The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing (1962)


The Golden Notebook is a 1962 novel by Doris Lessing. It, like the two books that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature called Lessing’s ‘inner space fiction’; her work that explores mental and societal breakdown. It contains powerful anti-war and anti-Stalinist messages, an extended analysis of communism and the Communist Party in England from the 1930s to the 1950s, and an examination of the budding sexual and women’s liberation movements. In 2005, TIME magazine called The Golden Notebook one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923. It has been translated into a number of other languages. 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 notebooks, coloured black (of Anna’s experience in Southern Rhodesia, before and during World War II, which inspired her own best-selling novel), red (of her experience as a member of the Communist Party), yellow (an ongoing novel that is being written based on the painful ending of Anna’s own love affair), and blue (Anna’s personal journal where she records her memories, dreams, and emotional life). Each notebook is returned to four times, interspersed with episodes from Free Women, creating non-chronological, overlapping sections that interact with one another. This post-modern styling, with its space for ‘play’ engaging the characters and readers, is among the most famous features of the book, although Lessing insisted that readers and reviewers pay attention to the serious themes in the novel. Lessing, in her preface, claimed the most important theme in the novel is fragmentation; the mental breakdown that Anna suffers, perhaps from the compartmentalization of her life reflected in the division of the four notebooks, but also reflecting the fragmentation of society. Her relationship and attempt to draw everything together in the golden notebook at the end of the novel are both the final stage of her intolerable mental breakdown, and her attempt to overcome the fragmentation and madness.”
Wikipedia
W – Doris Lessing
Guardian: Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, 50 years on
New Republic: On Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook”
Dissent Magazine
amazon


Lessing (front right) with John Osborne in 1961. Behind them are Sheila Delaney and Vanessa Redgrave.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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