Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If The Old Could” as Want to Read:
The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If The Old Could
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  635 Ratings  ·  59 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Diaries of Jane Somers, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Diaries of Jane Somers

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
My piece—entitled "Generation Gap: On Reading Doris Lessing’s The Diaries of Jane Somers While Watching My Father Die"—was published in Berfrois in June 2014:
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 02, 2011 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.
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it

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
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So it seems Doris Lessing wrote and published this under a fake name as a test. I'd like to think that had I read this then I would have immediately recognizes her. There's a reason I used to idolize her and I loved the chance to read a new book by her, or I should say one that escaped me. This is a powerful book, and also close to home; describing the plans the elderly have to make in moving thru your own house is the same for the disabled, which I am. I route everything so I take the least pos ...more
Azza Raslan
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent - It changed my life and influenced forever the way I look at older people.
Sep 06, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Anne Tucker
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
so enjoyed this book - both sections are full of fascinating insights and comments on women and the dichotomy between independence and 'connectedness' (with family/partner/children) and also with the good and bad aspects of responsibility - for work, caring for friends and others: in this case several quite challenging elderly people and a hopeless-unmotivated young neice. I love how she writes, clear and articulate she is a real feminist.
Jayanna Roy-Bachman
Nov 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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
James F
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two short novels which she originally published anonymously, The Diary of a Good Neighbor and If the Old Could. . ..

First Book: Just as I was not looking forward to finishing reading Doris Lessing's works, thinking that perhaps her later works were not really going to be worth reading, and expecting that this book in particular (published anonymously, and deliberately not in her "own" style) would be a disappointment, I found it was one of her best novels. She has many styles, and this is in the
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
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit
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 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Rebecca Rosenblum
This book made me INSANE. It is fantastically well-written, all the characters ring true individually (though some of their interactions do not) and London has never been so lovingly portrayed. I believe the message or lesson of both parts (it's actually two novels together as one) is that you can only help people in the ways they wish to be helped and you can't ever really change anyone or even teach them anything or explain how reality works unless they are willing. We are all finally ourselve ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Enrique Peña
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Sara Emotionally
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Un libro intenso e profondo, che indaga nell'animo umano con una delicatezza coinvolgente. Tratta di tematiche umane, a cui spesso la nostra società volta lo sguardo, per non vedere la tristezza o per non avere sensi di colpa. Un libro introspettivo, scritto con l'eleganza che contraddistingue Doris Lessing. Amavo già questa scrittrice, ma questo libro mi ha dato l'ennesima conferma di quanto la sua classe e il suo stile siano innati.
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
It was only barely good enough to keep me reading - and, for the most part, that was an effort. The first diary - about the protagonist's relationship with an old woman who she meets in a grocery story - was better than the second - the "love" story!- but only just! The best part of the book was the descriptions of London and of the weather - I really didn't like any of the characters very much and found the narratives unbelievable!
Paul Jellinek
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-books
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 )
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Thinking Reed
  • Downriver
  • Marya
  • The Radiant Way
  • The Enigma of Arrival: A Novel in Five Sections
  • Asphodel
  • A Question of Power
  • The Safety Net
  • Arcadia
  • The Cage
  • Indigo
  • Dusklands
  • Jahrestage
  • Burger's Daughter
  • City Sister Silver
  • Testament of Friendship (Virago classic non-fiction)
  • Girl with Green Eyes
  • Schooling
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...

Other Books in the Series

The Diaries of Jane Somers (2 books)
  • The Diary of a Good Neighbour
  • إن العجوز استطاعت

Share This Book