The Golden Notebook

The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing

It took me a long time to finish this book, and truthfully, in the middle of a busy time at work, it was overambitious for me to attempt it. It's not a novel in any true sense of the word, and quite honestly, I had no idea what sort of book I was getting into when I began The Golden Notebook. I'm not planning to do a thorough analysis of the story--not even certain I could. What I will say is that every page and every chapter exudes a level of prosaic mastery that is very difficult to find today. I thought some of the story's material (for example, Anna's sexual encounters and involvement in the British Communist Party) did not work very well as central concerns for a 2016 reader. All of her Communist ambitions seem so... quaint and, in some ways, naively pretentious given her status in the European middle class, particularly in relation to African countries still reeling under colonial mismanagement. Malcolm X once noted, "I've never seen a sincere white man, not when it comes to helping black people. Usually things like this are done by white people to benefit themselves. The white man's primary interest is not to elevate the thinking of black people, or to waken black people, or white people either. The white man is interested in the black man only to the extent that the black man is of use to him. The white man's interest is to make money, to exploit." Based on the tragic occurrence of Jackson's firing, I can't help but see his point. At the end of the day, I'm not certain how I feel about the whole of this work, whether it feels like it moved me somewhere, whether it works as a cohesive whole. I simply don't care to ask that question. I found every room, every turn of the corner, every new episode, to be enthralling, and that was enough for me. I listened to the book on audio as performed by the incomparable Juliet Stevenson, who gave so much of herself in the performance-- I think I fell a bit in love with her throughout the course of the 27 hours. I have purchased another classic work which she narrates, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, and I'm moving that title up to the first page of books to read in the near future.