The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook

Book - 2008
Average Rating:
Rate this:

"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." -- New York Times Book Review

Anna is a writer, author of one very successful novel, who now keeps four notebooks. In one, with a black cover, she reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna resolves to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook.

Lessing's best-known and most influential novel, The Golden Notebook retains its extraordinary power and relevance decades after its initial publication.

Publisher: New York :, Harper Perennial Modern Classics,, 2008.
Edition: First Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition.
ISBN: 9780061582486
Branch Call Number: FIC LESS
Characteristics: xxvii, 635 pages ; 21 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 10, 2020

In Doris Lessing's "The Golden Notebook", protagonist Anna Wulf serves as a surrogate for Lessing, expressing the philosophies and doubts of the author; And the fictional Wulf is a writer who injects herself into the Ella - the protagonist of her own novel.

"Notebook" tells Anna's story in a non-linear fashion, switching between a third person narrative of the life of Anna and her social circles and the contents of her four journals. The journals are organized by topic, rather by time. Anna hopes to better understand herself by writing down all her thoughts. But she recognizes the different aspects of herself and decides to capture each aspect in a separate notebook, organized (in her own words) as follows:
"A black notebook, which is to do with Anna Wolf the writer;
a red notebook, concerned with politics;
a yellow notebook, in which I make stories out of my experience;
and a blue notebook which tries to be a diary."

The book jumps around in time and in perspective, making it fragmented and sometimes difficult to follow. But it is fragmented because Anna is fragmented. She realizes she has contradictions in her life and she separates them, unsuccessfully trying to minimize her anxiety.

She struggles with her political beliefs. The idealism that led her to Communism is challenged by the corruption of the Stalin regime and her commitment to the party wanes.

She is confident and sexually liberated, but she struggles with her relationship with men, often entering into destructive relationships with men who mistreat her.

She challenges the role of women in society but allows herself to be controlled by others.

She wrote a successful novel and writes almost daily but has no interest in publishing again or allowing her novel to be adapted to film or TV.

There is a lot to absorb in "The Golden Notebook". It is about feminism and politics and sexuality and control. But it works for me. And although I grew up in a different world than Anna and Lessing and Ella, I often saw myself in her and recognized her struggles.

BernardN_KCMO Feb 06, 2019

This was the first book of 2019 for the Great Books KC group that meets at the Plaza Library on the last Friday of the month. I found that I liked the book quite a bit more than I expected. It is challenging almost in the way of James Joyce, but here we get a woman's perspective unfiltered by the male mind (and so unlike Molly Bloom's monolog at the end of "Ulysses"). Of course, the author and the main character both come from privileged background, and who flirted with leftist politics, but without a clear drive (they weren't as committed as true believers). As the main focus of the novel, Anna, is herself going through something close to a breakdown, her perceptions and thoughts are often confused and jumbled as she tries to make sense of the world.
It is a difficult work, but one worth reading.

Oct 04, 2018

To quote the author, the book is full of "idiotic gabbling, like mad talk" and "was a descent into banality". Easy to see why it doesn't appear on lists of best loved novels.

Indigo_Cobra_8 Jul 31, 2014

I am Anna Wulf.

Oct 28, 2010

The Golden Notebook (Paperback)
by Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 2007. She is the author of numerous novels, science-fiction, short-stories, drama and non-fiction. She is considered a feminist writer by most critics
This book is an experiment of sorts. The structure is: A main story (which can be sufficient by itself) and then four other notebooks Anna Wulf created in order to keep her sanity. Then there is the "Golden Notebook" where everything is supposed to be assembled together and should help her make more sense of her chaotic life, mental break-down, including the severe writer's block she had.
In the basic story "Free Women" Molly and Ana(a successful novelist) are best friends, they are both divorced and have children. One of the ex-husbands has a difficult relationship with his wife and lovers.
-the Black Notebook is about Anna's experience in Central Africa, during and before World War II.
-the Red Notebook is about Anna's experience as a member of the Communist Party
-the Yellow Notebook is a novel she is writing about her failed love affair
-the Blue Notebook is Anna's journal about her emotional and personal life. Most importantly the analysis of her dreams by her psychoanalyst. At times the dreams take over her real life.
The notebooks intersperse with the main theme, sometimes the non-chronological and overlapping parts make the reading somewhat challenging and confusing.
The novel is artistic and very well written despite its complexity. The "Free Women" section by itself would have also won acclaim by the readers.


Add Age Suitability
Feb 27, 2016

Renee348 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Related Authors


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top