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The Golden Notebook Paperback – 17 Jan 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (17 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007498772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007498772
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘This ambitious novel has no equal.’ Guardian

‘At the beginning of the Sixties, this vast, frank, complicated novel helped to sustain our reputation for courageous, ambitious, experimental writing. Soon a worldwide bestseller, it is still Lessing’s finest work. “The Golden Notebook” captured the heady mix of the early Sixties, when not just novels but political certainties were dissolving. The rising feminist movement seized it as a Bible.’ Mail on Sunday

‘Her greatest work…Shows the power of the female imagination at full throttle. It doesn't bear a simple political message but it does rip off the masks that women were accustomed to wearing, and it shows up the dangers and difficulties that women encounter if they try to live a free life in a man's world…A landmark novel, a book that both changed and explained a generation…One of the finest writers of the century.’ Independent

‘Doris Lessing is a pioneer of feminist self-consciousness in its raw state…The truths contained in “The Golden Notebook” are indeed harsh. It can also be said that these particular truths have not been examined in so rigorous and exemplary a fashion since the first appearance of this extraordinary book. A seminal work.’ Anita Brookner, LRB

‘“The Golden Notebook” is the diary of a writer in shock, a young woman determined to forge a life as a “free woman”, as an “intellectual”. Doris Lessing is a writer of considerable power, someone who can close her eyes and “give” a situation by the sheer force of her emotional energy.’ Joan Didion, New York Times

From the Back Cover

Anna Wulf is a young novelist with writer’s block. Divorced, with a young child, and disillusioned by unsatisfactory relationships, she feels her life is falling apart. In fear of madness, she records her experiences in four coloured notebooks. The black notebook addresses her problems as a writer; the red her political life; the yellow her relationships and emotions; and the blue becomes a diary of everyday events. But it is the fifth notebook – the Golden Notebook – which is the key to her recovery and renaissance.

Bold and illuminating, fusing sex, politics, madness and motherhood, The Golden Notebook is at once a wry and perceptive portrait of the intellectual and moral climate of the 1950s – a society on the brink of feminism – and a powerful and revealing account of a woman searching for her own personal and political identity.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Golden Notebook is Lessing's most well known of her works and with good reason. It is an incredibly complex and layered work that addresses such ideas as authorship of one's life, the political climate of the 60s and the power relation between the sexes. It would be naïve to consider this novel as just a feminist polemic. I know many people have read it only this way or not read it because they assume it is only this. Lessing articulates this point well in her introduction. The novel inhabits many worlds of thought. It just so happens that at the time of its publication it was a very poignant work for feminism. More than any book I know it has the deepest and longest meditation on what it means to split your identity into categories because you can not conceive of yourself as whole in the present climate of society and in viewing your own interactions with people. This obsession with constructing a comprehensive sense of identity leads to an infinite fictionalisation of the protagonist's life. Consider the following passage "I looked at her, and thought: That's my child, my flesh and blood. But I couldn't feel it. She said again: 'Play, mummy.' I moved wooden bricks for a house, but like a machine. Making myself perform every movement. I could see myself sitting on the floor, the picture of a 'young mother playing with her little girl.' Like a film shot, or a photograph." She can't attach her own vision of herself to the reality of her life. The two are separated by the ideologies of society which influence her own vision of who she should be.
This novel also captures the political climate of the era, a state of post-war disillusionment with the available models political ideology. They recognise the need for some kind of change, but are unable to envision a model that will work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As Doris Lessing discusses in her own introduction (new for this edition), her best-known and best-selling novel has been viewed as being "about" various things: the battle of the sexes and man's inhumanity to woman; mental health; the difficulties facing left-wing politics following the failure and collapse of communism. As she herself points out, there is a definite irony in this, given that her central theme and premise was the need to see things as a whole and avoid compartmentalising different aspects of our lives (love life, family life, political life, work life etc. etc.). This remains a startling idea: what Lessing is essentially saying is that it is just this sort of compartmentalising that allows an otherwise kind character to be a shameless racist (there is a prominent example in the Black Notebook), or an operative of a totalitarian regime to commit acts of genocide then go home to a peaceful family dinner.

At the novel's opening, the life of Lessing's central character - (ex-)novelist Anna Wulf - seems hopelessly fragmented. Afflicted by writer's block, Anna pours the narrative of the various traumas of her life into four quite separate compartments: the Black Notebook relates to her "work life" as a writer; the Red Notebook her "political life" as a lapsed and disillusioned member of the British Communist party; the Yellow Notebook her (lightly fictionalised) love life; and the Blue Notebook her everyday existence. In all four areas, things grow increasingly desperate until Anna's mental health seems in serious question. However, it is only after what amounts to a "breakdown" followed by re-synthesis of her life as a whole in the eponymous Golden Notebook that Anna can really achieve mental and moral wellbeing.
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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Feb. 2008
Format: Paperback
Call me a philistine, but I cannot understand why this monumental and self-indulgent book, first published in 1962, is said to be one the great classics of the 20th century.

It charts the life of Anna Wulf, a writer. Although every page is very well written and the many characters are well individualized, I have found this quite a difficult read. The chapters in this massive tome are enormously long, with few natural breaks: at times there are whole pages between paragraphs.

And the structure of the book is, I think, excessively complex. Anna is a divorcee with a little daughter; her friend Molly is a divorcee with a grown-up son. Their story is told in five instalments. Both women are ex-communists; both believe themselves to be `Free Women'.

The tile `Free Women' is certainly an ironical title as far as Anna is concerned, since her `freedom' brings her the most painful turmoil of emotions. After having been aware for a long time about the darker, crueller, more dishonest side of communism, she has, with a great psychological effort, `freed' herself from membership of the Party, but the wrench has left her in an aching vacuum, as well as haunted by the terrors and threats to human existence that are conveyed in the daily newspapers from which she obsessively collects clippings.

Worse: she feels `free' to engage in new sexual relationships with a series of men, but she is tormented in each of these relationships, to which she gives herself with more commitment than is felt by the men. She becomes increasingly damaged, veering backwards and forwards from love to hate, self-lacerating, driven towards total disintegration.
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