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The Golden Notebook
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1001 book reviews > The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

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Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments It took me a little while, but once this book started clicking for me (thanks largely to Juliet Stevenson’s narration of the audiobook), I couldn’t get enough of it.

This is not an easy book, but keeping track of the different notebooks and storylines is so worth it. Beautiful and very quotable. It deal with a lot: feminism, communism, Africa, mental health, marriage, friendship, and more. The format of the book can be a bit challenging, but I really connected with it.

This quote speaks to me, as a 40-year-old reader who probably wouldn’t have appreciated this book nearly as much when I was younger:

‘Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty.’

I gave the book 4 stars.


message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Was this your TBR pick? I'm impressed you got it done in time. I have tried to read this a few times and stalled.


Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments Jen wrote: "Was this your TBR pick? I'm impressed you got it done in time. I have tried to read this a few times and stalled."

No, my TBR book for March was Mrs. Dalloway. I had this one picked for the 'Feminist Classic' prompt on the #Booked2018 challenge on Litsy.


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 468 comments My review: This is a complicated novel, in which a character is reading through her writing notebooks as her own life is going on in the background. Names, places and events from her real life get worked into the stories in her notebooks, so that it takes some concentration to keep from getting lost. Anna, a homophobic, self-righteous communist with a daughter and a divorce, goes through a string of bad relationships, always with married men, and seems incapable of recognizing even by the end of the novel that they are all dishonest skunks almost by definition, by the very fact that they are having affairs with her behind their wives' backs. She keeps being surprised when these relationships collapse, and eventually she hooks up with a male lodger who is actually single, but a player who has several other women he strings along as well. He is psychotic, the sort that one sees on Criminal Minds, actually, though this character had not incorporated murder into his obligatory fantasies yet. Not surprisingly, this relationship also fails, though not because Anna works out that the dude is creepy and a poor choice for her.
Anna's notebooks reveal a fragmentation which runs deeper than just what one might expect from an author, and Anna is in fact struggling to reconcile bits of her real life into some sort of coherent whole. She has peculiar, rather misogynist and sexist ideas about female sexuality that certainly don't help, and the people she gathers around her are all variously unwholesome, so that she can easily blame them for her problems.
Obviously I disliked Anna, but I did like this book. It's a long, convoluted story, and has few characters I could really relate to, but Lessing does a good job of exploring the characters and situations and how real life and fiction writing relate for some authors. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.


Tatjana JP | 280 comments Well, I finished the book and loved it. I enjoyed every part of the story as well as notebooks within. Definitely, a must read. I loved multi-layer approach, mixture of personalities and their histories. Almost every story is revolving on women and I loved how Lessing blended many of them. She approached many social issues, racial issues, parenthood, sex, work etc. While reading, I had to put down book and think. It made me think even on my own life and goals, which didn't happen to me for a long time. Somehow, I felt that I also could distinguish different „myself“ in relation to different aspects of my life: personal, professional etc.
Overall, my rating would be 4+ stars.


Diane Zwang | 1218 comments Mod
3.5 stars
I enjoyed the introduction by the author, my copy had two from different time periods. After finishing the book, I read Q&A with the author and the About the Book which brought me more insight into what I had just finished.

This book has a unique storytelling style, one of which I have not read before. I think Doris is a very intelligent writer and I am amazed at how she pulled off interweaving so many storylines. I think it was a bit jarring at times when a section ended, I don't think there were real chapters, with a bang and then that storyline would be lost for a while but maybe that is what the author was going for.

I didn't really like Anna. She fought many demons and I didn't really like reading about how she treated men and her ineptitude at relationships. Overall, I did appreciate this book and the author but I think it was probably a bit too smart for my brain at this time.

“What makes you decide that the madness and the cruelty isn't just as strong as the -getting on with living?”

“It's because I keep trying to write the truth and realising it's not true.”

“...and it was as if I, Anna, were nailing Anna to the page.”

“..that I remain Anna because of a certain kind of intelligence. This intelligence is dissolving and I am very frightened.”

“I was a woman terribly vulnerable, critical, using femaleness as a sort of standard or yardstick to measure and discard men.”


Gail (gailifer) | 1273 comments I appreciated the many voices and layers in this book with its still current themes including women's voices, women's sexuality, colonialism in Africa, mental health and political commitment. Lessing's writing is at times a wonderful tapestry. However, although I connected in various sections with Anna, our main character, overall, I simply was not interested in her retelling of her story yet again. I gave the book 4 stars however for Lessing's construct and her actual writing style.


message 8: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1361 comments This is a complicated look at a women's life and how it is compartmentalised by her circumstances and interests. The structure is intriguing, the glimpses of London circa 1955 are fascinating and it speaks to men and women both about integrating the diverse facets of a life. Lessing has trenchant comments about trans-Atlantic differences, disillusion with communism, gender roles, parenting, friendship and relationships with lovers amongst many other things!


Diane | 2022 comments Rating: 4 stars


Anna is a novelist who suffers from writer's block. She write's her thoughts in a set of notebooks. I enjoyed this book and it's method of storytelling. I often found Anna frustrating, but I appreciated how she lived her life in opposition of prevailing social norms.


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