately, a review is a piece of writing like the book it is evaluating. Therefore, it, too, is subject to analysis and criticism. When I read a review, I am reviewing the reviewer more than I am assessing the value of the book he or she is discussing. Does the individual make good arguments? Does he or she seem to understand the subject at hand?(less)

Community Reviews

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3.76  · 
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 ·  17,735 ratings  ·  1,492 reviews


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Glenn Sumi
Dear class:

Welcome to an exclusive Goodreads seminar on Doris Lessing’s classic 1962 novel The Golden Notebook!



Let’s start with a quiz, shall we?

1. What’s the best reason for reading this book?
A) It’s a feminist classic, and still speaks to feminists – male and female – today.
B) It’s a seminal contemporary novel, and its challenging structure – there’s a traditional novel about a London writer named Anna Wulf, interspersed with four notebooks that individually address Anna’s various interests
...more
Lisa
"It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative."

Maybe 50 or 100 pages into the novel, I knew (and felt it as a physical sensation, a shiver going down my spine) that Doris Lessing had written the perfect description of the compartmentalised psyche of the modern world. The myth of my times!

I don't share each political view she demonstrated in the red notebook, but I can certainly see myself writing a politic
...more
Better Eggs
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. They pontificated 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 r ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
*****WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE*****

“I was filled with such a dangerous delicious intoxication that I could have walked straight off the steps into the air, climbing on the strength of my own drunkenness into the stars. And the intoxication, as I knew even then, was the recklessness of infinite possibility.”

 photo 1e298600-b5b0-4d65-8b91-7ee9bc3ff2e4_zpsql8qrqdc.gif
I would say that Miss Lessing was very fetching when she was younger, but I don’t want to be accused of objectifying her. :-)

Anna keeps four notebooks, each representing diffe
...more
Robin
I am full of a deep, manic relief at being released from the reading of this book. I feel the need to skip, to jump joyfully into the air, to cry out to the world : I did it! I did it! And I never have to do it again!

A few years ago I read Doris Lessing's debut novel The Grass is Singing, which I adored. It doesn't necessarily mean that I should therefore adore this, her much lauded, much revered, "feminist" (but don't let her hear you call it that) 1962 masterpiece. But I did hope.

The thing
...more
Alex
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
You’re afraid it’ll be like if you organized your recipes by emotion. All color coding and modernism. You’re intimidated. It sounds hard. But people never mention how horny Doris Lessing is. "There’s something about a man with a whacking great erection," she says, "that it’s hard to resist." Woman is horny. Have you read Adore? Holy shit, it’s literally the plot of Motherlover by Lonely Island.

I mean it’s Anna Wulf says that about the erections, not Lessing. Same thing, but we’ll get to that. An
...more
Aubrey
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
Dolors
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 nai
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The golden notebook, c2007, Doris Lessing
The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. The Golden Notebook is the story of writer Anna Wulf, the four notebooks in which she records her life, and her attempt to tie them together in a fifth, gold-coloured notebook. The book intersperses segments of an ostensibly realistic narrative of the lives of Anna and her friend, Molly Jacobs, as well as their children, ex-husbands and lovers—entitled Free Women—with excerpts from Anna's four noteboo
...more
Ruth
Jan 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: aborted
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
Cheryl
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's about contradictions, I first told a friend as we discussed this book: The same person who orders a diet coke, has ice cream for dessert; someone orders fat-free salad dressing with a side order of french fries. Take Beyonce's new single Hold Up: supposedly this woman (who we'll pretend is not Beyonce) is known as the "baddest woman in the game" and yet she's "up in [this guy's] sheets" while he repeatedly cheats on her, but never mind that, she'll still hold him down, even while she's trea ...more
Rowena
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism
“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
Madeline
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: the-list
"'In what way are you different? Are you saying there haven’t been artist-women before? There haven’t been women who were independent? There haven’t been women who insisted on sexual freedom! I tell you, there are a great line of women stretching out behind you into the past, and you have to seek them out and find them in yourself and become conscious of them.'
'They didn’t look at themselves as I do. They didn’t feel as I do. How could they? I don’t want to be told when I wake up, terrified by a
...more
Hadrian
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, british
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
Manny
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
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
Sidharth Vardhan
(The spoilers are no spoiler. They just go into some of my intellectual queries which have little to do with book.)

