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The Golden Notebook: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 14, 2008

3.6 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A feminist landmark, this big, ambitious novel tells the story of writer Anna Wulf and the crises she faces in her personal, political and professional life. Confounded by writer's block, the ferociously independent Wulf explores her situation in four notebooks, one for each of the strands in her life; the golden one is the one in which, struggling to retain her sanity, she brings these strands together. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A work of high seriousness....Absorbing and exciting.” (Irving Howe, New Republic)

“The Golden Notebook is Doris Lessing’s most important work and has left its mark upon the ideas and feelings of a whole generation of women.” (Elizabeth Hardwick, New York Times Book Review)

“A rewarding book, and an unusually perceptive one.” (Milwaukee Journal)

“This exciting writer has tried much, aimed high, and has paraded a galaxy of gifts.” (Baltimore Sun)

“No ordinary work of fiction…The technique, in a word, is brilliant.” (Saturday Review)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061582484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061582486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Eric Anderson on March 27, 2001
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
Future generations will call this the most important novel of the 20th century, or at least they should, for this is the book that expresses the major themes of the world in that century. What we now call gender issues (now there's a broad label!) occupy a major portion of the novel, but it is just as much a picture of the Fear of humanity during the Cold War times, when every day we were 30 minutes from doomsday. It is about racism and colonialism and the fading of empire; it is about the breakdown of society in the technological age; it is about single mothers; it is about mental states and breakdowns. It is about Communism, and have we not heard the 20th century called the Age of Communism? All this is not what makes this a great novel. Each time I've reread it, the more it seemed I could almost put my finger on something-a question of identity, or what it means to be human. "Breakdown" is a word appearing throughout the novel-by the end, it almost seems to mean "break through": break through the rhetoric, break through the categories. The Golden Notebook speaks to deep emotions-something there is that needs to shine through, to grow, to love and to be loved. This novel reached down to that. It is sometimes painful, sometimes provoking a fear/hate reaction, or a feeling of dislocation. This is the kind of book that you often have to slap down on the table, pace the room, and work off the tension that has built. Doris Lessing wrote once that she considered this novel something of a failure, for it only names the issues, exploring briefly, but not solving. I can see what she means-this is a novel that forces the reader to wrestle with themselves as much as the characters. This is why some people read the novel and yawn, and why some read the novel and are profoundly changed. One must be at a crossroads, unsettled. Read this book. Let it change you.
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Format: Paperback
Intellectual energy is always a healthy attribute for a writer of fiction. Doris Lessing, an incredibly prolific author who has covered many different genres, has plenty; but her early novel "The Golden Notebook" too often sacrifices coherence and focus for ineffective artistic experimentation. That it doesn't have much of a plot is not a deficiency, because many great modern novels have discarded the notion of a necessity for a conventional plot; rather, its narrative power is diminished by Lessing's apparent indecisiveness about the kind of tale she wishes to tell. In one section she writes synopses of about two dozen short stories in quick succession, and we have to wonder why we're looking at blueprints instead of the finished product.

Summarily, "The Golden Notebook" is a work of fiction about the erratic process of writing fiction, and it problematically attempts to intertwine several novels into one. The main story is that of Lessing's alter ego Anna Wulf, who compiles her memoirs, blending the real with the fictional, into four color-coded notebooks of which the contents are revealed in an alternating fashion. Anna, a rising literary star who has published an acclaimed novel called "Frontiers of War" based loosely on her experiences and her circle of friends in Rhodesia where she lived during World War II, now resides in England with her young daughter Janet, drawing income from gradually dwindling royalties while being courted by philistine film producers who propose to adapt and warp her novel for the screen.

Love and sexuality play major roles throughout the multiple narratives, but "The Golden Notebook" is neither sentimental enough to be a romantic novel nor cynical enough to be a satire.
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