Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Golden Notebook

   The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

This book was written by an English author in 1962.  The edition I read was 635 pages long, and was a slow read.  It is fiction and it's author received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2007.

The Golden Notebook is the story of Anna.  Anna is an author and she has divided up her recreational writing into four separate notebooks.  This gives the story its unusual organization.  There is the actual story of Anna which starts every chapter.  After that are the 4 notebooks that Anna keeps  In the first one (black) she writes about her past experience in Africa with a group of like-minded individuals.  Next is the red one where she writes her political thoughts and experiences in the communist community of England.  Third is the yellow notebook which is a beginning of a book, but which also tells Anna's thoughts of a past relationship.  Finally there is the blue notebook which is an attempt at a journal.  All 5 pieces of the story are told before continuing on to the next chapter. 

The first 100 and last 100 pages of the book were the most difficult.  Because there are so many different threads to the story it was difficult for me to really get into things.  Once I was invested however the first half includes such a nostalgia for dying that I couldn't put it down.  At this point I felt that it could contain "truths" that I needed to learn.  As the story progressed there is a shift which for me stated that those truths would not be contained herein, or perhaps that I am unwilling to accept the truths it wants to impart.  At any rate toward the end there are a lot of dream sequences that I could have done without.  Until reaching a moderately satisfactory conclusion.

It is easy to see what it is in this book that makes it so important.  It gives a very honest, and ugly portrayal of its female characters.  I related to many of the thoughts and emotions displayed.  I think this is a hard thing for readers to accept, as it is so very foreign to the typical heroines that we are accustomed to.  

There are many ideas brought forward in the telling of the story as well.  One that re-occurred, and which I particularly enjoyed was the idea of being a "boulder-pusher."  That there is a personality that spends its life "trying to get people very slightly less stupid than we are to accept truths that the great men have always known."  And like Sisyphus the task is like pushing a boulder uphill continuously, with it occasionally rolling back down to near the beginning again.

While this book is probably not one I would read again, I am glad I read it.  I would definitely look to reading more by Doris Lessing.

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