Book: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
#89 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.
What is the story about?
This book is very complicated but I will try my best to describe it. It follows the life, or is mainly about Anna Wulf, a disgruntled, divorced, communist writer who is dealing with, among many other things, writer’s block.
She has 4 notebooks: 1) a black notebook (about her past in Africa), 2) a red notebook (mainly about the British Communist Party), 3) a yellow notebook (to write fictional stories in), and 4) a blue notebook (her diary). At the end, she tries to combine the four notebooks into one golden notebook.
Wow Ms. Lessing, I hope you have found the peace you deserve because I honestly don’t believe you were 100% ok while writing this book.
I imagine Ms. Lessing was brainstorming what styles should she write in: should it be a memoir? A novel? A diary? A short story? Let’s just do them all so I can show the world I am capable of each.
Then she brainstormed topics: should it be about politics? Communism? Race? Feminism? Relationships? Mental state? Depression? You know what, Let’s just do it all in one big book because hey why not?
But having all these loaded topics all in one book just makes it so messy and actually takes away from whatever message she was trying to make in all these topics. (I’m sure there’s a lot more topics she tackled but throughout the 620 page mess of a book I forgot them).
This takes me to another point, this book is so freaking hard to read! There are no chapters. It is sectioned off in parts that supposedly should free women (free women 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). What is ironic and hilarious is the greater you get into freeing these women, the crazier it all gets until Anna comes close to a complete mental breakdown.
The build up to this mental breakdown is so intense and described in such scrutiny that you can’t help but get sucked into the darkness as well.
But low and behold, at save the women number 5, it took an American wanderer 3 days to magically heal her by pulling down all the crazy newspaper cuttings on her wall. This “healing” took place over a max of 4 pages, while the complete and utter breakdown took 600 pages to build up and explain. (This is why I believe Ms. Lessing was not in a very healthy state of mind while writing this as she described anxiety, depression, and the breakdown of reality so realistically, but did not realistically write down how this woman got out of it).
So each section (except saving #5) starts with a ‘real’ scene in Anna’s current life, mainly with her daughter Julie and her friend Molly. Then it goes through the four different notebooks, which to me where as follows:
- Black notebook –> complete degeneration of society & disregard to any morale code anyone follows.
- Red notebook –> hypocrisy of politics; lies people on all sides of the political spectrum say and do for their individual gains.
- Yellow notebook –> relationships; mainly being the mistress; the ‘other’ woman (progressive, unbound by social norms yet they all define themselves by their men).
- Blue notebook –> mind numbingly boring conversations between Anna and her psychiatrist; oh and a list of her ‘meaningful’ dreams.
But, Doris Lessing did stay true to one main theme throughout the entirety of 630 pages: sex. This includes: extra-marital sex, homosexuality, female orgasm, endless sex-capades, and last but not least, a detailed study into an insect sexual encounter.
If I come across as angry throughout this book review, yes I have to admit I am angry. This book was a complete waste of my time. I even googled why the heck this book won a Nobel Prize.
Bottom line is, if you have a choice whether to read this book or not, my advice is: run! Run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do not waste your time on this insanity.
Next book on the list: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Hope this one is good after two disappointing reads.