Another of those books that would have been better if it was shorter. The book has several divisions and each division has a section of a short novella 'Free Women' (by omniscient narrator) and sections of diaries Anna, the protagonist, keeps.

Now, as a matter of principle I do not ... don't laugh, I'm perfectly capable of having principles, so, I was saying As a matter of principle,
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Pink
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to give this five huge stars. Even though I had problems with the last few chapters, this was never a chore to get through. I looked forward to reading it each day and enjoyed each of the notebooks, as different as they were. This is a feminist novel in as much as it's about female characters and their sexual relationships, but it's more of a look at mental breakdown, in a post war, communist party era. Masterful writing, as expected from Lessing and highly recommended.
Drew
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
Chrissie
I have considered reading this book for years. In 2007 Doris Lessing received the Nobel Prize for Literature for this book, forty-five years after publication! It was a book ahead of its time. The telling switches between different threads, stories and notebooks and also back and forth in time; I thought this would be confusing. It proved not to be! My hesitation was unfounded. The book demonstrates that a talented author can do that which for others would be impossible! I was not confused and I ...more
Edan
Jul 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Weinz
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Janet
Mar 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-years-ago
I read the Golden Notebook at the height of the journaling movement of the 1970's, Ira Progroff and his intensive journal-writing workshops, consciousness-raising, his whole approach to the examined self, the examined life. The feminist project was in full bloom, as well. I was also deely in love with the The Diaries of Anais Nin, her minute examination of emotion and interacting with others, the exploration of self, probably the greatest single factor in my decision to become a writer. The Gold ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
(Currently part of the Reading Envy readalong, with dicussion ongoing here)
Roman Clodia
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
An ambitious novel of ideas, this deals both thematically and in narrative terms with issues of a woman's personal willed disintegration and a final move towards her unification of disparate selves.

Structurally, the book is complicated: divided into five sections, the first four each comprise a chronological extract from a novel called 'Free Women' followed by segments from four 'notebooks', each designated by a colour. 'Black' deals with Anna's experiences in Africa towards the end of WW2, the
...more
Jacob Appel
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Truly one of the greatest novels of the modern era -- ranking alongside The French Lieutenant's Woman among the defining works of British post-modernism -- Lessing's The Golden Notebook is as remarkable today as it must have been when it appeared half a century ago. Rather than a novel within a novel, one has a novel within a series of notebooks, each diary containing a particular segment of Anna Wulf's life. Yet to read this novel for the intricate plotting or the interplay of novel and noteboo ...more
Eric Muhr
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Clif Hostetler
Jan 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Anna Wulf (main character in this novel) is a writer, communist, ex-communist, single mother, and sexually involved with a prolific series of men. She has had one successful book in her past, but since then all her writing has been confined to four notebooks, each a different color reflecting a different part of her life in the 1940s and 50s. The black one contains recollections of her youthful wartime years in Rhodesia, experiences that went into her first novel. In the red notebook she reflect ...more
Judy
I have read eight books by Doris Lessing, mostly in order of publication. Each one has had an impact on me. The Grass Is Singing, her first novel, is still my favorite but all the others remain important to my reading life and to me as a woman.

One of the things I admire is her utter disregard for the critics. She has never pandered to them or to the Western white male dominated literary establishment, possibly not even to her readers. It is an entire travesty that she had to wait until she was 8
...more
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Reading Envy Readers: Week 2: FREE WOMEN: 2 11 25 May 21, 2019 08:32AM  
Reading 1001: The Golden Notebook by Lessing 5 14 Mar 22, 2019 04:00PM  
Verbeelding Bookclub: Januariboek: The Golden Notebook 17 56 Feb 27, 2019 02:54AM  
Reading Envy Readers: Week 3: FREE WOMAN 3 12 15 Oct 28, 2018 01:40PM  
Reading 1001: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing 4 16 Aug 10, 2018 03:15PM  

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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
“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.” 2513 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.” 2220 likes
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